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Can Doing Good Make Someone Escape the Judgment of Wrongdoing?

Can Doing Good Make Someone Escape the Judgment of Wrongdoing?

Humans inherently understand that acts like stealing, rape, and murder are wrong. This understanding is not something we determine; rather, we are aware of it instinctively. The moral laws governing societies worldwide reflect this awareness. For instance, murder is prohibited not only in the United States but also in Africa, illustrating a universal moral code.

The origin of these moral laws is not human but divine. Theologians and philosophers across ages have debated and affirmed that these moral imperatives transcend human origin. As C.S. Lewis noted, “A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.” This suggests an inherent understanding of right and wrong that points to a higher moral standard.

Instinctively, humans also entertain the notion of punishment for wrongdoing. Virtually everyone has, at some point, violated these moral laws, whether deliberately or inadvertently. This raises a crucial question: Can acts of kindness or goodness exempt one from the consequences of breaking these laws?

The answer lies in the authority of the moral lawgiver. Just as an offender in a legal court cannot dictate the terms of their acquittal, individuals cannot decide the conditions for escaping moral judgment. The moral law’s author, God, must be the one to determine what is required for acquittal.

Immanuel Kant, a seminal philosopher, argued that moral law implies a moral lawgiver. He suggested that our sense of duty and moral obligation points to a divine origin. Kant’s perspective underscores the need for divine intervention in addressing human moral failures.

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Religions and philosophies often propose that good deeds can counterbalance wrongdoing. This belief, however, remains a human construct. The true way of atonement must be communicated by the author of moral law. According to Christian theology, 2,000 years ago, God incarnated as Jesus Christ to provide this path to acquittal. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection are viewed as the ultimate sacrifice, taking upon Himself the punishment deserved by humanity for breaking moral laws.

Jesus’ teachings align with this view. In John 14:6, He says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” This statement emphasizes that belief in Jesus’ redemptive act is the means by which individuals can be saved from the judgment of moral law.

In conclusion, while human efforts at goodness are commendable, they cannot suffice to absolve us from the inherent guilt of breaking moral laws. The divine moral lawgiver, God, has provided a means of acquittal through Jesus Christ. Belief in His sacrificial death and resurrection offers the assurance of salvation from the punishment of the moral law. As St. Augustine reflected, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” This underscores the need for divine grace and intervention for true moral reconciliation.

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