Sunday, October 13, 2013

Complex Moral Formulas

While pursuing an engineer degree, I took a lot of courses where we derived mathematical formulas. We took simple pieces of information that we knew were true and put them together in a new way that revealed a new fact. Looking at this complicated formula on its own, you couldn't intuitively tell it was true. We only knew for sure because we had just spent half an hour stepping through it logically.

Once we established the formula, we then used it to solve complicated problems. These formulas became the basic building blocks upon which we learned more and more complex information. They helped us to understand the world better and then to take the next step and make the world better, through new inventions, more efficient systems, better designs, and whole new fields of study. This is the role of the engineer: to creatively apply current knowledge to new situations, improving the world as we go.

As we continued in our studies, we took for granted the formulas we were using. We relied on them heavily but didn't give a second thought to their validity. The improvements we were able to make wouldn't have been possible without them, and yet we didn't pay much attention to where they originated.

Aren't the formulas of our faith the same way?

We know what the Church says about lots of moral topics, our formulas or "rules" of our faith. But where did they originate?

Deep thought has been put into each moral area, all originating from simple truths that we can understand. Over centuries, many people have thought through these truths, building upon them to come up with the moral standards that we live by (or know the Church says and yet choose not to live by). Understanding the background and basic facts that go into these teachings help give meaning to the formulas.

For example:
  • All human being have dignity and worth.
  • Depriving an innocent person of life is a crime against their dignity and worth.
  • A new person comes into existence at the time of conception, when they possess a soul and all the genetic material needed to be an individual.
These simple statements were considered together and resulted in the Church's teaching that abortion is wrong. The Church will not waiver because the facts combine logically to give us this formula.

Taking a step back to consider the thought and logic that went into each complex teaching, we can come to understand the formulas better. Once we internalize them, along with their derivation, we can use them with increased appreciation, sharing the Church's truths with more conviction. We will not only understand our faith better, but also make our faith stronger and the world better. We can apply these truths to the situations around us, leaving the world a better place.

We can all be engineers for the Church.

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