I was walking to the park with Elaine the other day and thought about a guy I know who is of a different faith. I thought about how he’s a really nice guy. His faith, while different from mine, “works’ for him. So, if I was a utilitarian (and I may be slightly misapplying the term), I’d be cool with his beliefs. Utilitarianism, to oversimplify, contends that ethical decisions should be made based upon their utility, or the overall benefit of all people. So if something “works” for me, makes me happy, and thereby benefits society, it is morally acceptable, according to utilitarian thought. This guy’s faith makes him a better person, and therefore society at large is better, so I should just leave him alone.

But I’m not a utilitarian, and the main reason is because of my belief in absolute truth – right and wrong, good and bad, are not arbitrary and moveable. Rather, they are determined by the unchanging character of God and His revelation of divine truth. So while this man’s faith apparently helps him and others, I cannot affirm its goodness because it is ultimately false. Something cannot be good or beneficial and ultimately false (though I haven’t thought fully through the implications or truth of this final statement…).

In thinking about these things, my mind started to apply this truth to other areas:

  • If a certain way of parenting “works,” does that make it right? I’m not saying that there is only one way to raise kids, assuming they are being taught to love God and others, but just because a certain form of discipline or correction or guidance gets the desired result does not mean it is the best or even morally right.
  • In ministry, my goal is to bring people to Christ and help them grow in him, but I am sure there are ways to manufacture those things that are incorrect. There are ways to communicate or raise emotions that are effective, but are they right? Getting results is not my only standard of judgment. God uses messed up methods, but I shouldn’t rely on His amazing ability to turn good from bad, though I am grateful for it.
  • In the realm of counseling, should the simple fact that a person’s life has improved be the standard by which we judge whether such actions are the best or even right? I want people to change, but in the right way for the right reasons and in ways that will last.

I’m sure there are other things to consider, and I know I haven’t fully thought through all of this. You can probably tell that I’m just thinking out-loud.