THE QUESTION OF MORALITY (Woody Allen v Francis Schaeffer)

THE QUESTION OF MORALITY

“THE PROBLEM OF MODERN MAN IS A FEELING OF COSMIC ALIENATION, INCLUDING THE AREA OF MORALS.  MAN HAS A FEELING  OF MORAL MOTIONS, YET IN THE UNIVERSE AS IT IS, IT IS COMPLETELY OUT OF LINE WITH WHAT IS THERE.”

– FRANCIS SCHAEFFER

As we consider man’s finiteness and his cruelty, it would certainly seem that these things are not one, but two.  Mankind has always thought of these things as being different.  Man’s finiteness is his smallness; he is not a sufficient reference point to himself.  But his cruelty has always been considered as distinct from his finiteness.  Yet we must notice something.  If we accept the impersonal beginning, finally we will come to the place where man’s finiteness and his cruelty become the same thing.

With an impersonal beginning, everything is finally equal in the area of morals.  With an impersonal beginning, eventually morals is just another form of metaphysics, of being.  Morals disappear and there is only one area rather than two.  Left in this position, we can talk about what is antisocial, or what society does not like, or even what I do not like, but we cannot talk about what is really right and what is really wrong.

Hence, what is left may be worded in many different ways in different cultures, but it is only the relative – that which is sociological, statistical, situational – nothing else.  You have situational, statistical ethics – the standard of averages – but you cannot have morality . . . we are just the little against the big, and nothing that has meaning in right and wrong.

Now let us look at the opposite answer – the personal beginning.  In this answer, there is a possibility of keeping morals and metaphysics separate.  This is a profound thing, though it may sound simple.  Whereas the impersonal beginning leads us to a merging of morals and metaphysics, the personal beginning provides the possibility of keeping them separate.  In other words, man’s finiteness may be separated from his cruelty.  God’s character is the moral absolute of the universe.  Plato was entirely right when he held that unless you have absolutes morals do not exist.

Again, as in the area of metaphysics, we must understand that this is not simply the best answer – it is the only answer in morals for man.  The only answer in the area of morals, as true morals, turns upon the fact of God’s being there.  If God is not there (not just the word “God,” but God himself being there), there is no answer and at all to the problem of evil, and morals.

(These selections are from the book, He is there and he is not silent, Chapter 2, “The Moral Necessity” where this is further discussed.)

“I JUST WANTED TO ILLUSTRATE IN AN ENTERTAINING WAY THAT THERE’S NO GOD, THAT WE’RE ALONE IN THE UNIVERSE, AND THAT THERE IS NOBODY OUT THERE TO PUNISH YOU, THAT THERE’S NOT GOING TO BE ANY KIND OF HOLLYWOOD ENDING TO YOUR LIFE IN ANY WAY, AND THAT YOUR MORALITY IS STRICTLY UP TO YOU.”

– WOODY ALLEN, COMMENTING ON THE FILM, “CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS.”

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