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


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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 A

  1. 1. Scott Rae Moral ChoicesWednesday 16 May 2012
  2. 2. Christian ethics Chapter 2Wednesday 16 May 2012
  3. 3. Wednesday 16 May 2012
  4. 4. The Judeo-Christian system of morality has had a massive impact on Western civilisation, often acting as the basis of the moral guidelines within society. Christian ethics is really a blend of principles and virtues. The character of God is the ultimate reference point for Christian morality - the commands of God are an overflow from his character. So, God commands we love our neighbours because he himself is love, we forgive because he is a forgiving God etc. This is seen in both OT and NT.Wednesday 16 May 2012
  5. 5. augustine Augustine attempted to formulate a Christian ethic for a world which was (on the whole) just beginning to experience Christianity. Got born again in 386AD after a life of hedonism - wrote extensively - very influential and often quoted (even today.) ended his years as a bishop in North Africa. He was the first Christian to develop a systematic ethic and his major work on social ethics is called City of God.Wednesday 16 May 2012
  6. 6. He suggested all being is good as itwas created by God. Evil exists onlyin that it is the privation of evil.Blessedness consists in community,fellowship and the KOG. Thesupreme joy for a human being isspending eternity with God.Socially he suggests two differentcommunities with two differing ideasof what good is. The city of God,where believers reside with God. Thecity of man where the world apartfrom God’s grace, resides.Wednesday 16 May 2012
  7. 7. Because of the strong effect of sin oninstitutions he said the state shouldhave a minimal role, it shouldmaintain order and secure justice asbest possible.We should note the Bible is not abook on systematic ethical theory -but presents moral reasoning invaried literary contexts: Mosiac lawand the prophets tend to be verydeontological (principles derivedfrom the character of God).Wednesday 16 May 2012
  8. 8. Wisdom literature contains someutilitarian reasoning: Proverbs hasdescriptions of the consequences ofactions and character traits,praising wisdom because of itsgood results, though ultimately it isgrounded in the Law; Rae suggeststhis deontological and utilitarianapproach was because the wisdomlit. was intended for more than justIsrael - so PL, sacrifice, festivals etc.are all absent from these books.Wednesday 16 May 2012
  9. 9. Ethical egoism and self-interest(esp in the light of covenantblessings) are addressed in Deut.27-30. Agricultural prosperity andnational security are linked toobedience to the covenant.Prophets also refer to blessings andcurses involved in (dis)obedienceto the covenant. In the NTreceiving the Gospel is linked toeternal life - self interest says youdo not want to spend eternity inHell. Also long term obediencemight involve short term suffering- but it is beneficial in the end.Wednesday 16 May 2012
  10. 10. The Bible also appeals to natural law,or the revelation of God outside ofthe Bible. Prov. shows right andwrong in terms of nature 6:6-11,19:1-6. Natural law is also the basisfor the condemnation of nationssurrounding or opposed to Israel -they are condemned fortransgressions similar to Israels butwithout having the law to guidethem. God can only hold themaccountable on the basis of themknowing their obligations throughnatural law or general revelation.Wednesday 16 May 2012
  11. 11. The Bible has no appeal to relativism(cultural or moral subjectivism).Christian ethics has a transcendentsource and so makes no appeal toculture or a persons subjectivepreferences. Instead it uses God’scharacter and commands as a basisfor virtue and principles. Some issuesare not clearly addressed in the Bible- so in 1 Cor 8, Rom 14-15 appeal ismade to not causing cultural offence.But we should remember that neverdoes a cultural norm take precedenceover God’s character or biblicalprinciples.Wednesday 16 May 2012
  12. 12. Old testament ethics The pinnacle of OT ethics are the 10 commandments - which form the basis for the whole of OT law. The wisdom lit takes the principles of the law and applies them to an international audience - in fact the way of wisdom is taught and applied. Much of the OT law was superseded with Jesus’ coming - much sacrificial and civil law are no longer in effect - though 2 Tim 3:16 suggests we need a right hermeneutic hereWednesday 16 May 2012
  13. 13. Things are complicated by thefact the Bible was written to adifferent culture with differentissues to the ones we face today.Within this cultural element ofscripture we have to determinewhat general principles / virtuesof OT teaching can be directlyapplied and which are part ofmore general guiding principlewhich is of use today. LovingGod is directly, and obviously,applicable - the year of jubileemight require some greaterconsideration.Wednesday 16 May 2012
  14. 14. Offering of sacrifices is notpracticed today in giving grainetc. - but do we encourage givingas a celebration of God’sgoodness in order to develop anattitude of thanksgiving? Mightwe offer time as a sacrifice,abstain from activities etc.There are some recurring themesin OT ethics - from the Law,Prophets and wisdom lit. - theseare summarised in the nextsection.Wednesday 16 May 2012
  15. 15. The Law as the core of OT ethics Law here will refer to the Pentateuch - this sets out fundamental principles and commands for Israel. It has 3 main parts: 1. The moral law (10 commands) 2. The civil law - institutions and social relations 3. The ceremonial law - Israel’s worship of God (this part is not usually considered in looking at OT ethics)Wednesday 16 May 2012
  16. 16. In much poetic literature worship is often seen as a response to God as revealed in the Law. Wisdom lit - see earlier. Prophets use Law as their case against Israel. Though here prophets use general overarching principles of the Law - avoid idolatry, practice justice etc. - these are key themes in OT ethics. Rarely do the prophets address specific issues from within the Law.Wednesday 16 May 2012
  17. 17. OT Israel was a theocracy - so morality and law were as one with no distinction - pluralistic societies today do distinguish between the two. The church is not under the civil and ceremonial aspects of OT law. Rae argues for Israel as a model for a biblical social ethic - asserting that the principles underlying the Law are still valid and applicable to the church today.Wednesday 16 May 2012
  18. 18. The ten commandments as moral first principles The 10C are considered the moral foundation for Christians and many in society today. Some other cultures around Israel also had moral laws similar to the Decalogue (10C) - thus they are often called first principles - they are considered clear and evident to people even without scripture. Ex 20:1-17, Dt 5:1-22 What was important about the timing of each of these events - why twice?Wednesday 16 May 2012
  19. 19. The 10C should have shaped Israel into a nation that reflected God’s righteousness and compassion on an individual and corporate level - Ex 19:6. The first 4 talk of an individuals responsibility to God. The final 6 of responsibility within the community (inc. their own family). The last 5 are found in most communities - they are foundational for stability in the community.Wednesday 16 May 2012
  20. 20. The 10C should have shaped Israel into a up the ten Look nation that reflected God’s righteousness commandments - as and compassion on an a way of ensuring individual and corporate level - Ex 19:6. you understand The first 4 talk of an individuals what they mean responsibility to God. The final 6 of responsibility paraphrase each of within the community (inc. theirthem so that a own family). The last 5 are found in most modern person communities - they are would understand. foundational for stability in the community.Wednesday 16 May 2012