Mystery heroism essays
Here is the one painted as the hero of Scripture. Yet Christians are called to follow him by faith. As we listen to Jesus, what effect should his commands have on us, the ordinary? Thus, whether he does his duty when others fail, or goes above and beyond, the Samaritan meets the Urmsonian definition of the moral hero. Duty is necessarily implied, and as a result common-sense morality struggles. Bringing a normative structure into the realm of helping others appears to diminish the action. Far better a volitional act than an imposed duty, surely.
From here the thoughtful Gospel reader may turn to the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus encourages those who would follow him to perpetually greater acts of self-denial. Common parlance picks up his words as though synonymous with moral heroism. If we are to take Christ at his word, we must seek another explanation. Jesus is well-aware that the morality he commands transcends the ordinary. Hence, even after a brief overview of some of the more famous commands of scripture the conclusion is inescapable.
According to Scripture, according to Jesus, that which Urmson and Heyd would define as moral heroism is obligatory. In response we might simply seek to undo the work of Urmson and Heyd, reverting to high-bar deontology, dismissing moral heroism altogether. Perhaps the problem lies in the entire definition. Yet this would be inconsistent with scripture as a whole, for there are numerous further examples in its pages of acts which scripture itself defines as heroic in an Urmsonian sense, for they do go beyond duty.
Frame argues thus in his own discussion of moral heroism, 24 which forms part of the introduction to his normative perspective. They are all commended for their deeds; however, in each case, their deeds are commendable but not obligatory. For example, Jesus commends the widow who gave all she had to live on, a morally heroic act above that obligated by the Jewish law of giving a tithe. Likewise, Barnabas is praised for selling his property for the sake of the church, an act which Peter tells Ananias is not obligatory for believers a few verses later Acts Citing the further example of Paul preaching without payment in Corinth, Frame argues that the Christian moral hero feels bound to act heroically.
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What is this obligation? This is why he can call believers to imitate his imitation of Christ Again, see 1 Cor Just as Jesus manifested the desire to serve and know his Father, so the believer should show the same longing to know God in Christ. Hence, the Bible does obligate believers towards moral heroism, for it is contingent on all of us to know Jesus as best we can.
As Jesus says himself, eternal life is to know him and the Father who sent him John Further evidence may be added. Just as his own love for God is shown by his obedience John , the obedience of those who follow him demonstrates their love for him John Christ calls believers to this kind of heroism, manifesting obedience-shaped love for him by going beyond duty. This is because its call is ultimately to a heroism like that of Jesus, born from the underlying call to be like Jesus.
Doctrine of the Christian Life has been critiqued for lack of depth regarding this perspective, particularly regarding the sanctification of the believer by the indwelling of the Spirit. Rather, they each function to provide a view of the other two. The work of ethicist Andrew Flescher is instructive. Rather, Flescher asserts that different moral agents demonstrate differing capacities. Hence, a more developed character issues in an enlarged perception of duty or, put negatively, the realm of the supererogatory diminishes for a person of greater virtue.
Flescher points to heroes such as the residents of Le Chambon, hiding Jews from the Nazis, and Paul Rusesabagina, the hero of the Rwandan genocide. The Urmsonian defence is to deny the hero moral authority by arguing that such self-assessments arise from excessive modesty or defective moral outlook.
Were Flescher to halt his argument here, we would be left with a variation of the two-tiered moral theory. Urmsonian morality classifies acts on two tiers: duty and supererogation. Alternatively, Flescher suggests two tiers of agent with corresponding duty: the ordinary and the hero. However, Flescher only takes us so far. Problems arise when one asks why the ordinary agent embarks upon moral development. The argument becomes inevitably circular. What motivates change if the desire for change arises from a virtuous character in the first place? Flescher suggests a natural inclination to character improvement providing initial momentum.
To reach clarity we must view his arguments through the lens of scripture. His focus on character chimes with the biblical understanding that God is most concerned with the human heart — the seat of personality, emotion, and motivation. Enslavement to sin leaves humanity incapable of independent change.
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The paradox highlighting the weakness of moral developmentalism is that God calls his people to transformation of which they prove incapable, but which he promises to enable. Into the New Testament, it becomes clear that Jesus is the centre of this transformational aim.
Paradoxically, however, rather than inspiring and challenging the ordinary to higher feats, here is a heroism which in the first instance resists imitation. The whole thing is being worked out on another level, through what is bound to be a long and very frightening process, not only in the depths of every living psyche in the modern world, but also on those titanic battlefields into which the whole planet has lately been converted….
Not the animal world, not the plant world, not the miracle of the spheres, but man himself is now the crucial mystery…. The modern hero, the modern individual who dares to heed the call and seek the mansion of that presence with whom it is our whole destiny to be atoned, cannot, indeed must not, wait for his community to cast off its slough of pride, fear, rationalized avarice, and sanctified misunderstanding.
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Joseph Campbell . Mother Teresa . This essay examines this difference and how heroism appears for those on the spiritual journey. All of these are brave persons doing visibly heroic deeds. We appreciate their courage and reward their actions with Congressional Medals of Honor, citations for bravery, even television appearances and rewards from the Mayor. In the circumstances of war, natural disasters and times of crisis, we applaud the heroes who find the strength to do remarkable acts of bravery and courage.
But Jung and Campbell recognize that there is another type of hero, a type for our time, now evolving in response to current crises—crises that are not so obvious as earthquakes, tsunamis, or other disasters. In such an environment, the individual person faces some serious dilemmas. With the lines of communication between conscious mind and the unconscious having been cut, the modern person has been split, cut in two.
But the hero for our time does have this interest. He or she responds to our crises, but does so in a new, more interior form. The new heroism does not shine. It does not get praise. Incomprehensible to those oriented to contemporary culture, because—as the above quote from Joseph Campbell indicates—this form of heroism is working at a different level from consciousness. As I noted above, this new form of heroism is closely tied to the crises of our time, and is evolving in response to them. And in ways that our disempowering society finds hard to believe, these nearly-invisible acts of heroism can change the world.
How so? The new hero of our day, and even more the hero of the future, champions bio-integrity, ecological health, global unity, and social, economic and cultural organizations that bring people together. The modern hero rises above sectarian divisions to promote peace and harmony.
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The new hero helps to make our world spiritually significant. Rather than through religions, sects and other divisive groups, the modern hero finds significance and purpose in life through contact with the Self and then through unity with others. In her examination room, with its white vinyl floor and sanitary-paper-covered examination table against the wall, the fluorescent overhead lights were turned off to avoid triggering migraines. The sole illumination came from a low-wattage table lamp and a desktop-computer screen.
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She projected both professional confidence and maternal concern. Loder typed as the woman spoke, like a journalist taking notes. The nurse said that she enjoyed only three or four days a month without a throbbing headache.