The ultimate purpose of morality

By Engr. Carlos V. Cornejo

St. Thomas Aquinas says that the principal intention of human laws or civil laws is to create friendship between humans. Respect for private property for example as a law (e.g., land titles) would help avoid quarrels or disputes between two persons and lead them to develop friendship.  The purpose of the divine law likewise is to establish man in friendship with God.

To trace back a bit of history of the moral law in the Old Testament expressed in the Ten Commandments, the Jews already had some idea of the purpose of living a life of morality as demanded of them by God for them to be rewarded with eternal life after death.  The Jews knew God better than other races in the Old Testament not because they were better people but because they were the chosen people of whom the Savior would come.  Thus, God had to reveal to them Himself the most and they got to know God more. They knew God being just, merciful, righteous, loving and perfect.  The gods of all other nations were imperfect and immoral.  The Jews united religion (worship of God) and morality more closely than any other nation because they knew that morality’s ultimate source was not human but divine.  This also corresponds to man’s two deepest instincts which is the religious instinct to worship, and the moral instinct to do good and avoid evil.  The Jews had the best connection of the two compared to other races who just worshipped gods but with no clear-cut moral laws.

The Jews were repeatedly told by God in Leviticus, the book of laws, that “You must be holy because I am holy.”  (Leviticus 11:44) Thus, the Jews knew that the purpose of morality is to be like God or Godlikeness.  In the New Testament, Jesus repeats this Godlike requirement in his Sermon on the Mount: “You, therefore, must be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48) We must become Godlike in character in order to be God’s friends.  The philosopher Aristotle tells us that “friends have all things in common”, but first in their own selves or in their nature or in their characters.  Close friends agree on certain values and principles that they themselves identify with, otherwise they will not become friends.  You will not agree to become a friend with a person for example, if that person’s principle in life is to steal and rob others of their money as a source of income (if you are a man of right principles).

In married love the two become one flesh; in friendship the two become one character.  We won’t be able to know God intimately unless we become His friend and we don’t become a friend of God unless we become like Him or be Godlike.  This is important because the life in Heaven is knowing God more intimately, “This is eternal life, that they know you the only true God.”  (John 17:3)

We can endure so to speak the presence of God in us only if we are like God, that is, if we are righteous, just, loving and holy.  And that presence starts in this world and completed in the next.  Thus, the souls in Hell would not be able to endure Heaven even if God would allow them to transfer because they could not endure love, righteousness, being loving and being holy in heaven because they don’t have these virtues in their hearts, they detest these things in their heart and because they never wanted to become like God anyway in the first place.