Teleology beyond biologism

One addendum to the previous post. I noted that old-style “biological” teleology had largely fallen out of favor as a foundation for ethics. However, this doesn’t mean that Christian ethics can or should dispense with teleology altogether. I grazed this point when I said that “ultimate happiness consists in greater knowledge of and union with God or the Good…and this fulfillment only comes to complete fruition in the life to come.” Our telos, in Christian terms, is an eschatological one and is not given “immanently” in the created order. The same could be said of other creatures: if they are to share in the life of the world to come, then their proper end is a transcendent one too.

This doesn’t mean that biology is irrelevant to understanding the goods proper to the lives of individual creatures. However, from a Christian perspective, the “natural order” doesn’t fully reflect God’s intention for his creatures. This is expressed in the traditional language of creation being “fallen,” which still has some salience, even if we reject the notion of a historical fall. Creation is, Christians believe, on the way to being transformed. The Risen Christ as the “first fruits” of the new creation provides us with a picture of our genuine end. This can and should inform Christian ethical thinking.

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