Do Core Values Mix with Christianity? (139)

In this episode John and Gregg discuss what “core values” are and how they apply to Christianity.

Gregg explains that he created a questionnaire for his church group when he understood that several participants were having a very hard time engaging with the material on self-deceit. One of those questions was: “What is satisfying to you about your Christian life (in other words, what value is your Christian life to you in your day-to-day life)?”

Gregg’s spouse, Susan, offered that Christianity is satisfying to her because it aligns with her core values. From Gregg’s perspective this answer was very different in the sense that the other responses were more oriented to answering “What makes you feel good about being a Christian?” Yet this essentially were all oriented toward how they were able to help others (rather than being satisfying to themselves).

John notes that clarity about one’s core values is both helpful for self-understanding and allows us to have a better sense of our priorities (in how we live out our various core values), such that when one lives in alignment with one’s core values life is, generally speaking, noticeably better. John sees this as “being in alignment with the best version of oneself.”

By contrast, John questions how some versions of Christianity try to impose a standard set of core values or beliefs, such that this set should be a Christian’s core values and so questions this.  John also explains how common conflicts occur between people when they prioritize their values differently.

So John wonders if our core values must be “prescribed” from the Bible or if are they essential parts of who we are.

Gregg agrees that core values are innate and yet believes that human values are often in need of guidance or correction. For example, Gregg identifies love and truth / truth and love as his core values and so excludes values that would ignore or undermine either of these. Also, inherent to the notion of core values is how accurately one sees oneself and how competent a “reader” one is of one’s own life, actions, dispositions, etc.

John is concerned about the idea of approaching the Bible as a “blank slate” in order to receive biblical values because of the belief that we can’t do it well ourselves. Gregg views this as a very philosophically modernist perspective: the idea of trying to obtain a neutral, position-from-nowhere in order best to understand something. Gregg thinks that the closest example of this in Christianity are cases where people are essentially “born into” the Christian faith.

Yet Gregg also believes that we “come with” certain core values because of our background and experiences, not just our personality. Gregg sees the case for the Bible having input into our values by virtue of portraying humans as being certain types of beings, portraying God as being a certain types of beings, and to portray better (and even ideal) ways of relating between the two.

So the Bible writers describe humans as having certain needs and having certain tendencies, and some of these tendencies are not helpful (as not promoting human flourishing). So from Gregg’s perspective love and truth / truth and love are the quintessential elements of right relationality between humans and God. Further, in Gregg’s view human beings need proper relationship with God because this relationship allows us to be “most” ourselves or our “fullest” self, and to be in a mode of being that approximates “abundant living.” Yet each person also has their own “flourish” or “take” on this. So while Christians are to be Christ-like in character but fully themselves in personality.

So where John emphasizes the importance of our core values “helping us to live effectively” Gregg agrees, though he notes that his findings—both through his experience and through his study of the biblical texts—is that love and truth and what most help him to live “best.” As a result Gregg’s approach is to ask, how well does this particular orientation, value, etc. allow me to promote (and indeed, to maximize) truth and love / love and truth?

This is because Gregg sees “love and truth” as what a) maximizes our possibilities of living rightly in the world (and so we most value ourselves), and b) allows for the greatest possibilities of the greatest good (such as happiness, etc.) and c) is the basis for—and result of—right relationship with God.

John and Gregg finish by discussing the tension between truth/Truth and “truth-for-me.”

Three questions from Gregg’s questionnaire:

1) What are “core values”? List 1-3 of your own core values. What makes these particular values “core” for you?

2) Should Christians determine their core values from the Bible or establish them based on their life experience? How would you go about formulating an answer to this question?

3) How would one go about either determining biblical core values or establishing personal core values? Name one or two ways that your upbringing / background informs your answer.

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