Christian Ethics

  • Created by: Chantal
  • Created on: 25-04-13 18:18

Christian Ethics

  • Jewish Root
  • Bible
  • Ethics of Jesus
  • Ethics of Paul
  • Authority and Tradition in Christian Ethics (Catholic, Liberal Protestant)
  • Divine Command Theory
  • Conscience
  • Virtue Ethics
  • The Doctrine of Double Effect
  • Theories with Christian Basis
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Religion and Morality are Linked

  • Kant argued morality supports religion
  • John Henry Newman argued feelings of responsibility and guilt point towards God
  • John Henry Newman wrote an awareness of obligation is an awareness of God
  • H.P Owen wrote, it is impossible to think of a command without also thinking of a commander
  • Presence of moral values indicate to the existence of God
  • Autonomy:
    • Based on reason alone without any reference to religious ideas
  • Heteronomy:
    • Depends directly upon religious belief or on a set of values given by religion
  • Theonomy:
    • Both morality and religion come from a common source of inspiration and knowledge- religion refers to as God
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Religion is a Reason to be Moral

  • For:
    • Without God everything is permitted’- Dostoyevsky, Brothers Karamazov
    • It is reasonable to be both self-seeking and Selfish, J L Mackie’s dualism of practical reason
    • Joseph Butler thought if there was no heaven or hell there might be instances in which immorality was in our best interests
    • If we do good out of obedience to God are we being good for the right reasons? D.Z Philips wrote ‘to a Christian to do one’s duty is to do the will of God’
  • Against:
    • There are different religious truths
    • One shouldn’t just obey religious truths
    • James Rachel’s argues it is unacceptable for religious belief to involve unqualified obedience to God, inappropriate for a moral agent
    • No God that requires a human being to abandon his/her moral autonomy is worth worshipping
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Euthyphro Dilemma

  • In Plato’s Euthyphro Socrates says:
    • ‘Consider the question: Is what is pious loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved?’
  • Plato is asking ‘Is X good because God loves it or does God love X because X is good?’
  • Plato presents us with us with two possible visions of the universe:
    • God created everything and what he loves is good. God, a set of immutable absolute moral rules and the human race. God commands humans to follow the moral rules because they are absolutely true in themselves, separate from God. God agrees with them and wants humans to follow them
    • God created ex material because it is already good. Only exists God and the human race. God commands humans to do certain things and they are good things because God has commanded them
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Jewish Roots

  • Largest section of the bible is the old testament – Hebrew bible
  • Jewish ethical teaching at its core is based on relationships: our relationship with God and all our many and varied relationships with other people
  • Principle behind Jewish ethics – god is loving and just
  • Jews believe first five books of bible (torah) contain gods precise words
  • Jewish ethical teaching is based on relationships: with god and others
  • Jews see divine command as law (part of God's covenant) 
  •  Christians dropped the legalism and kept the law
  • Examples:
    • Jesus was a Jew
    • Prophet Micah: ‘The lord has told us what is good’
    • Examples
    • Christians: old T contains ethical rules
    • 10 commandments (Deontological - approach to ethics that judges the morality of an action based on the action's adherence to a rule or rules. Absolute rules)
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  • Some passage in both the new and old testament need careful exegesis (Critical explanation or interpretation)
  • The bible is a collection of writings put together over a long period of time and reflecting many different cultural contexts
  • No biblical morality or New Testament teaching that can be followed in every detail as it needs all needs to be understood in its cultural context
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Ethics of Jesus

  • Christians believe Jesus is the Son of God
  • Everything he said is given the same status as if it had come from God. 
  • Jesus’ teachings are given precedence if he says anything that contradicts the Old Testament
  • ‘love is the fulfilling of the law’
  • Need to interpret, understand and respond to ethical issues from the point of their particular relationship with God
  • Desire to follow God’s will- the love commandment
  • Examples:
    • Lots of examples in the New Testament of Jesus acting out of love
    •  “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of your soul, and with all of your mind.”
    • “Love your neighbour as yourself.”-Golden Rule
    • Jesus’ message of God’s love, forgiveness and mercy is at the heart of the faith – this teaching is developed through Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.
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Ethics of Paul

