Moral Choice: A Christian View of Ethics


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Moral decision making

The big problem in church history is not that leaders do not consult church history, but that they consult it too much and too uncritically. To say this is not to say that church history cannot yield great help in understanding how to apply scripture. It is only to say that such a task must be done very carefully and with real insistence that scripture alone is the final judge of church history. Actually, church history may be much more profitable as a guide on what not to do, what mistakes not to fall into, than as a positive guide in the sense that Longenecker suggests. The Christian leader should apply the gospel to his day.

He should depend upon the Holy Spirit for wisdom to do so. But he should not take the position that his applications of the gospel are of equal authority or inspiration to those of the apostles. He cannot say , "I say, not the Lord" in the same authoritative way that Paul could 1 Cor. He cannot say about such applications "If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized" 1 Cor. He must view the apostolic applications as inspired, but he may not view his own applications that way.

Another point of contrast between ethical approaches is the subject of ethical dilemmas.


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Are there situations in which we must violate God's boundary conditions? If so, how do we decide which to break?

Ethics & Morality: Philosophy of Behavior, Choice, and Character

Is violating the boundary condition wrong in that case? The implications of this subject are far too detailed to cover in this paper. A simple comparison of the three approaches' views on this issue is all that can be attempted here. My understanding of the theonomist approach is that it would hold that such ethical dilemmas do exist and that one should violate the lesser of the boundary conditions. It would also say that this violation, though perhaps necessary, is still wrong. It would say additionally that such ethical dilemmas are not primarily the result of living in a fallen world, but more specifically the consequence of not structuring society according to biblical Old Testament or New Testament case laws in exhaustive detail.

Thus, such ethical dilemmas provide additional incentive to structure society thusly. The concept that ethical dilemmas are the consequence of previous disobedience to God's will is an appealing one. One may think of many examples in which this seems to be the case. If this be so, nothing short of a new humanity could alleviate the human race of indigenous ethical dilemmas.

It is just this that Jesus Christ came to inaugurate Rom. My problem with the theonomist's understanding of ethical dilemmas lies not in their assessment of ethical dilemmas, but in the solution they offer. To go back to the case laws of Old Testament Israel would be wrong for the reasons described previously in this paper. Furthermore, it would not really alleviate ethical dilemmas. The Old Testament civil law does not speak specifically to the many medical and technological ethical dilemmas which exist in today's society. To advocate going back to second millennia B. The contextualist approach would hold that no true ethical dilemmas exist.

While the human situation is so complex that no set of laws can ever avoid the trap of ethical dilemmas described in the above sense, this only proves the inadequacy of a "laws", multiple absolutist approach. The contextualist holds that the only absolute is to act in love, and that therefore as along as one acts in love, there can be no true ethical dilemmas.

This approach does eliminate ethical dilemmas in the technical sense of the term, but it pays too high a price for doing so. Because of the critique of this approach offered earlier, it is difficult to see how contextualism is ultimately any different than moral relativism. To sacrifice all moral guidance in the process of escaping from the possibility of experiencing ethical dilemmas is unscriptural and unwise. The principles approach described in this paper would hold that ethical dilemmas are a part of man's fallen condition.

Both because of poor individual choices and because of the corporate solidarity of humanity, we can find ourselves in situations in which one of God's boundary conditions must be broken. This approach would advocate seeking to do "the lesser of two evils" in that situation. But that choice would still be wrong and the individual would be unable to justify himself - he would still be morally responsible to God for his choice. Such experiences, like others in a fallen world Gen , should make us see the abnormality of our condition and drive us to Christ for forgiveness and further sanctification.

Although no biblical ethical approach is without problems, the "principles" approach described above is the superior approach. When compared to the other approaches studied, it affords overall the most extensive use of scripture and the most application to contemporary society. Arthur F. See Matt. Paul makes it clear that this is his purpose in Col. He also declares that it is the purpose of the church in II Cor. Richard N. See George Hunter, quoted in Donald A. While I do not endorse all of McGavran's views, Hunter's point on the historical necessity of permeating a society with vital churches before real social change can occur is sound.

To relate to God primarily in a rule-oriented way; to see the supervisory, "third use of the Law" as a valid application for Christians under the New Covenant. See Richard N. However, while Wenham understands that Israel's spiritual weakness necessitated this civil system, he does not exhibit a good understanding of the change that the New Covenant has brought to God's people.

See Jn. Jesus does bring up her sexual behavior vs , but evidently to verify His divine authority vs 19 and to underscore her failure in relationships and need for "the gift" of God. See Rom. For example, the many medical ethical problems raised in class. It is ironic that as technology has alleviated much of the effect of the Fall in this area, it has also spawned a host of complicated, possibly unsolvable ethical issues! Might this be part of the inevitable situation living in a world "subjected to futility" Rom.

Greg Bahnsen and J. Roushdoony would be examples of Old Testament theonomists; the Amish would be an example of New Testament theonomists. Longenecker says " For example, 19th century missionaries were frequently confronted with converted native chieftains who were married to more than one wife. Should he remain as he is?

Ethics and Morality An Atheist vs. Theist View

This violates God's design for marriage. Should he divorce all his wives but one, thus exposing them to hardship and ostracism? Many chiefs killed all but one of their wives! It would appear that this is an ethical dilemma which was precipitated by previous wrong choices. For example, one may think of the host of ethical dilemmas spawned by a nuclear holocaust. See Joseph Fletcher and John W. An Approach to Christian Ethics Author:. The Basic Components of the Approach Using Chismar's schematic, the following terms need definition: Boundary Conditions refer to those moral principles which are timeless and therefore do not require cultural adaptation.

