Kantian and Paulian Christians

August 20, 2007

There are four Christian congregations sanctioned by scripture and by reason, that of Kant, Zacchaeus, Peter and Paul. They are one in the supremacy of the law of love above all other laws, revealed or man-made. They vary with regard to creed and law. Together they are called the Christian Church.

Zacchaean Congregation.

Here we have no creed and only revealed laws. Zacchaeus, impressed by Jesus, gave away half his fortune and repaid four times those whom he had cheated; and was declared by Jesus to have found salvation. Obviously, since Jesus was still alive, Zacchaeus will have had no knowledge of the death and resurrection. Hence no creed. Presumably Zacchaeus, as a Jew, would have expected to honor the Jewish law, although always subjugating it to the supreme law of neighborly love. Hence here we have law, but no creed.*

* There is the similar case of the thief on the cross, the second of the two people expressly declared by Jesus to be heaven-bound. The thief would have been aware of the crucifixion but would have had no knowledge, but only a hope, of the resurrection.

Peterian Congregation.

The Jewish Christians were led by Peter and they adhered to Jewish laws just as in the Zacchaean congregation. But in addition they had their creed concerning the sacred history. So here we have both creed and law.

Paulian Congregation.

The gentile Christians were led by Paul and they were free of all law except the supreme law of love. They had the creed of the Peterians, and so here we have creed, but no law.

Kantian Congregation.

Here we have neither creed nor law. This is actually a further abstraction toward a “pure congregation”. This is a blend of the lack of creed of Zacchaeus and the lack of law of the Paulian congregation. This is like a Zacchaean who were a Greek instead of a Jew (and there is a suggestion of this in the story of the Roman centurion whose faith “amazed” Jesus).

Now for me, and looking at the Paulian and the Kantian together, I wonder what Paul adds by means of the creed, e.g., that Jesus died and was resurrected for the sake of sinners.

Given the sinful inertia in the course of human affairs, you could easily think it unlikely that anyone would seriously undertake to even start to live a perfectly moral life, unless there were some hope of success and of happiness. A person might undertake to be as moral as is convenient under some circumstances (the “original sin” of the human), but it is doubtful that any person would undertake to become perfect. He would hesitate for two reasons, I think: in the first place he doubts that he can really do it, and secondly he knows that in a system of justice he would have to pay for his wrongs already done, and so could at most merely hope for a divine pardon based on his resolution.

As Paul sees the matter no man can expect to attain to righteousness on his own, for all are caught in the web and inertia of sin which infects every individual and which is socially reciprocal among all individuals, even good ones. To overcome this very reasonable doubt of success Paul presents Jesus’ death as proof that people have a new start before God, and then his rising from the dead as God’s validation of this new start and that it will be successful–guaranteed.

Accordingly if a person will simply believe this act and purpose on the part of Jesus, that person is guaranteed entry into heaven. And by belief it is understood a practical belief, namely where people strive for perfection in love.

The gift ensuing from active belief, Paul teaches, is the Holy Spirit, and this Holy Spirit will enter into the lives of those who understand what this conversion/resolution means for their lives (suffering) and who stand upon the atoning death of Jesus. This is a free gift of faith. The work of this Holy Spirit is the moral perfection of the individual, taken at first upon faith and then progressively shown as experiential fact to the Paulian Christian.

Therefore a Kantian Christian may sincerely seek perfection in love and can hope for welcome at the banquet table of Jesus (the “righteous gentiles” of Paul’s Romans 2). He may find hope both from his resolve and from the growing love of doing good (through the intentional practice of doing good).

By means of his faith the Paulian Christian knows for a fact that he has already entered into eternal life, and his subsequent, progressive development in love is for him a growing proof of this blessed condition.

The difference then between the Kantian and the Paulian Christian will be like the difference between a house guest and a member of the family at supper time in Jesus’ mansion, and that difference comes from believing the sacred history of Jesus dying and then returning from the dead, for it is by means of this belief that the Holy Spirit enters in and takes possession of the individual and provides the assurance associated with the cry of “Abba/Daddy”. The immediate difference then is that the Kantian acts with reasonable hope for the coming perfection while the Paulian acts with knowledge (in faith) of the coming perfection.

Author contact: pmr#$kantwesley.com, replacing #$ with @

Filed under: Christian,Journal,Kant

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