Rae, Moral Choices: Ch2 - Christian ethics - Part D


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Notes from Rae's Moral Choices - as used at LTCi, Siliguri

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Rae, Moral Choices: Ch2 - Christian ethics - Part D

  1. 1. Goodness and general revelation We need to see Gods commands in special revelation (the Bible) in conjunction with his moral values expressed in general revelation - this is called natural law and will be dealt with soon. Moral precepts and objective goodness were revealed in general revelation before the Bible was given. Natural law is simply the general revelation in the area of morals. So God’s command are consistent with his character and general revelation.Wednesday 16 May 2012
  2. 2. Problems with divine command ethics 1. Calling God “good” presupposes a notion of goodness that must be independent of God or religion. This is answered by Rae suggesting that using a map to show directions to a city does not presuppose that the map came before the city. In the same way, just because I must know something about goodness before I know that God is good does not mean morality is independent of God.Wednesday 16 May 2012
  3. 3. 2. The problem of the apparent conflicts in scriptural commands. Rahab in Joshua 2 lies in order to protect the Israelite spies - she is then recorded in Hebrews 11. There are 3 ways to resolve such conflicts of divine commands: A. Maintain that no conflict really faces the believer - nonconflicting absolutism. Since an infallible God inspired his inerrant word, no such conflict of commands is possible. Admitting such a conflict would compromise the character of God by saying he could give conflicting commands. So when absolutes (commands) of the Bible are properly interpreted there will never be such a conflict.Wednesday 16 May 2012
  4. 4. How do we resolve this?- Suggest that in God’sprovidence Rahab should havetold the truth and trusted God.- Capture the intent of thecommand more clearly - notbearing false witness is not ablanket prohibition of lying butof maliciously lying - thereforeRahab was ok to act as she did.Wednesday 16 May 2012
  5. 5. B. Admit the conflict exists, but sin is still sin, even when a person faces competing obligations. Such moral dilemmas are not due to any flaw in God’s character - in fact people should choose to do the lesser evil. So you sin (lie) then immediately kneel and repent. A person then should not be morally culpable for something that could not be avoided and in which they had no choice.Wednesday 16 May 2012
  6. 6. C. Graded absolutism suggests as in B that moral conflicts are part of a fallen world but the choice made is not evil and the person has not chosen the “lesser evil” in their actions. It is simply a morally justifiable choice and not sin. So here there is a hierarchy in God’s laws. In Acts 4 preaching the gospel was a greater command than submission to authorities. Matt 23:23ff justice, compassion, mercy are considered greater than tithing.Wednesday 16 May 2012
  7. 7. Natural law in Christian ethics Natural law is a controversial idea in moral philosophy in general and Christian ethics in particular. In philosophy this is because it is an ethic which is transcendent in nature and not a human creation - e.g. it has been used in the past to oppress some groups (like women) as it has a God’s eye view on the world which is inconsistent with modern thinking and morality.Wednesday 16 May 2012
  8. 8. Natural law in Christian ethics In Christian ethics this has mainly been an area of RC theologians and philosophers. The Reformers rejected it as they did not think with sin in the world that morality could be discovered apart from clear revelation in the Bible, and also, the Bible was the central source of moral and spiritual authority. In the 20th century Barth and Brunner argued natural law undercut the centrality of Christ for moral life.Wednesday 16 May 2012
  9. 9. Critical issues concerning natural lawNatural law is at the centre of a numberof crucial questions in Christian ethics:- to what degree can moral values beknown apart from special revelation?- what is the relationship betweenreason and revelation in ethics?- to what degree can a person be goodapart from special grace of God?- to what degree is Christian ethicsdifferent from nonreligious ethicalsystems? Is there common ground forChristian and non-Christian morality?Wednesday 16 May 2012
  10. 10. Thomas Aquinas1224-1274, Italian, best known forSumma Theologica, which includesimportant sections on ethics.A fundamental concept was of thepublic good under the law.- the good is based on the natural law,the natural tendencies of a thing - youconsider its end and its function, (bothpart of the way God made it), andhappiness is knowing God and lovingthe good, evil is what interferes with it .Wednesday 16 May 2012
  11. 11. - held that natural law imprints itself on beings and therefore determines its actions to proper inclinations and ends. Natural law can be known by reason by everyone regardless of their relationship to God. - saw humans as essentially social beings, the state therefore had room to intervene and improve the lot of society, institutions exist to develop good people. If you believe in natural law then you will argue for Christian social mission and activism in a system that complements Gospel proclamation.Wednesday 16 May 2012
  12. 12. Defining natural lawThis term is used in 2 main ways:- general, widely shared moralviews / values which are not tiedto scripture - justice, fairness,respect for the individual, tellingthe truth, not harming people etc.These come out of humanobservation and practice throughthe centuries - in essence it isGods general moral law revealedthrough general revelation.Wednesday 16 May 2012
  13. 13. Defining natural law- in RC circles it is used in looking atreproductive ethics and offersreasoning for the validity of theirconclusions. It refers to what isnatural in creation - anything that isnot ‘natural’ is therefore prohibited,contraception, abortion, IVF etc.Protestants tend to reject it forreproductive technologies andaccept it for genetic modifications.Additionally it is used to argueagainst homosexualityWednesday 16 May 2012
  14. 14. The biblical basis for natural lawRomans 2:1-16 is the mainpassage cited.14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who donot have the law, do by naturethings required by the law, they area law for themselves, even thoughthey do not have the law. 15 Theyshow that the requirements of thelaw are written on their hearts, theirconsciences also bearing witness,and their thoughts sometimesaccusing them and at other timeseven defending them.)Wednesday 16 May 2012
  15. 15. The biblical basis for natural lawGod appears to hold those withoutthe law as being accountable just asJews are (2:17-29). This must meanthey have access to God’s view ofmorality (in gen. rev.) - they “have”the values of God without havingscripture. (This is also seen in someprophets addressing nations - Isa13-27, Jer 46-51 etc.)Wisdom literature also suggests thatwisdom can be natural and revealed- and are legitimateWednesday 16 May 2012
  16. 16. The limits of natural lawMany criticisms do not relate tonatural law itself but how it can beknown. The Reformers had a strongview on the sinfulness of man andso thought natural law was virtuallyuseless - it has been corrupted bythe fall and by self interest.Special revelation is needed as wecannot tell in some instances ifsomething is natural in creation orcaused by sin - e.g. Death which wasnot part of God’s original plan butthat happens to all.Wednesday 16 May 2012
  17. 17. The limits of natural lawMany aspects of spiritual liferequire special revelation -salvation etc.Natural law helps reveal someproper motives but greaterclarification can only be gleanedfrom Scripture. Rae says in allthings scripture should be the finalarbiter. Natural law is consistentwith scripture but not all of it iscontained in scripture, thoughscripture does clarify some of it.Wednesday 16 May 2012
  18. 18. Natural law and jurisprudenceThere are two schools of thoughtregarding natural law and the law:- legal positivists suggest there isno connection between the lawand morality. Laws are validbecause they are created byrecognised institutions.- moral realism suggests that lawsthat do not correspond to objectivevalues are non-laws, or invalidlaws. For a law to be valid it mustrelate to objective moral truths.Wednesday 16 May 2012
  19. 19. Natural law and jurisprudence“For Christians there are objectivevalues grounded in the creativeactivity of God, revealed in generalrevelation, deduced by reason andexperience. They are also substantiallyrevealed in scripture. What naturallaw does is to provide a commonground between Christian and non-Christian ethics, a basis for dialogueand a means by which Christian ethicsbecome persuasive to the world.”Wednesday 16 May 2012