  •  He is the first Christian (we are aware of) who was called in to bring his understanding of Christian ethics to help understand problems
  • He didn’t fully understand his new faith and the church has taken his instructions as permanent rule e.g. women in church
  • To be free from the means to be united with Christ and with one another in love
  •  ‘live by the spirit, I say. And do not gratify the desires of the flesh’
  • Whole law summed up in love of the neighbour and this love is limitless
  • Tells Christians to imitate virtues of Jesus in daily life: (the fruit of the spirit)
    • Meekness, Gentleness, Humility, Generosity, Mercy, Self-giving love
  • According to Paul:
    • Barriers between slaves and free men and women have been broken
    • Marriage and celibacy seen as gifts
    • Wealth to be shared with those that need it
    • No need to struggle for justice God will intervene if need be
    • Gods spirit breaks down barriers humans created
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Catholic Church

  • Natural moral law key ethical theory
  • Deontological emphasis on the application of primary precepts
  • Orthodox catholic teaching has remained fundamentally deontological
  • Maintained there are absolutes that cannot be changed by the circumstances
  • Conscience plays an important role in decision making and must be informed by prayer and worship, the teaching of the church, the inner voice of the holy spirit
  • Aristotle’s idea that our moral actions determine the nature of our character is adopted
  • Sacred scripture is an important source of guidance and cannot be changed- divine positive law (ten commandments, sermon on the mount etc)
  •  Role of the person is important as well as the acts themselves
  • Bernard Haring (in the law of Christ) stressed the importance of scripture in making moral choices and argued that moral choices are responses to God’s gift of Christ
  • Conscience is crucial and is not a feeling of guilt but a guide for decision making
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Liberal Protestant Church

  • ‘I still believe, as I believed then, that love may be the motive of social action but the justice must be the instrument of love in the world in which self interest is bound to defy the canons of love at every level’- Reinhold Niebuhr
  • ‘the central ethical notion or ‘category’ in Christian ethics is ‘obedient love’- the sort of love the gospels describe as ‘love fulfilling the law’- Paul Ramsey
  • Christian ethics are ‘an ethic without rules…Everything is lawful. Everything is permitted which Christian love permits’- Paul Ramsey
  • Robertson McQuilkin (conservative protestant) sees the bible as ‘a revelation by God of his will for human nature’ and that universal bible norms are absolute
  • Lewis B Smedes (evangelical ethics) focuses on the commandments and fulfilled by the coming of Jesus, as embodying an enduring human law.
  •  Sharp divide between those who take a deontological approach to moral norms espoused (Adopt or support)
  • This is reflected in the varying approaches of protestant Christians to current issues
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Divine Command Theory

  • This theory, is the idea that God is the foundation of ethics.
  • The theory explains that things are either morally good or bad, or morally obligatory, permissible or prohibited because God commands it.
  • They claim that God is creator of all things, so He is the creator of our morals.
  • They also claim the He is the ruler, therefore giving God the right to rule our lives. He is to tell us how we live.
  • There are a number of biblical examples of God commanding acts that would be seen as wrong. Such as the salvage of the Egyptians and the sacrifice of Abrahams son.
  • If God chose his rules arbitrary why worship him?- Leibniz holds this view
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  • Catholics consider that conscience plays an important part in Christian ethical decision-making
  • Not about reason and judgement
  • Does not make the law: it recognises law and uses it to assess conduct
  • Not so much voice of God as a response to God’s voice
  • Can be mistaken, doing a bad action when following the guidance of conscience does not make that action good
  • Way of using reason to come to a decision, it needs to be informed and in following conscience we need to be prepared to accept the costs, not just do what we want
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Virtue Ethics

  • Important source for Christian ethics
  • Refers to the character of being a good person
  • Links back to love as being the highest of all virtues
  • Virtues, for Christian ethics, point to the goal for which we aim even if we do not achieve it in this life
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Theories with Christian Basis

  • Situation Ethics
  • Natural Law
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