Representative of the Patriarch of Antioch in Moscow
There is a set of various ethical standards, because at the heart of each of them there exists the system of values, possessed by any group according to historical circumstances and outlook. We could list infinitely philosophers - from ancient Greeks who added into philosophy the term "ethics" up to nowadays – but it is important for us to allocate something that is the general for all.
For me, ethics accurately is divided into two 2 categories: religious and non religious. Both possesses 3 sources of knowledge of moral truth, rationalism, empiricism and belief. The main distinction between them – is in the formation of the systems of values. In any religious system of values, including Christianity, about which I want to speak, there are absolutes.
In the Non religious ethic you find freedom without obligations, this is about what the French materialist René Descartes wrote: "As much as the absolutes don't exist ,why not to act as you consider it necessary", but as he was brought up in religious ethics therefore he continued: "especially, if it doesn't do harm to others" but if to be consecutive, we should say what Dostoyevsky's hero mentioned in his novel "Crime and punishment ": "If God doesn’t exist, everything is permitted".
For example, in history we see that none of the unreligious philosophical system can explain the criteria of good and evil, the nature of human conscience. I lived in the Soviet Union many years and saw how they tried to create unreligious society. It was the greatest project for which a special philosophical concept was specially produced that explained everything – from the beginning of creation till the eschatology - everything, except ethics all Marxist philosophy failed, because it couldn't explain what conscience is and why there is a general understanding of the good and evil in scales of all human civilization; this is impossible to explain from the point of view of the evolution and relativity of morals.
I think that the opinion of presenting that secularism, in an unreligious ethics is capable to solve the inte-rreligious and international conflicts is wrong, because in an unreligious concept there are no absolutes, it will be always constructed on private, relative morals.
None of us doesn't complain that the laws of physics limit our freedom, but, on the contrary, studying them, we try to use them ourselves for the benefit, the same as we have to act with moral laws. It is obvious to religious consciousness that what is fair for physical laws of the nature – is justified also for the moral laws founded by the Creator; they don't limit our freedom, but to be morally free, we should implement morals laws. Formulating these laws we have to distinguish accurately the criteria of good and evil, and this is possible only having the invariable absolute.
A lot of things in the world change throughout history - society develops. Today technical progress has huge speed, it seems that this progress doesn't solve human (=moral) problems. But on the contrary, it arises the need for creating new ethical directions: bioethics, medical ethics, moral aspect in policy, etc.
Bible ethics propose a norm, which doesn't depend on social development, but stand firm on the strong principles of love and God’s justice. Love - the first in human life, eternal, immortal, the Divine beginning which temporarily gives worldly sense of life. This is not what philosophers of “situationism,” who determined all acts by love, spoke of; love being uncertain and subjective. This is a kind of “antinomism”, lawlessness, following by Heraclitus’ opinion that it is impossible (to enter twice one river), and that there are no invariable absolutes. Love - in the religious system, biblical thinking – assumes an internal order of the personality, where justice is an external order.
Christians believe that God overcame the evil. Probably, the first reaction will be surprise, because it is enough to look back around and we see terrible, incessant disasters: murders, violence, destruction of cultural heritages, etc. These feelings from the point of view of Christians are our subjective experiences. Everything that occurs in our private life or in borders of any state, or even concerns that all the planet is enduring are in our inner world. Speaking in the modern language, it is a certain virtual reality - we grieve or we feel pity, we rejoice or we exult, we thank or we damn, this is only our subjective perception. But in the scales of history and metahistory (that oversteps the bounds of history), we are sure of an objective victory of God in the world.
We believe that human being as God's image has a special value. This personal value can't be taken away from him, and should be respected by each of us, society and state. The personal dignity resembles a price which ranges high or low, which depends on how much a human being develops the image God in himself. So as far as we are on God’s side, fighting for the truth and justice, the human personality is decorated and ennobled with the dignity of the human being.
From the point of view of the church that I belong to, self respect and the respect to others are the first and foremost essentiality for the formation of ethical standards.
Ethics, morals, virtues in the majority of countries have had and do have a religious character. Even those proclaiming atheistic regimes, the authorities of these countries adhered to religious and ethical principles on which they were brought up. (So, for example, in the atheistic Soviet Union, any person appointed to a post of an ambassador should not be divorced and can be married only once).
We want very much for human respect to be the cornerstone of legislative and executive powers of any state and is guaranteed to the people by their leaders. Human rights, which are guaranteed by the state, have to be directed on realizing the dignity of each citizen. The separation of these rights from moral means profanation, because there can't be an immoral dignity. Therefore we recognize the rights and freedom of anybody in that measure with what they help an eminence of human dignity. Heads of states, who have power along with those in legislature in their countries, wish there small families live with respect and dignity. If so, within the power they receive (from God as we believe and from there peoples) – the same wish should be extended to the people of their states. The people are their big families that are within the framework of ethical values which are necessary in taking both private and personal decisions and thus essential in promoting a global state policy of any country.
I think it is necessary to designate a framework of ethical standards because in the modern world these concepts become a little vague.
Christianity is a conservative religion in the sense that it keeps the values, God-given. We believe that the Lord is the Criteria of truth and justice. But modern liberalism (this does not apply to the concept of policy or economy) leads to a personal individual definition of ethical standards – and it conduces to construction of personal, often sinful belief in the rank of ethical standards. This is a dangerous most up-to-date concept of tolerance, which in fact borders on the indifferent acceptance of norms alien to our outlook. In medicine, for example, the term "tolerance" means loss of immunity of an organism, impossibility to resist to external and internal infections.
The modern model of tolerance teaches that a wrong behavior doesn't exist, whereas the traditional Christian tolerance, which is leniency, teaches to get on good-neighborhood with that jars on you, without refusing your understanding of truth. That is in all respect, we can give an assessment to persuasion and belief, behavior of others, but at the same time we have the right to express our point of view of what is good and what is bad. The danger of modern tolerance – is the statement that the distinctions between the belief of people are not significant. The tolerance, which we preach, demands not to harbor malice against those whose belief you consider incorrect The tolerance, of course, means working on your own personality. It is important to learn that any negative attitude to anything should not find in us an aggressive manifestation. Thus, from the point of view of Christianity, and the Orthodox Church that I belong to, and for the formation of the general ethical principles, the right concept of tolerance – that is respect in love - is necessary for the joint coexistence of people,
So we have to bring up our children without erasing distinction between the good and evil, but insisting on the standard values, to teach them to see in others God's image. We have to protect our traditional values without fanaticism, but with obstinacy that the new generation inherits from us steady and clear concepts and with a reliable support of a world full of different varieties.