Religious/Spiritual

November 6, 2017

Moral Development: Plan A and Plan B

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Written by: Duane Covrig
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God is the source of all good. He creates moral reality because morality emanates from his character. He is love and justice, he is regal and humble, and as such he defines the ideal.

But interestingly, that which he is he has shared with us, through the natural world and through relationships. Those who believe he created the world believe the Godhead made us in his image and likeness (Gen 1:26-28). We were designed and destined to be loving and just, regal and humble…just like him.

That was the original plan, plan A. Create man and woman. Put them in a great place. Watch them show to the universe the self-sacrificing love to each other like the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit do for each other. God made us co-creators of this wonderful world.

Proverbs 3 and 8 speak to the prestine reality and help me connect the dots of our life to the original “moral” creation:

Proverbs 3:

1 My son, do not forget my teaching,
But let your heart keep my commandments….
Do not let kindness and truth leave you;
Bind them around your neck,
Write them on the tablet of your heart.
So you will find favor and good repute
In the sight of God and man. ” (NASB)

As we align to that kindness and truth that make up wisdom, we gain a lot, not only of material goods but social (“in the sight of…man”) and spiritually (“in the sight of God”)

Then Solomon journey’s back in his mind to the beginning of all this moral beauty:

19 The Lord by wisdom founded the earth,
By understanding He established the heavens.
20 By His knowledge the deeps were broken up
And the skies drip with dew.
21 My son, let them not vanish from your sight;
Keep sound wisdom and discretion,
22 So they will be life to your soul
And adornment to your neck. (NASB, added emphasis)

God splashed himself on a palette, that splash seems to have been called wisdom. It was a way to show His influence on nature and humans. He emptied himself to make that reality and then that created the space and place where Adam and Eve would be able to experience what it was to be a creative being in community with another. Glorious creative self-emptying. We were made in that image.  But to make sure the distant reality wasn’t so distance, God knelt to craft Adam and Eve and breathed in them Breath of Life.

Genesis 3 tells us an intruding element got into this beautiful Edenic experience. Satan was irritated by God’s show of great sacrifice. He wanted God to be above others, Lording it over them…. or at least that is what he really wanted to do. Satan’s egotistical spirit couldn’t handle the surrender, self-emptying community that is what it means to be divine–hree in one– or human, two in one. Satan hated God and hated us, made in God’s image.

Eve was deceived and Adam gave in. The moral color scheme was blurred. Satan’s colors entered the moral universey.

But the residuals of God’s moral fingerprints are still everywhere.

When life is lived with love and justice, mercy and truth, it goes well and it shows shadows of the original plan. It shows the original design and God’s power to make it happen.

Yes, the original plan trickles through. Plan A appeals to us as it is in there.

Prov 8

1 Does not wisdom call,
And understanding lift up her voice?
On top of the heights beside the way,
Where the paths meet, she takes her stand;
Beside the gates, at the opening to the city,
At the entrance of the doors, she cries out:
“To you, O men, I call,
And my voice is to the sons of men.
“O naive ones, understand prudence;
And, O fools, understand wisdom.
“Listen, for I will speak noble things;
And the opening of my lips will reveal right things.”

We see residuals everywhere that we should live well. We should live the way of Christ.

God wants that life for us all: Perfect love. Perfect justice. Perfect humility–deep listing to others.

But alas–its not natural anymore. It doesn’t flow easily into our lives.

The world and our human nature have deteriorated into distorted views of moral reality. “For everything in the world–the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life–comes not from the Father but from the world.” (1 John 2:16).

But underneath all the painful distortion, Plan A shows itself:

Micah 6:8: But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do,
    what God is looking for in men and women.
It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor,
    be compassionate and loyal in your love,
And don’t take yourself too seriously—
    take God seriously.”

But Plan A is NO longer an option that we can see or even desire let alone attain. Sin has to be dealt with in a definitive way.

Adam could imagine the Garden he left and what life was like in Plan A. He could “see” it on the other side of the flaming swords. But there was not way back.  Plan A is at best the ideal, but now it is not a path. The only path back is the provisions of God in Christ–the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.

Cain tried to get back to the garden without the Lamb. It was an attempt to get back to Plan A with one’s own works. But he didn’t see his way was really creating a Plan C. It didn’t make him better. It made him angrier. He killed Abel.

Plan C won’t work. If you try to piece together enough moral fabric to build a Plan A you end up with Plan C–a works religion that makes you even more dangerous. It becomes a horrible distortion of moral righteousness that harbors deep resentment. It is the Pharisaical way. It kills the joy. It kills love, and it kills the real story, that Christ would be the deliverer and that only in trust in him would we survive.

So if Plan A won’t work anymore by itself, and Plan C makes things worse. We need to get back to Plan B.

Micah 7:8-10 “Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy. Though I fall I will rise; Though I dwell in darkness, the LORD is a light for me. I will bear the indignation of the LORD Because I have sinned against Him, Until He pleads my case and executes justice for me. He will bring me out to the light, And I will see His righteousness. Then my enemy will see, And shame will cover her who said to me, “Where is the LORD your God?” (NASB)

Or 1 John 1: 9, puts it even more directly: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Luther was right: Sept Theses on Disputation #40. “We do not become righteous by doing righteous deeds but, having been made righteous, we do righteous deeds. This in opposition to the philosophers. 41.

Then he went on to jettison the Greek approach to goodness: “#41. Virtually the entire Ethics of Aristotle is the worst enemy of grace. This in opposition to the scholastics.”

By grace we are saved and that is not by Plan C but Plan B— HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS SEEN IN OUR FORGIVENESS AS SINNERS.

I claim the promise:

“Now to Him who is able to keep DUANE from stumbling, and to make DUANE stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy,  to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” (Jude 24, 25, NIV).

Prayer: I accept with Paul, that I am a chief of sinners. I can not live this life which you want from me and which I now want but can’t obtain. I accept your grace and see that your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and pharisee in that you reconcile with your righteousness. With Luther, I protest the self-righteous morality that masquerades as a solution and accept the core teaching of Christianity that Plan C–by my own works–will only make a worse mess. I accept Plan B–the Lamb as sacrifice and seek Christ and God to judge me according to their new plan.



About the Author

Duane Covrig

I teach leadership and ethics at Andrews University. I am a Seventh-day Adventist eager for the Second Coming of Christ and positive about His judgment hour work (Rev 14:6-12). I use that reality to understand morality and ethics.






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