WE can’t really expect politicians to make pronouncements on fundamental principles of morality.
They are after all the practitioners of the possible.
Nevertheless some observations concerning what Mr Abbott said (in ‘Christian faces in politics are good’, CL 5/6/05) about ‘faith based decisions’ and ‘God’s and human standards’ are pertinent.
Some people might and probably do interpret the expression as meaning that faith based decisions have no rational basis.
God is indeed the source of morality, not in the sense that he can declare anything good or evil at whim (refer to the episode of the sacrifice of Esau), but because he created the world for a purpose that, given his nature, cannot be thwarted.
Again, given the nature of God (his pre-existence), the only conceivable purpose is that creatures may acknowledge his greatness in so far as they are capable of doing so — the concept of the expression AMDG and of the first ‘commandment’.
It is also clear (from the social nature of man) that God has co-opted man as his partner in the attainment of the purpose of creation, including the safeguard of the world.
Hence the second commandment ‘Love your neighbour’. From these two commandments all the others follow.
Concerning ‘standards’, there are many decisions that have no moral content, and human standards of wisdom and technology are properly applied.
However, where there is a moral aspect, contrasting human standards with God’s standards is like saying that human standards somehow work differently form God’s reason, which is absurd.
While many of God’s standards are known and recognisable, in some cases all we can do is apply our reason to the problem as best we can. Is that what Mr Abbott means when he says we don’t know God’s standards?
Of course some people will be stricter than others. The Catholic Church has the benefit of revelation and tends to be more positive (do good rather than avoid evil) and err on the side of human safety.
People have different ideas and beliefs held, we assume, in good faith that contain positive values. Is this what Mr Abbott means by “human standards’?
Love of neighbour (all human beings not just the ones that can assert their rights) is the fundamental principle of human relations and as such profoundly ‘humane’.
There is, of course, the ideology of humanism according to which there is no God and therefore no divine standards, no ultimate sanction and man is ‘the measure of all things’.
If we adopt humanism as the basis of morality, sooner or later we are bound to come to grief — some ‘neighbour’ is going to lose!