How to Make Moral Progress, Part 1
In this first part, I want to talk about needing God’s help.
To some degree we can work on ourselves and improve morally. Learning how to act better is a bit like any other skill. We can work at something and improve. And, if we learn from those who have developed that skill before us (and maybe get a bit of coaching), we can improve faster.
But, is that all that moral improvement is? Perhaps. It really depends on who is making your moral improvement. If you are trying to improve yourself, then yes, that’s all that it is. However, if you want God to improve you, then it needs to look a bit different.
Basically, the process I just described is a bottom-up approach. And, usually I think bottom-up approaches are better, because in this world at least, those at the top are not always the most knowledgable about the situation (especially if they are removed from it). But, that doesn’t apply when we’re talking about God.
However, I don’t mean that the top-down approach is better just in the sense that “God is all-knowing, and all-powerful,” and so on and so forth. That would be enough, but in this case, the reason I think God's way is better has to do with we are trying to accomplish. We are not simply talking about improving at some skill. When we’re talking about moral improvement (at least on Christianity), we’re talking about being remade in the image of our creator.
This is why we need (and should want) our creator’s help. Renewal means being made to look like the human beings that we were always meant to be. So, there might be something to be gained by accepting the help of the one who made us to begin with.
Of course, when I'm saying that the creator will remake us, I'm not talking about being remade physically. I’m talking about our character. To be renewed or remade means having a new and better answer to the question “Who am I?”
The only way that we can get a new and better answer to this question is for our creator to renew us. Man cannot remake his character and just improve himself. Well, he can, but there are two limitations.
1. We can only make so much progress on our own. If you doubt this, just try as hard as you can to be good, and see what happens.
2. There is a directional element that is lacking. We might change ourselves (to a degree), but which way are we headed? A creature like us who has a broken sense of direction (our moral compass, if you will) is not the best source of information on which way we should go. A functioning compass is needed, so we really need help from the one who made the compass in the first place.
If we want to make moral progress, therefore, we really do need God’s help. But, what does this look like? We'll continue this discussion in part 2.