There is a lot of diversity within christianity. Some christians will base their ethics solely on the bible and its teachings, others will base their ethics upon the bible but also traditional natural law, others will follow situation ethics and others will look to their conscience for a guide.
Christians have different responces to ethical issues! In many ways Christian ethics does not look at the rightness or wrongness of an action but what sort of person we are called to become. The bible teaches us that humans are created by God in his image and called to live free and responsible lives, but sin and ignorance have led us to misuse this freedom.
Jewish roots of christian ethics.
Jewish ethical teaching, at its core, is based on relationships; our relationships with God and all our many varied relationships with other people.
Jewish roots of christian ethics...
- The ten commandments.
- Rituals and practices (circumcision, food laws, dietry practices)
Christianity, dropped the legalism and retained the law. e.g the ten commandments.
what do christians use to make ethical decisions?
Christians set out to follow the will of God. They use various different sources of authority to discover what the will of God is, such as...
THE BIBLE the scriptures transmit the word of God; this gives them authority. Some christians believe that humans were inspired by God to write down scriptures meaning the writings are related to the time and culture when they were recorded and may contain human errors. This makes them a useful source of guidence to people but does not make their contents absolute. Others believe the bible contains God's words handed down directly to humans. Making the writings divine and makes them the highest authority.
CHURCH Christian preists have a training that enables them to interpret and trandmit the word of God and the teachings of Jesus to others.
In the book of Acts, there is an account of the early church being inspired directly by the Holy Spirit which christians believe continues to inspire it today.
THE HOLY SPIRIT Christians believe that after Jesus ascended, God continued to reveal himself to humanity through the Holy Spirit. Through prayer, or worship christians may recieve revelations from the Holy Spirit which help them formulate an ethical code.
CONSCIENCE Christians regard their conscience as the ultimate guide for making moral decisions because it was given to them by God and represents the voice of the Holy Spirit within them.
LOVE God is love and Jesus' actions and words showed that love was the primary factor in any situation.
REASON AND NATURAL LAW Christians believe there is a natural law, which is God-given and as such has authority in the formulation of an ethical code. Humans have been given the power of reasoning to understand this natural law which provides a reliable guide as to what is good and what is evil.
Protestant - The authority of the bible.
Catholic - The bible and tradition.
Pentecostal - The authority of the Holy Spirit working in their community. Believers discerning the will of God.
The Divine Command Theory.
The idea that moral rules are true because God commands them is called The Divine Command Theory.
Thou sall not commit murder - this would be an example from the Old Testement.
If God's will is aribiary then it does not give people satisfactory reasons as to why we are morally bound to follow it. If God commands something for a good reason, it is good regardless of whether God commands it or not.
ARBITARY- based on random choice or personal whim, rather than any reason or system.
Does religion give people a reason to be moral? In Dostoyevsky's 'The Brothers Karamazov, Ivan says that 'without God everything is permitted' - so does God give reason to be moral? We do make judgements about what is right and wrong, and many people do so wihtout seeing any involvement from God.
The whole problem of doing something because God commands it was examined by Plato in what has been become known as the 'Euthyphro Dilemma.' Plato asks: Is x good because God wills it or does God will x because it is good?'
strengths and weaknesses of the divine command the
:) Just follow the rules. Lack of responsibility
:( Not practical
:( Depends on your interpretation of God
:( No free will
:( Doesn't allow love
:( Arbitary - so you should follow it
Based upon the principle of agape love. Which can be found in the bible. God love humanity with agape love (selfless, non-physical love) and Jesus commanded us to do the same for eachother...
'Love other people as you love yourself' Matthew 22:39'
Joseph Fletcher in his book Situation Ethics wrote -
'Nothing is intrinsically good except love. Rules can help us but they cannot tell us what to do - they are subservient to love. Love wills the good of neighbour, wheather we like him or not; love it to be the only motive for action, and consequences need to be taken into account and only the end justifies the means.'
It puts love at the centre, however this is vague, as individuals have different interpretations of what love is...
Natural law was both deontological and teleological. It has certain rules to follow such as the primary precepts. However the secondary precepts are situational and linked in with the idea of becoming a whole human being and getting closer to God.
This has lead the catholic church to accept Natural Law and certain absolutes such as the sanctity of life.
Refers to the character of being a good person. This links back to love as being the highest of all virtues and also the rationale for all the virtues, which simply spell out the form love takes in different circumstances. The virtues, for christian ethics point to the goal for which we aim, even if we do not achieve this in life. This approach to ethics cultivates the inner perosn and so leads to good actions.