The Counsel of Trent

writing is thinking

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Counsel of Trent: Morality and Religion

Q: Why care about being in the Church if you are a good person?

There are all kinds of goods in the world. There’s the good of enjoying a good movie, the good of enjoying some good food, a good performance at a sport or hobby, a good glass of wine, being a good parent, receiving good parenting. These are all things that make an individuals life good and society good as well. There’s also moral goodness. Moral goodness helps society experience some of the goods listed above and it also produces a kind of goodness in the soul of the one who does good. But there’s yet another kind of goodness: the goodness of a right relationship with one’s creator; of knowing who the Creator is and giving due worship in the right way. There is great good in the creature’s mind reflecting the mind of the creator and contemplating the Creator’s nature.

So consider two people Alf and Beth. They both live in a beautiful part of the country, enjoy the finest foods and entertainment. Each is passing on the good training for life they had from their parents. The both do their duties and some charity besides. However, Beth, but not Alf, goes to see a Monk once a week, on the weekend, and the Monk is able to communicate to her certain truths about the nature of reality including the nature of the Creator. The Monk has Beth go through certain sacred rituals that actually put Beth in a certain temporary communion with the Creator. As a result, Beth both is and knows that she is in a position of learning truths about herself, the Creator, and her relation to the Creator.

Beth’s life is better than Alf’s. Beth’s life has all the goods Alf’s does plus the great goods the Monk imparts to her. Note that the person who doesn’t count these goods as great goods—the person who thinks that these goods aren’t as good as the good of drinking fine wines—doesn’t really deserve those goods or isn’t ready for them. The same is true of the person who thinks it’s not worth the extra effort to get these goods if one has all the other goods.

Note that it doesn’t matter what you think about how to weigh certain goods against others. Would it be better to rightly worship God but be a morally bad person or to be a morally good person with out God or to be a morally good person with God but who is persecuted or otherwise deprived of all the other goods. These are complex questions but it doesn’t matter to the thesis here advanced: Knowing the truth about God, worshiping God rightly, and communing with God are great goods which one ought to desire to add to all of one’s other goods whatever those goods might be.


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