Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Analysis of Skye Jethani’s Categorization in WITH: A MacIntyrean Proposal

WITH, in case that is too obscure. MacIntyre wrote After Virtue.

Jethani's Stances:

Jethani has five different stances we might take up toward God, which I briefly characterize here, with notes following them.

An attitude of control—If I…then God will…(positive: If I get it right, then God will reward me).
The goods are external to God.
An attitude of hopeless striving—The inverse of the above: If I…then God will…(negative: If I don’t get it right, then God will punish me).
Here, the bads are external to God, and the goods are not considered worth it, or are ignored.
An attitude of activity, doing, production.
One is producing goods, again, external to God.
An attitude of easy reception from God.
Again: reception of goods external to God.
An attitude of being with God, whatever that means.
Here, the good is considered to be God, i.e., the good which one is after is one internal to one’s relationship with God, not one which one’s relationship is a means to.


The Difference:

the stances Jethani is urging us to avoid are all stances which take one’s relation to God as a means to an end, or otherwise separable from the goods one is after. WITH, the stance Jethani wants us to take up towards God, is different in that it takes the goods of life to be ones which are internal to being with God, and not available apart from being with God. The other stances are taken as contingent: they are means to a good. This stance is bound up with the good—it is essential to the good that it be obtained in this way, and can only be obtained as a part of taking this stance.



This suggests that being with God is a kind of practice, a way of life. The question, then, is what kind of life it is. How does one be with God? What is a life with God? We might use alternate phrasings to try to shed some light on it. It is being in the presence of God (Brother Lawrence). It is standing before him as beloved. This is all very well, but none of these quite yet show what kind of life it is. They all seem to be static, they do not seem to have the dynamic quality of life. God is with you—live like it. But how is this developed? Is it a life fearing what God will do, or trying to please God? No: those make God the source of goods and bads. God is with you, and is staying with you whatever you do—live like it. He can stay and punish, he can stay and bless. The difficulty is in showing what makes God himself the good. What is so great about God?
I am suggesting taking a MacIntyrean approach to Christianity as a practice, where the practice is “being with God”, or "being a Christian" and the good internal to the practice is God. MacIntyre suggests that a living practice is one where there is argument about what the goods internal to the practice are. Thus, on MacIntyre’s account, what makes for a living Church is argument about what makes God so great, and, I suspect as a part of that, who/what God is.


Beyond the Stances

The other stances may, then, be enveloped, to some extent, in the final stance. The stances must change, of course, in that the sought good must no longer be external to God.
This becomes appealing to God for God, in some way or another. It may take the form of lament, of “where are you, God?” Or of other kinds of intercession. The difference between OVER* and OVER is that in OVER* the good being sought from God is God, whereas in OVER it is something external to God. Further, God must be presumed good, So any time we seek things by God we must presume that he has the best in mind, and trust him to be good. A “your will be done” caveat is thus added.
This becomes seeking to do right by God. It is the desire to remain near to God. It loses its often legalistic character because of the trust that God is a loving God. The legalism is further hindered by the recognition that God is a living God who seeks us, and will not leave us on our own. The greatest we can fear from God is still less than is outweighed by God’s abiding with us. We are not afraid that God will leave us, since he has promised not to, and he is good.
This changes from doing good works for God to doing good works of God. The good works are a participation in God’s life, a representation of the life of Christ. The good of the good works, then, is the good we ourselves seek in being with God.
The change in this one is most obvious: what we want from God is God, and anything else we receive from him is good only because it is from him and is a reminder, or symbol, to us of him.

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