“I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father, but by me.”-Jesus Christ
These words summarize much of how we understand ethics and virtue in our world, and where they’re derived from. But it may be hard to see that at first glance. Jesus became the most perfect expression of what that means to live an ethical life. But, the assertion that a particular “Way” or ethical code was superior is not unique.
Jesus was not the only person to offer a “Way.” Many before and after Him have. But, why is this particular statement so striking and Jesus’ Way so appealing? To know this we must look at the other attempts to create a path of purpose, where they come from, and where they fall short.
The sages and philosophers for ages sought truth and the understanding of the cosmos. They also would seek the answers to moral questions in the same way. Because we are limited in understanding in our human nature, we were unable to attain the whole truth. We had to create a way of journeying toward truth that offered guidance and bulwarks against mistakes and missteps.
Principles would be defined as guardrails to guide those seeking truth about the world we observe or the moral world. Then, a discussion could ensue to weigh different virtues in given circumstances to create a moral code. Debate, asceticism, mysticism, stoicism, and many other methods were put forward in an attempt to seek truth. Each offers some value, and some more than others, but each fell short of the aim to understand all truth, Truth itself.
Each instance of good fell short of perfect. And the fact that there is a “good” points to the existence of a perfect, since something is good inasmuch as it shares something with perfection. So, a way must exist that is perfect. This will be an exploration of the different “ways,” where they’re good and the downfalls they have in search of a perfect “way.”
Before we can discuss the many ways of ethical being, we must discuss the source of being and the nature of being itself. No one in their right mind would attempt to offer medical advice before understanding all that medicine, anatomy, physiology, etc. and an in-depth knowledge of the patient’s history. Only when they know the background and the particular situation can they give sound advice.
Likewise, in order to understand the moral world, we must understand the world from which they come. We must understand the created order, examining it and how it’s laid out, so we may find the means by which we can assess the moral world.
By examining the cosmos, we come to know truths about the world we live in. By knowing truth, we are able to use it and apply it to our daily lives. The application of moral principles is ethics, and the “ways” are the ethical codes of conduct and standards brought forth from an understanding of the cosmos that provides certain truths.
Thus, we must begin by looking at the world around us with fresh eyes and an open mind, uncovering the truths it provides to find the proper way. Only when we acknowledge there is objective truth and seek it honestly, will we find what we are looking for.