Posts Tagged ‘Moralism’

Does God help those who help themselves? According to Benjamin Franklin (and many Americans) the answer is, Yes.

It’s fascinating sometimes to see how much of our modern world and modern thought has been shaped by the brilliant minds of the past. In fact, the impact philosophers have on popular culture can probably not be easily overstated.

Now, Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) was probably one of the most influential thinkers of the modern era. As one of my professors likes to put it, almost everything in modern history is a ‘footnote’ to Kant.

And in order to explain Christianity to a modern world of science and observable facts, Kant felt he had to separate “ecclesiastical faith” (e.g. creeds, miracles, Jesus’ Resurrection, etc.)  from what he called “pure moral religion” (e.g., being good). Kant believed the latter was the answer to all our riddles. If he was sure of anything, it was the “moral law within.”

[S]urely we cannot hope to partake … in salvation, except by qualifying for it through our zeal in the compliance with every human duty, and this must be the effect of our own work and not, once again, a foreign influence to which we remain passive [imputation of Christ’s righteousness]. For since the command to do our duty is unconditional, it is also necessary that the human being make the command… the bassis of his faith, i.e., that he begin with the improvement of his life as the supreme condition under which alone a saving faith can occur…. We must strive with all our might after the holy intention of leading a life well-pleasing to God, in order to be able to believe that God’s love for humankind…. will somehow make up, in consideration of that honest intention, for humankind’s deficiency in action, provided that humankind strives to conform to his will with all its might. – Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Religion, 148, 150.

Great minds think alike — even if they’re wrong. Is it any wonder so many people today believe “God helps those who help themselves?” Although the law is written on the heart of all men, we only hear the gospel as a word from ‘outside’ of us, perennially strange, and odd-sounding. If only Franklin and Kant would have listened to good gospel preaching.

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