Is there Christian Morality?

I want to make the case that there is no such thing as “Christian Morality” or “Christian Values”.

For a set of principles to count as “Christian Morality”, it has to satisfy two properties:

  1. It is adopted in practice by a material fraction of all people who consider (or historically considered) themselves to be guided by “Christian Morality”
  2. It is materially different than sets of principles adopted in practice by people not considering themselves guided by “Christian Morality”

Thus “turn the other cheek” doesn’t count, because it was never adopted by a material fraction of people considering themselves Christian.
Charity doesn’t count because it is not special to Christianity - it is a principle adopted by all major religions (and many non-religious people).

Contrast that with “Christian Theology” (such as the belief in the divinity of Jesus) or “Christian Symbols” (e.g. the cross). Those satisfy both conditions above, and are thus valid terms.

Btw, there is nothing special about Christianity - to my knowledge, the same could be said about the other major religions (though my familiarity with Eastern religions is too weak for me to be confident).

I think that’s a bit like saying there is no such thing as Eran’s morality, as it is not specific to Eran. But I’m sure Eran has a morality that can be characterized. And even if Eran doesn’t live up to his own ideals, he still has ideals that can be characterized.

Also, Christians turn the other cheek all the time. And that’s an extraordinarily difficult practice. It goes against the grain of everything we seem to be hardwired to do. I suppose the only time you’d really take notice of a Christian turning the other cheek, is if it happened on the world stage, say, Ghandi-style. But what about the Christian who simply doesn’t insist on getting the last word in? The Christian who quietly accepts defeat? These are brave acts for those with big egos, and they tend to go unnoticed, which is also difficult for those with big egos.

I’ve never heard a Christian argue that Christian morality is exclusively Christian. In fact I’ve often heard it said, by Christians, that non-Christians can be and are often better people than Christians. Many Christians argue that being a better person is not what makes you a Christian, and not what “saves” you from hell - “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God”.

Ephesians 2:8-10: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

I was brought up Protestant by the way, so I’m not sure how much Catholic or other denominations vary from this view.

What may be considered moral isn’t exclusive to a religion or any group inside a religion. The only distinction of “christian” morality is who receives credit for moral acts. A true christian gives all credit to god, while non-christians give credit to the whole panopoly of human endeavors. The same distinction would be true of any religion where morality is controlled by a god.

I never claimed Christians don’t have morals, only that those morals are not sufficiently unique. Put differently, I don’t think there is high correlation between a person being Christian or not (in terms of self-identification) and his morals.

I understand your point about having ideals one doesn’t live up to. For the sake of argument I will tentatively accept the existence of “Christian Ideals”. If you want to call them “Morality” or “Values”, we would have to keep in mind that most people Christians don’t practice their values or morals.

Is it your impression that Christians are more likely to do that than non-Christians? It is hard to measure, but I would not think so.

If that is the case, it makes as much sense to talk about “Red-head Morality” (morality as practised by red-heads) or about “Christian Hunger”. The “Christian” adjective is misleading.

The differences between Protestants and Catholic are also a factor. If certain moral tenets were only accepted by one, but not the other, would they still be properly considered “Christian”? Or would they actually be “Protestant” or “Catholic”? For example, I don’t think it makes sense to speak of “Christian Liturgy”, but it does make sense to talk of “Catholic Liturgy”.

I apologize for seeming to ignore the rest of your post, but this whole discussion rests on this… “sufficiently unique” for what? For characterizing as “Christian”? It’s just a label - though the Christian would claim that Christian morality comes from God as Tentative points out. But even that claim doesn’t make particular moral sentiments exclusively Christian.

In that case, one must distinguish between Christian Morality and the morality of Christ.

The difference between them is of course utterly unmistakable.

Yes! Though I have to admit I don’t know enough about the New Testament to assert that Christ’s morality as represented there forms a coherent whole, as opposed to a confused collection of partially-contradictory dictates amongst which his followers selectively pick the ones they fancy.

Nor am I sufficiently familiar with scientific studies of the Bible to determine whether the sayings ascribed to Christ are likely to have been uttered by the historic personage.

Being of Jewish ancestry myself, I can say with some confidence that the notion of “Jewish Morality” is equally vacuous, as is the even narrower concept of “Biblical Morality” or “Talmudic Morality”. The one exception is the dictate that worshipping any gods other than the Jewish one is clearly and definitely evil.

When people attach the adjective “Christian” to something, there is an assumption that there is something uniquely Christian about it. That’s why I don’t think “Christian Hunger” makes any sense - there is nothing particularly Christian about hunger. Similarly, there is nothing particularly Christian about the moral values of the people holding themselves as being Christian. They could as easily have been Islamic, Jewish, Buddhist or Humanist values.

Then how can you agree with the statement made?

But that’s what you prefer to believe, from the way you say it.

This thread seems to be yet another dealing with a straw man, with the easy target of false Christianity rather than the much more innocent real sort.

