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


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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 C

  1. 1. An ethic of virtue - becoming like Jesus The NT does not present the Christian life as simply doing the right thing, it places high emphasis on virtue and character - which is synonymous for becoming more like Christ. In terms of virtue theory the ideal model is Christ - Php 2:5-11, 1 Pet 2:22-24, 1 Cor 11:1, Rom 8:29, Eph 5:1 - all encourage some form of copying and becoming more like him.Wednesday 16 May 2012
  2. 2. The politics of Jesus Most Christians think their faith has some role in impacting government policy. How this should look is widely disagreed upon. On many issues sincere believers have a wide diversity of opinions - abortion on demand, immigration, global climate change, public health, world poverty relief etc. Rae suggests whatever your ethic it must be consistent with the NT an that means cultivating virtues exemplified by Jesus, which are clearly shown in the Gospels.Wednesday 16 May 2012
  3. 3. An ethic of love Love is the central virtue of NT ethics. Loving god and your neighbour are clearly commanded - neighbour being “anyone” according to the good Samaritan story, Lk 10:25ff, Matt 22:34ff. Paul summarise the Law under the heading of Love - Rom 13:8-10, Gal 5:14. Jesus says the world will know we are his by our love Jn 13:35. Johns epistles suggest you cannot know God without loving people 1 Jn 3:17, 4:7Wednesday 16 May 2012
  4. 4. Principles reapplied with virtues Virtues are the ultimate way of showing principles - but the NT still places some emphasis on God’s commands. Jesus deepens and reapplies the Law - he does not nullify the law but rebukes Pharisees for misinterpreting and misapplying it (e.g. Matt 5:17-20). He makes the requirements of the law applicable to all including intent and action - both are important and intent can nullify action!Wednesday 16 May 2012
  5. 5. Jesus is criticised for healing onthe sabbath - yet his response isnot to reject the sabbathcommand but the Phariseesreading of it Matt 12:1ff. Again inMk 7:1ff Jesus rejects a rigidcommitment to principles of theLaw, which he said wereinconsistent with the law; insteadhe aims at an application of thelaw which was consistent withvirtues and principles of the law.Wednesday 16 May 2012
  6. 6. Paul follows the same line ofprinciples and virtues. This isseen in confronting the Judaisers- he emphasises spiritual growthis by grace through faith (Gal3:1ff) and addresses the problemof spiritual excellence throughknowledge alone (Gnosticism) bysaying we need to have theoutworking of Christ in us (Col1:27). For the apostles theirprimary ethical goal was torepresent the teaching of Jesusand apply it in church life.Wednesday 16 May 2012
  7. 7. Paul shows this in 1 Cor - specific problems are addressed by appealing to principles; Divisiveness is addressed by an appeal to unity in the body of Christ (1-4). Immorality by the principle of sexual purity in the church (5-6) Marriage and singleness the principle of being content in all states (7) Meat offered to idols - not offending the weaker brother (8-10) The church should practice the principles they already know and living them out as virtues in the fashion of Christ.Wednesday 16 May 2012
  8. 8. Members of the KOG - people of the cross/resurrection NT ethics flow from the demands of the KOG. Ethics reflect the walk of a disciple - the KOG was proclaimed but immediately the ethical implications are described too. To profess Christ meant you would adhere to the moral demands of the KOG. In Matt. we see Christ proclaiming the KOG (4:17-25) and then in the sermon on the mount explaining the the ethics of the KOG (5-7).Wednesday 16 May 2012
  9. 9. In Romans justification by faith is explained in 1-5, then sanctification, the spiritual life, is explained in 6-8 and 12-15. Membership in the KOG is shaped by the cross and resurrection. Jesus’ death is the model of virtue and behaviour. We are to take up our cross as Christ did - Mk 8:18-34, we are dead to sin and alive to God Rom 6:1ff. for us to live is Christ, we put to death the vices of our former way of life Col 3:1ff the cross shapes our dealing with surrounding culture 1 Pet 2:18ffWednesday 16 May 2012
  10. 10. NT ethics - a special place for the poorJesus teaching, in line with OTprophets, gave special emphasis tothe poor (and others outsidemainstream of society). Matt 26:11,11:5, 5:3, Lk 4:18, 6:20Lk 14:12-14 - in giving a banquet donot invite those who will return yourgrace but invite those who can’t.Jesus cites Isa 61:1ff as being fulfilledin his coming.In Matt 25:31ff caring for the poor isequated with commitment to JesusWednesday 16 May 2012
  11. 11. Jesus also associated with foreigners, children, women. In cleansing the temple he aggressively addressed injustice (oppression of poor from foreign lands). He rebuked religious leaders for their lack of justice. The early church was obviously committed to caring for the poor - Acts 2:42ff, 4:32ff The epistles do not lack this concern - Jas 1:27f, 2:1ff and especially 5:1-6Wednesday 16 May 2012
  12. 12. The dynamic - the indwelling Spirit Religious leaders relied on spiritual discipline to develop holiness - the NT makes it clear there is a need for the power of God within us to live such a life. Jn 13-17, 1 Cor 2:14, 2 Cor 3:18, Gal 5:16, 22-23 Moral and spiritual maturity comes from the action of the Spirit - from the inside out.Wednesday 16 May 2012
  13. 13. Divine command theoryAn emphasis on obedience to thecommands of Jesus/God is a vitalpart of Christian ethics - such anemphasis on God’s commands isoften called a “divine command”theory of ethics. Here the ultimatefoundation for morality is in thecommands (will) of God. Naturallythis flows from the idea of God’scharacter, which we discussed earlier.Many other religions have a similaridea.Wednesday 16 May 2012
  14. 14. Divine command theoryAn interesting philosophical questionwas raised by the Greeks (Plato): Does God command things because they are good, or are things good because God commands them?Does what God says make somethingright or indicate that it is right?“If one answers that God commandsthings because they are good, it wouldseem to make God’s commandsredundant, reinforcing what is obviousand available to everyone.”Wednesday 16 May 2012
  15. 15. “But if one answers that things aregood because God commands them,then God appears arbitrary, and hewould be free to command anything,even things that violate societieswidely held moral principles.”So if God commanded the tortureof babies it would be good simplybecause God said to do it. Thiswould be against what mostpeople instinctively think and sothey would not worship a god likethis - it is called ethicalvoluntarism. This is a view ofIslam held by many non-Muslims.Wednesday 16 May 2012
  16. 16. Here Allah is sovereign andcannot be held accountable toanyone. So it makes anything thathe desires, commands or does tobe good - even if to others itseems capricious or arbitrary.Biblically we see god as bound byhis character which means hecannot do certain things. Soethical voluntarism is inconsistentwith a biblical portrait of God.Wednesday 16 May 2012
  17. 17. The other side is of God commanding things because they are good. God only commands what is consistent according to his character. Morality then comes from God’s character. For example God’s character is love so what he commands is consistent with that and is therefore good.Wednesday 16 May 2012