Beware Scandalizing Unbelievers
by Patrick Henry Reardon
Real pagans, if they are also good and sane pagans, are obliged to agree on certain rules among themselves, an established set of common expectations, in order to make social life possible. They must set up minimum social standards of behavior, with a view to discouraging murder, adultery, fraud, and other conduct harmful to one another or the common good. In pursuit of this purpose, such pagans promulgate laws, establish forums of adjudication, and provide for sanctions against offenders. They exert this effort simply in order to survive. This cooperative effort is what philosophers call the Social Contract, which strives to preserve at least a manageable level of public decency and order, sufficient to make civic life possible, perhaps even enjoyable.
The goals of a decent, stable society are modest. Its standards are not necessarily demanding. It has in mind to form citizens, not saints. It does not command holiness. It does not require fast days and the maintenance of vigils. It imposes on no one the obligation to strive for sanctity, and, except during wartime and national disasters, it does not normally exact strenuous asceticism or heroic virtue from its citizens.
THIS ARTICLE ONLY AVAILABLE TO SUBSCRIBERS.
FOR QUICK ACCESS:
Patrick Henry Reardon is pastor emeritus of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago, Illinois, and the author of numerous books, including, most recently, Out of Step with God: Orthodox Christian Reflections on the Book of Numbers (Ancient Faith Publishing, 2019).
more on christianity from the online archives
calling all readers
"There are magazines worth reading but few worth saving . . . Touchstone is just such a magazine."
—Alice von Hildebrand
"Here we do not concede one square millimeter of territory to falsehood, folly, contemporary sentimentality, or fashion. We speak the truth, and let God be our judge. . . . Touchstone is the one committedly Christian conservative journal."
—Anthony Esolen, Touchstone senior editor
• Not a subscriber or wish to renew your subscription? Subscribe to Touchstone today for full online access. Over 30 years of publishing!
Transactions will be processed on a secure server.
Order Touchstone subscriptions in bulk and save $10 per sub! Each subscription includes 6 issues of Touchstone plus full online access to touchstonemag.com—including archives, videos, and pdf downloads of recent issues for only $29.95 each! Great for churches or study groups.
OR get a subscription to Touchstone to read on your Kindle for only $1.99 per month! (This option is KINDLE ONLY and does not include either print or online.)
Your subscription goes a long way to ensure that Touchstone is able to continue its mission of publishing quality Christian articles and commentary.
more from the online archives