‘Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.’ Gilbert K. Chesterton

There is only one morality, the one that we all get to know very quickly from birth, courtesy of nerve endings. It arises from the principle of the ‘sanctity’ of persons and property, common to us all, and is crystallised and evinced in law.

All religions have the same morality, give or take, and that includes atheism. Christianity is not primarily about morality. It is about how to deal with the unquiet conscience that arises from the existence of morality, which, when achieved, in turn leads to a greater ability to avoid an unquiet conscience and a better world to live in. Or that is the Christian claim.

I know enough to assert that the difference between Christian Morality and the Morality of Christ is unmistakable. At the very least, they are different conceptually. The former, I tried to argue, doesn’t actually exist. It is conceivable that the latter doesn’t exist either, but for different reasons.

Neither Unicorns nor Sea-Monsters exist, yet I would still agree with the statement that “the difference between them is unmistakable”

As I said, Christ’s morality may not exist as a coherent concept, but it would still be unmistakably different from Christian Morality.

I would probably agree with that statement. However, the term “Christian Morality” is often thrown about. I am not claiming that I disagree with Christian Morality (in the sense that I consider evil values it considers good, or vice versa). Nor am I discussing, in this thread, Christian Theology (was Christ divine, etc.).

This might be the claim made by some Christian. Other, very vocal Christians claim otherwise.

There are plenty of websites out there that tell you what “Christian morality” entails. Here’s the simplest-sounding one I glanced at. I assume the descriptions offered vary some, while having much in common. Isn’t that enough? I disagree that the notion of Christian morality is no different from the notion of Christian hunger. It’s absurd to think that Christian hunger could be described as different than any other person’s hunger in any way that isn’t pure gibberish.

But that is exactly my point. To the extent that Christians do indeed share moral values, those values are no different than any other person’s values.

Looking at the answers in the link you provided, they could just have easily (possibly with a slightly different choice of words or emphasis) apply to any other religion, and to many atheists.

Absolute exclusivity isn’t the idea. It’s simply not true that Christian values are “no different than any other person’s values”. We all have different values, so different bundles of values, and the reason they are bundled together as they are, can be given a label. That’s all it is.

True - each person has a unique combination and weighting of different values. However, Christians as such are no different, on average, than many other groups. Thus their values can only be characterized as Christian in one way - that those people consider their Christian faith to be the source of their values.

I think you exaggerate, but I can see why you say that - there’s much truth in it.

‘Utterly unmistakable,’ you acclaimed. That’s very difficult to reconcile with ‘I don’t know enough’. The morality of those who merely claimed historically, and who today claim to be Christians, was and remains notorious- censorship, massacre, exploitation and theft, and now paederasty. Even small children know that Jesus, legend or otherwise, is nothing like those.

Agreement, at last. However, because something is thrown about does not mean that it is not a lie. Indeed, lies are more popularly thrown around than truths. A place like this is insulted if it treats such myths as serious propositions.

People become Christians because they have values. The amoral, if such exist, are not touched by the Christian message.

Morality is not exclusive to Christians. Any society or culture that desires fair treatment or behavior which would acceptable for children out in public places would fall under moral based thought. Judeo practices that were pre-Christian pretty much aligned with those values.

Jesus as it is portryed in the New Testament was the embodiment of moral virtues. Christianity on the whole is supposed to parallel Jesus’ actions. As this bezels to the micro level on an individual basis there can be a break down of this visage. A parallax situation occurs when individuals affect the macro causing a generalization of bad on the whole. Sort of the ‘one bad apple in the barrel’ analogy.

Quite possibly, if you will, ‘Christian morality’ could be viewed as acting the same in public as church. This doesn’t happen…it should. Because we all share occupancy of same societies a melding of behavior happens. Constantine seen the necessity of melding pagans with Christian in his era. I believe he felt that emulsion of beliefs and cultures would eventually lean more toward Christianity which he came to embrace.

At the level of the ideal, is there a significant difference between Christian morality and that proposed by either other religions or by, say Humanists?

How would “turn the other cheek” be translated into practical, society-wide imperatives? In a hypothetical Christian theocracy, how would that tenet be translated into law?

One cannot take legal proceedings for private thoughts. One cannot litigate for failure to go the extra mile.

Of course, violent retaliation is illegal. It was already in legal codes long before Jesus said this, it is proscribed in legal code where you live now, reader. True, self-defence is not, but that is not at all what Jesus referred to, which was a particular Eastern behavioural habit concerning personal insults. If taken literally, Jesus’ remark actually would have by-passed contemporary law in favour of the offender.

But the real point here is that Jesus was not interested in moral code per se. He was interested in motivation. So when he told the Jews that it was not enough just to refrain from murder and adultery, but that even hateful or adulterous thoughts were unacceptable, he was preparing them for his imminent death, by which those who followed him would be motivated to resist thoughts of hate and adultery.