There is a philosophy of moralism that consists of timeless moral principles. Most of the Judeo-Christian world holds the ancient injunction "Thou shalt not kill" to be a transcendent and absolute principle. To seek timeless principles of value to live by is a noble venture; to be moral is good; to be good is good--but if that is the only end we are seeking, then even goodness and morality can become idolatrous.... When the quest for principles and morals becomes our sole focus--and even our god--we encounter problems when a commandment is given that doesn't seem to have a foundational principle or moral we can immediately understand.... Lacking the understanding that "man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend" (Mosiah 4:9), individuals may cast aside a commandment in the belief that they can still be "good" without it. For the sake of goodness, they may be able to; but for the sake of Christ, discipleship, and holiness, they cannot. Those who try to find salvation simply in goodness are trying to build a latter-day tower of Babel. They rationalize that if there is a heaven, surely a "good" God wouldn't cast out His "good" children.Ty Mansfield in
In Quiet Desperation
This was my favorite part of Ty's book. I saved this post up from back when I was reviewing the book, and now seems to be a good time to bust it out. The idea that morality itself could be idolatry (and therefore, somehow immoral) is really interesting. I find I believe it. Same goes for love as idolatry, happiness as idolatry, and all the other good and wonderful things I've seen people use to justify their behavior when it conflicts with God's expectation. Take your favorite virtue and use it to trump God, and voila: idolatry.
Benjamin has been explaining to me here how following prophets can be a form of idolatry, and I'm inclined to agree in some particular instance. When we follow prophets for their own sakes, when we are enamored with the men themselves, when the office is secondary to the person and therefore God is secondary to the person, it's idolatry. On the other hand, justifying not following God's prophet because it doesn't fit with our own personal feelings of what is right for us seems to be a very dangerous place to go. I'm all for personal responsibility in making choices and having integrity, etc., etc., but that doesn't equate with accepting one's own opinions as the last word on what must be right.
There are many aces to be played in the issues of life. They trump the suit, after all. "If men are that they might have joy, then I really have to do what I know makes me the happiest." "If God is love, I just can't believe that God doesn't want me to accept the beautiful love I naturally feel." "God wants me to get away from my self-hate, and now I'm sure he approves of the better place I'm in."
If only there were some way God could clarify the issues when things got confusing... if he had some sort of specific method of communicating with those who are trying to follow him that was less subjectively influenced by the natural man... if only someone on Earth could explain His will and speak with His authority... then I could accept the communication as from God and know that I'm avoiding the idolatry of morality, avoiding trusting the arm of the flesh, avoiding making God in my own image rather than the other way around.