Church Education Trust

Christian Belief

ST008/1 Chriistian Ethics.


Christian Ethics.

(The Life of Holiness)

Christian Ethics is not usually considered to be strictly speaking a part of theological study. It is difficult, however, to dissociate it completely from theology since it concerns the outworking of grace in the Christian life and in the life of holiness. What the Holy Spirit has wrought within the heart of the believer has to be worked out in daily living. "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling", writes the apostle Paul. (Phil.2:12). This is Christian Ethics.

Ethics, in a general sense, is the science of how men ought to live and act. It concerns the aim and purpose of man's life, what is called his "Summum Bonum" (highest good) . It has to do with the moral obligation in life, or the nature of that which is to rule and guide man's actions; and also the way in which life is to be ruled by this obligation.

Since the first ettempts in Greece and Rome to solve the ethical problem and systematize the study of ethics, various theories have been suggested. The moral obligation has been thought of as Law, the Moral Sense within us, the greatest happiness for the greatest number (under the name of Utilitarianism) and perfection (an evolving ideal never actually completely attainable because constantly becoming higher). Whatever the moral obligation may be, it must be rational, not merely emotional.

The Christian viewpoint is based on belief in God and the fact that He has given us a revelation of His nature and will in the Living word, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the written word, the Bible.

If God is God, then there is no difficulty in the assumption that we have a basis for ethical living in the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ and in the teaching of the Bible. It will be remembered that a distinction was made between Natural Religion and Revealed Religion (Vol.I.pp.10-11); in the same manner we can distinguish between General Ethics, or Moral Philosophy as it is sometimes called, and distinctively Christian Ethics.

This can only be a very brief survey of the subject to act as a basis for further study. In dealing with the subject we shall think first of the Nature and Principles of Christian Ethics and then of the Character of the Moral Life.

I The Nature and Principles of Christian Ethics.

a. The Ethical Problem.

It is obvious that there is an ethical problem, that decisions in life are not by any means always straightforward. It is not necessary to think very hard without realizing that there are circumstances in which it is difficult to know how to act. A clash of loyalties or obligations arises and we have to decide which is to take priority.

In dealing with persons, background and extenuating circumstances have to be taken into consideration. Why are solutions to problems sometimes so hard to find and why do people, even Christian people, act so differently from each other and sometimes seem to have such differing standards?

There are often cases, as Peter Green points out in his book,"The Problem of Right Conduct", where it is almost impossible to take exactly the right and highest action because what has gone before hat so influenced the situation. The world is faced with exactly the same problems and endeavours to solve them in various psychological and philosophical ways.

The Christian Faith maintains that it has the only really satisfactory answer and that this answer lies in the facts of the Fall and Redemption. These two facts in a general way explain everything. Likewise the outworking of Redemption as a result of the experience of grace already dealt with in the lost section, constitute Christian Ethics.

This can be explained further in the following way:-The Fall explains the problem of evil and the depths of iniquity in the world. It might have been much worse had not redemption been in the mind and plan of God from the start.

The Fall and Redemption explain why there is so much good even among non-Christians and why there is a problem of morality at all. The Holy Spirit working in prevenient grace, restrains the powers of evil and produces much that is good even in non-Christians. He has also given us the light of the Word of God. The Fall also explains why there is often so much bad even in Christians.
The Fall and Redemption explain the continual duel between characters, nations, parties, individuals and good and evil.

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