Overcoming the Merely Therapeutic: Human Excellence and the Moral Life

After 50-plus years of social unraveling, many reformers still see the “therapeutic model” as a cure for what ails American society. Or would a return to the classical virtues, as a means of healing first the person and then the culture, be the way of renewal?

Read the rest of my essay over at Acton News and Commentary: here.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

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  • Maksym_semenov2000

    Why not return to classical Christian lifestyle instead?

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    • http://palamas.info/ Fr Gregory Jensen

      Two questions, what do you mean by “classical Christian lifesytle”? And we should do this instead of what exactly?

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      • Maksym_semenov2000

         Do this instead of searching for a new value matrix. Remember Acts 4,32-37.Or Acts 2, 44–here was no loneliness at all, no isolation of anyone. “All were together”–scholars, handicapped, former prostitutes, farmers, levites, tax callectors—all eating at the same table, receiving Christ’s body and blood in equal humility, recognizing each other and serving to each other. This was so much more than thinking about which values are greater than others because there was only one thing important—mercy and one person who mattered–Jesus Christ.  

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        • http://palamas.info/ Fr Gregory Jensen

          Forgive me, while I appreciate your taking the time to respond, I’m not sure how this applies to the essay I posted. As I read both Acts and St Paul, there were tensions in the Church from the beginning. The Church was a new and unique society to be sure but one prone to the same divisions seen in the larger world.

          For example, early on in Acts we see divisions between the Greek and Hebrew speaking Christians over the distribution of food and care for the widowed members. This lead to the institution of the diaconate and so God used it for good but this is different then the idealized view of the early Church that many people have.

          Likewise in St Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, we see that the agape meal that proceeded the celebration of the Eucharist was becoming a source of division. St James alludes to this, or something very much like this, as well in his epistle. Again, as in Acts the Church is not an ideal society.

          This isn’t to say that there was no humility or commitment to mutual service. Some of the earliest records of the Church’s inner life–from both Christian and non-Christian sources– attest to this.

          What I argued in my essay, and I think the biblical and early records attest to this, is that the first Christians lived lives marked by ascetical struggle rather than moral perfection. If we assume the latter we are being dishonest to the record and, more importantly, holding ourselves and the Church to an impossible standard.

          As I see it the problem isn’t that the Church includes sinners–who else is there?–but when I fail (for whatever reason) to struggle against my own sin.

          Ascetical struggle is the central to Christian life in both its personal and communal dimensions. Remove this from the discussion and we fatally misunderstand the early Church and so our own life in Christ.

          In Christ,

          +FrG

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