514: ALBERT SCHWEITZER’S ‘INTERIM ETHICS’

“A warm welcome to Zingcreed, the one international non-fundamentalist religious phenomenon that’s going from strength to strength. (On some days, hundreds of readers click on us, and I haven’t had time for months to write tags or categories to improve Google’s swoop).
On these pages you will see every aspect of religion examined with no holds barred. Zingcreed has no loyalty to any Christian or atheist group, so it is free to say whatever it thinks. It’s aim is to be humanistic, free-thinking and fair. Your views are welcome, and as long as they’re not just plain silly or totally irrelevant (I wish that correspondent in Singapore would stop trying to sell me designer shoes) I shall probably publish them.

Our motto remains: More Jesus, Less Christ, No God!
This is indeed a Christian/atheist polemic!

In solidarity

Peter Turner, M.A., M.Sc.”

Association test: what do you think when you hear the name Albert Schweitzer?
I think ‘Organ Music’. I give it capitals because for me he defines Bach’s toccata and fugue. As a kid I listened to my LP (vinyl) of him playing this piece and I was awe-struck.
To my  African friend Stephen, who came round the other night, his name means ‘cure for malaria’. Funny, I thought that was Koch.
We both knew he later became a medical missionary in Gabon, and I am increasingly aware of his game-changing role as a theologian. Even today, a century later, he is constantly referred to by scholars.

How about interim ethics? It doesn’t resonate for me or Stephen. I thought ‘situational ethics’ that I learned about in the Student Christian Movement at College. S. thought ‘etiquette’ (?) We were both out.

Interim‘ means in the intervening time or provisional. ‘Ethics’ means the moral principles that govern a person’s behaviour.

Schweitzer is talking about how Jesus’ early followers were expected to behave, when they believed, as Jesus had taught them, that  the world was going to end in their lifetime, and a new kingdom be installed. Schweitzer was thinking of the ways in which an apocalyptic view of history could radicalize one’s ethics to a degree that would be foolishly impracticable if the “end” did not arrive as expected.
He was thinking of such things as turning the other cheek, forgiving enemies, refraining from resisting evil, selling what he had and giving it to the poor. Such actions only made sense if God’s intervention to bring about justice in the world did in fact come. In a world that continued on, generation after generation, one might even consider such ethical standards to be unjust since they would enable oppression and wickedness to thrive.

Source:
(i) New American Oxford Dictionary (Kindle)
(ii) Tabor, J. “Paul and Jesus” Simon and Schuster (2012)

 

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