Morality through Self-Sacrifice?

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

  • Romans 12:1-2

As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

  • 1 Peter 2:4-5

“Tetsuro Watsuji was one of the leading philosophers in Japan in the early part of the 20th century, and he wrote on both Eastern and Western philosophy. He studied in Japan and Europe, and like many Japanese philosophers of his time, his work shows a creative synthesis of these two very different traditions.
“Watsuji’s studies of Western approaches to ethics convinced him that thinkers in the West tend to take an individualistic approach to human nature, and so also to ethics. But for Watsuji, individuals can only be understood as expressions of their particular times, relationships, and social contexts, which together constitute a ‘climate’. He explores the idea of human nature in terms of our relationships with the wider community, which form a network within which we exist; Watsuji calls this ‘betweenness.’ For Watsuji ethics is a matter not of individual action, but of the forgetting or sacrifice of one’s self, so that the individual can work for the benefit of the wider community.
“Watsuji’s nationalist ethics and insistence on the superiority of the Japanese race led to his fall from favor following World War ll, although he later distanced himself from these views.”

  • Sam Atkinson (senior editor), The Philosophy Book, Big Ideas Simply Explained

Tetsuro Watsuji (1889-1960) seems to have done as Hajime Tanabe did before him.  Tanabe borrowed the concepts of confession and resurrection from “Western” culture (Link HERE), but the confession was that of Socrates who confessed that he knew “nothing” and the resurrection was not from the dead but from our self-delusion into enlightenment.  Watsuji brings forth self-sacrifice as the key to a greater morality.

One thing that the editor of this book on philosophy fails to see is that they did not borrow these concepts from Western Philosophy but from Christianity specifically – only as words rather than the true meaning of them.  In tying them in with Wittgenstein’s concept of a limited world based on language limitations, we get a hollow image of what might be.  If you have ever seen a laser show where three-dimensional objects appear, you can get the total substance of this philosophy.  Flip on the lights in the arena and it all disappears.

Without a firm foundation in objective truth and objective morality, serving others selflessly does not produce new moral thought.  It could.  Someone is in pain…  Kill them.  They are relieved of their pain.  Someone is undecided on how to spend their money.  Steal it.  Their indecision was causing them stress and you removed that stressor.

The television show, that I have mentioned a few times, that has a young man going from one college campus to another asking probing questions has a new beginning to the show.  Instead of a college girl stating that all truth is subjective, which is totally wrong, there is an equally obnoxious college girl stating that no one is born with a moral code within them.  We develop our moral code from our experience.  Again, fallacious.  We are born with a sense of morality.  There are some things that we realize are simply wrong from an early age.

For example, Tommy punched me in the nose in the playground.  It hurt.  My nose bled.  Tommy should not have done that.  But then the question arises, what did I do or say to Tommy to illicit his violent response?  Sometimes people never ask that question.  They may have an oft-broken nose as a result.

If it is Tommy that keeps punching me in the nose, cleaning Tommy’s toilet for him reinforces Tommy’s bullying response.  It makes me a victim, not more moral.

If there was no sin nature and we were all too busy cleaning each other’s toilets to notice an offense, then this world would be a better place.  At least the toilets would be clean.

But we cannot deny our sin nature.  As I wrote recently, our sin nature is at its strongest when we ignore it.

Without a firm moral foundation, self-sacrifice can go to a very bad place.

The quote above hints at that bad place.  Besides being a philosopher who tried to meld Western and Eastern philosophies together, Watsuji was a staunch Japanese nationalist.  He thought that the Japanese were a superior race to all others.  With his philosophy of self-sacrifice, we get Kamikaze pilots crashing into ships.  We get such zealous soldiers on the front lines that they fight to their last breath, offering their lives to Japan, preferring suicide to surrender.  Thus, women and children jumped from cliffs rather than serve the enemy as a defeated people.  Without such firm loyalty and self-sacrifice in the Japanese people, it is possible that the atomic bombs may have never been dropped.  Attacking the Japanese mainland would have been too costly.  Watsuji spent the rest of his life distancing himself from his blind Japanese loyalties.  Indeed, it was his philosophy and nationalism combined that led to many unnecessary deaths.

Yet, through Jesus Christ we have a firm foundation.  His teaching is found in the Bible as well as the only recorded words written by the hand of God, the Ten Commandments.

Without God’s Law and God’s Holy Word, we are left as a boat without a rudder.  No amount of self-sacrifice can create a morality equal to what God has already ordained.

If you like these Tuesday morning essays about philosophy and other “heavy topics,” but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Tuesday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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