Hermeneutical Approach How one interprets the Bible is the critical question in Christian ethics, and it is a question which is not easily resolved. Veritas, To purchase this book online, go to www. And if you press the question it will emerge that at the core of the experience which we call morality is, first, recognition of a distinction between right and wrong, good and evil, and, second, a sense of obligation to do what is good and right, and to avoid what is evil and wrong. Recognition of such a distinction and the accompanying sense of obligation are universal.

Biblical Ethics 6: Basis for Ethical Decisions

People may differ concerning what is right or wrong, as when some consider euthanasia or capital punishment to be morally permissible while for others these are wrong because they are the deliberate taking of a human life. People differ also as to the nature and source of the obligation in question, some believing it to be in a law of God, others believing it to be a trait of our nature which impels us towards what will ensure our happiness or at least our survival.

Later we shall have to explore some of these differences, but for now it is enough to notice that the belief that there is a right and wrong, and that we ought to do what is right, is normally and generally found, and people who lack a sense of the distinction and obligation are thought to suffer from a psychopathology. Consider for example the following propositions:. Each of these is in imperative form, each injuncts us to an attitude or action or activity, each intimates some kind of obligation.

But is the ought of the same weight in each case? One way of approaching this is to ask about the significance of what is enjoined in each — the question of whether the imperatives are equally important.

Moral Choice: A Christian View of Ethics

Intuitively we should ascribe greater importance to the first and the third, somewhat less to the second, and not a lot to the fourth. Of course we ought to read Shakespeare if we are following a course in which his plays are on the syllabus, or if in any case we want to acquaint ourselves with the achievements of English literature. Of course we ought to use a fish-knife if one has been provided by a punctilious host or hostess; not to do so would betray some lack of table etiquette, and to refuse to do so would at the least seem ungracious.

Reading Shakespeare is the relatively more important pursuit, failure to use a fish-knife is not a matter of great moment; and any obligation which might arise in either case is a conditional one. We have already remarked that the subject matter of this is more serious — the injunction has to do with life or living in a quite fundamental way. Of this first imperative, then, we can say that it holds unconditionally — absolutely, if you like — because it is fundamental to any kind of human well-being.

But can we say the same about the third — you ought to drive on the left? So a topic arises which we shall have to examine at some length later, for although in this and other matters morality and the law intersect, they are separable aspects of our experience, and the differences between them are important. We might summarise the foregoing by saying that as we live life we meet various kinds of imperatives and obligations, some relatively trivial as to content and weight, some more important.

The important ones bear upon important aspects of human living, that is they have to do with what we value most about life because they are connected with the enhancement of our existence. In addition, to respect for life, one might add regard for other rights, such as the right to a good name or a fair wage; or one might say such things as we ought to be just and truthful and faithful and compassionate.

But we need to notice one other feature of the imperatives just examined, which is that they all have to do with our relationships with each other and with the world around us. And here we hit upon a critical aspect of our existence as humans, which is that we are relational beings, and we cannot adequately be understood if this is lost sight of We come into the world as the fruit of the relationship of our parents, and even for survival we need from the outset to be in some kind of sustaining relationship with another. In normal circumstances a child is in a dependent relationship first to its mother, and he or she comes to maturity in a network of other relationships which contribute to nurturing and education in a complex variety of ways.

But as we grow in self-awareness we become aware of our relationships, and we become aware of being able to make some choices in their regard. The circularity traps everyone, not just you, in a prison of moral myopia: where we mistake the bars for protective fences. This doesn't mean Christians can't be free-thinking beings of course they are , it just means anyone who appeals to religion, specifically theism, as their basis for morality makes a flawed argument, no matter how they dress it up.

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Biodegradable plastic offers a solution, but lacks the strength of conventional materials. A breakthrough idea promotes the circular economy by using cellulose or lignin from plant waste, which increases material strength without using crops that could otherwise be used for food.


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Right and wrong

But new fuels are emerging that are much less likely to overheat, and if they do, will produce little or no hydrogen. These new configurations can replace existing fuel rods with little modification. Our data storage systems use a lot of energy and can't keep up with the vast - and ever-increasing - quantities of data we produce. In less than a century they are set to reach capacity. But breakthrough research is using DNA-based data storage, as a low-energy alternative to computer hard drives, with huge capacity: One estimate suggests all the world's data for a year could be stored on a cube of DNA measuring just a square metre.

But storing energy generated by renewables for when there is no sun or wind has been a barrier to increased take-up.

Moral Choice: A Christian View of Ethics Moral Choice: A Christian View of Ethics
Moral Choice: A Christian View of Ethics Moral Choice: A Christian View of Ethics
Moral Choice: A Christian View of Ethics Moral Choice: A Christian View of Ethics
Moral Choice: A Christian View of Ethics Moral Choice: A Christian View of Ethics
Moral Choice: A Christian View of Ethics Moral Choice: A Christian View of Ethics
Moral Choice: A Christian View of Ethics Moral Choice: A Christian View of Ethics
Moral Choice: A Christian View of Ethics Moral Choice: A Christian View of Ethics
Moral Choice: A Christian View of Ethics Moral Choice: A Christian View of Ethics
Moral Choice: A Christian View of Ethics Moral Choice: A Christian View of Ethics

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