Do You Know John 15:11??

I know I have written a lot recently about the German Philosopher Immanuel Kant and his categorical Imperative, but I saw something this morning that stunned me from John 15:11 and I must tell you about it.

For those of you just coming into this discussion, Immanuel Kant’s categorical imperative is this: an action can only be moral and virtuous, if the person doing the action gains nothing from it. So, to the degree that you gain anything, from doing any action, to that degree, it is an immoral action. If Kant had his way, he would have us all be disinterested in the things we do. This is not Biblical, but I am writing about this again because I think so many of you believe this! Now to John 15:11.

John 15:11 says, “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” This statement gives the purpose for the previous 10 verses. That means 15:1-10 were spoken by Jesus for our joy. Think about how the purpose statement in 15:11 applies to 15:9-10. Jesus says, “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” Jesus clearly teaches that keeping His commandments is the way to remain in His love; this is describing obedience.

TOO OFTEN, Christians think of obedience to God in a KANTian manner. We say, we think, we believe, and act upon this thought: “If I am to obey God, I must put pleasure and delight aside. If I am to have pleasure and delight, I cannot obey God.” Does Jesus believe this? NO! John 15:11 teaches us that this idea about putting pleasure aside to obey God is a lie. Rather, Jesus told us that obedience to His commandments (15:9-10) for the purpose of making our joy full (15:11). What does that mean? Jesus told us to obey Him so that we could have the fullness of joy! This means that obedience to Jesus is the fullness of joy, not the absence of it. Kant’s imperative is again….wrong. Pursue your joy in Jesus with all the might you can muster, by obeying His commandments.

How Philippians 3:7-8 Blasted Kant Out of My Soul

Yesterday I told you that Kant’s categorical imperative (his rule that an act can only be moral if you gain nothing from it) is not useful for anyone, especially Christians.

Recently in my morning devotions, I pondered over two verses that blasted Kant out of my soul once again! The two verses were Philippians 3:7-8, which state, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.”

Before I tell you why this was so refreshing to my soul this morning, let me first say that most people already think in Kantian terms with regards to their faith. Too many of us think that religion is only about doing our duty to God. We think that in order to do our duty to God we must put pleasure aside because obedience to God is always unpleasant. We think sin is always pleasurable and obedience to God is always unpleasurable. To put it another way, we think this: “If it’s enjoyable, it’s wrong!” Therefore an implication which comes from this is that we have embraced the idea that going to church is not about having fun, going to church is about putting fun aside to do our duty! We must put fun and pleasure aside in order to serve and worship God! O’ how wrong this is! Let us wake up from our Kantian coma’s!

Phil. 3:7-8 blasts Kant out of my soul because those two verses say everything which is gain to us (health, money, cars, computers, houses, wives, husbands, families, children, books, status, riches extraordanaire, etc) should be counted as loss. If we stop here we may prove Kant more than disproving him, but thankfully the verse keeps going. We’re to count those things that are gain as loss for the sake of knowing Christ Jesus our Lord. Why? Because His worth and His value far surpasses all other things! So, if we pursue those things only, we do not pursue our joy rightly! We only pursue our joy rightly by leaving what is less pleasing and going after that which gives us the most pleasure, JESUS!

According to Kant I cannot pursue my joy in Jesus, because that would not be a moral action for me to do. BUT according to the Bible, I am called to pursue my joy in Jesus with all my might! That is why I read my Bible, that is why I pray, and that is why I go to church, to be satisfied in Jesus above all things! Is that why you do those things?

Kant’s Categorical Imperative: Biblical? Useful?

Immanuel Kant’s categorical imperative is his moral compass which says the morality of an act decreases to the degree that we enjoy it or gain any benefit from it. Actions are only good if the actor is disinterested in the act. Therefore to the degree that we are disinterested in our actions, we are virtuous people doing our duty. If we seek any type of reward, joy, or gain, (in any way) from the act itself, we are not moral. Ayn Rand stated it like this, “An action is moral, said Kant, only if one has no desire to perform it, but performs it out of a sense of duty and derives no benefit from it of any sort, neither material or spiritual. A benefit destroys the moral value of an action.” It should be stated that this mindset has become the mindset of Christianity to a large extent, so much so that Christians today see this ‘disinterested’ mindset as Biblical to the core. The question of its usefulness comes down to this; is it Biblical? If it is, let’s use it! If it’s not, let’s stay away from it! Well, which is it?

I think it is unbiblical and therefore useless in acting as our moral compass. Jonathan Edwards thought the same, he said in Resolution 22, “Resolved, to endeavor to obtain for myself as much happiness in the other world as I possibly can, with all the power, might, vigor, and vehemence, yea violence, I am capable of, or can bring myself to exert, in any way that can be thought of.” C.S. Lewis agreed and said, “It is a Christian duty, as you know, for everyone to be as happy as he can.” What caused these two prominent writers think this way? Two massive reasons, at least.

First, all throughout the Bible God is portrayed as having one motive behind every action; His own glory. If we follow Kant’s reasoning God would not be doing His proper duty by pursuing His glory in His works. But, it would be evil of God to not express His glory to us. If God withheld the expression of His glory and beauty to us, the foundation of our joy would be lost! For when His glory goes public, His people are filled with infinite delight! This was David’s desire in Psalm 27:4 when he yearned to see the beauty of the LORD. God commands that we be happy in Him in Deuteronomy 28:47-48. This was the very reason Jesus became human in Romans 15:8-9, so that God would be glorified for His mercy. If Kant is right, God is wrong to seek His own gain in all His works. If God is right, we get delight and God gets the glory He seeks! The application of this truth is that God is not glorified where He is not treasured and enjoyed! Thus, when we seek God for our satisfaction in Him, He is more glorified than if we we’re merely disinterested in coming to Him.

Second, many passages tell us to seek our own gain. Hebrews 11:6, “Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” If we come to God not seeking a reward from Him, we do not come to God rightly! 1 John 1:4, “These things we write, so that our joy may be complete.” John wrote his letters so that his own joy would be made complete. God loves cheerful givers (2 Cor. 9:7), not disinterested givers. Okay, but didn’t Jesus tell us to deny ourselves? Yes He did, in Mark 8:34-35. But do you see that in this charge to deny ourselves there is an appeal to do it for our own good, even for our own happiness? If I want to save my life, I must lose it!

Is Kant’s categorical imperative useful? If it is, I lose my happiness in God, therefore it is not. If we are to obey Scripture, and feast on the God who is a river of delight (Psalm 36:8), which is the most moral act we can ever do, we must drop Kant’s categorical compass and take up God at His Word, coming to Him for own gain and benefit.