Dabar [theme]

He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt thou find refuge: His truth is a shield and buckler
Psalms 91:4

Be it ours,when we cannot see the face of God, to trust under the shadow of His wings. C.H. Spugeon

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Primum: Prudentia

Matthew 7:12 (NKJV) "Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets."
Luke 6:31 (NASB-U) "Treat others the same way you want them to treat you

The Golden Rule has as its primary intent the promotion of non-reciprocal good, investment with disregard for return, selflessness, the benefit of another attained without regard for cost, and respect for the core of human value that all people are born free and are equal in dignity. It would be difficult to have a discussion about the welfare of individuals, the flourishing of a society or the governance of a body of people without including as a principle of practical reason and application the aforementioned statement. The intent of natural and moral law as developed by philosophers and religious leaders has as its goal that same principle. The point of law (its "final" causa, explanatory reason) is to provide a basis for morally sound judgement for individuals and the community at large. The point of law is 'universal beneficence'.

Humanistic, secular, political and civic institutions have attempted by virtue of the displaced, ill and destitute in society to apply the governance of the Golden Rule in self-sacrificing and benevolent ways. The locus, that center of activity which satisfies the conditions of rescue, is of the highest moral capacity and as a source of benevolence seeks to provide the aspiration to universal justice. This is the classical view, where one's reason understands the primum (first) or basic needs of one are 'good' for all and by application seeks to participate in relationships requiring the setting aside of self-preference.

The command 'to love our neighbour as our self' is intrinsically tied to 'treat others as I wish them to treat me'. It is a relationship which links love to justice. The term 'my neighbour' is non-exclusive and that love expressed wills 'my neighbour's' good and requires that they be benefited by my choices and actions. In this must be a determination of a practical reasonableness of action, an understanding of the nature of the circumstance requiring affirmative action and the motivation for that action. 2 Peter 1:5 "...but also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue,..." This virtue which is being spoken of is defined as moral excellency; manly, strenuous energy, an aspect of, or constitutive element in being a person of good character, having a stable and ready willingness to make choices that are morally good. The common meaning of the Greek word, also refers to courage and rigour; and the sense is, that firmness or courage might be necessary in maintaining the principles of religion, and in enduring the trials to which faith might be subjected. True virtue is not a tame and passive thing. It requires great energy and boldness, for its very essence is firmness, manliness, and independence. It requires great energy and courage, independence and diligence to move from the default mode of behaviour of self-interest and prudence to a pattern of behaviour making conscientious decisions fully aware of the stunting and possibly destructive nature of those decisions as acts of justice, friendship and love.

Prudence is "right reason applied to practice"; an intellectual habit enabling us to see in any given juncture of human affairs what is virtuous and what is vicious. Prudence aims to perfect not the will but the intellect in its practical decisions. Its function is to point out which course of action is to be taken in any round of concrete circumstances. It has nothing to do with directly willing the good it discerns. Prudence also has a directive capacity with regard to the other virtues. Without prudence bravery becomes foolhardiness; mercy sinks into weakness, and temperance into fanaticism. Prudence determines for each practice those circumstances of time, place, manner, etc. which should be observed. Prudence is the moral agent providing the directive principle of virtuous actions.

Aquinas states that prudence has as its function to do three things: to take counsel, i.e. to cast about for the means suited in the particular case under consideration to reach the end of any one moral virtue; to judge soundly of the fitness of the means suggested; and, finally, to command their employment. If these are to be done well they necessarily exclude remissness and lack of concern; they demand the use of such diligence and care that the resultant act can be described as prudent, in spite of whatever speculative error may have been at the bottom of the process. Prudence is the measure of moral virtues since it provides a model of ethically good actions therefore the free activity of man is good by its correspondence with the pattern of prudence.

Prudence is also defined in the modern context as being sagacious in adapting means to ends; circumspect in action, or in determining any line of conduct; practically wise; judicious; careful; discreet; sensible; -- opposed to rash.

Prudence finds its greatest allies in stewardship, discretion and conservatism. A negative aspect of prudence is that it seeks to justify the pernicious attitude towards those things which extend or stretch the boundaries of Church politics with regard to community, and especially our involvement with community at an expense to the Church. What prudence desires is the proper application of the resources given by God to the Church for the benefit of the Body of Believers. This is well and 'good', however the application removes the opportunity of the gift to be given or passed on to the community at large and has no regard for the fact that the gift is not just ours to hold. Prudence justifies the removal of our responsibility to 'do to others as we would have them do to us'. We view the gift of resources as being limited by the scope and work of the individuals associated with the Church and fail to recognize the immensity of God to provide. In this scenario prudence becomes justification for weak faith, tempered zeal and stringent barriers to evangelistic and socially conscious exercises.

The extension of ourselves in reaching out to a community, in exercising our gifts outside the safety of our exclusive membership, in answering the rational question Why give with no expectation of more in return? Why give without at least receiving an expression of gratitude? To counter indolence with regard to the giving of gifts to our community we must be prepared to 'take pains' in the costs incurred to benefit those around us. It is those pains that Jesus bore for our sins, it is the cost to the Father of the sacrifice of His Son these created a benefit for the saved, sometimes ingratiously accepted, sometimes with very little return on the investment and God's expectations are What?

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