Skip to main content

Christian Ethics 101

Theologian John Frame in his excellent large book The Doctrine of the Christian Life presents an approach to ethics that has been very useful to me in how I analyse difficult moral questions. Frame says that "ethical judgement involves the application of a norm to a situation by a person".  When we have a problem there are three pieces of information we need to reach an informed ethical judgement : the situation, the Word of God, and person with the problem. These are summarised in the triangle of ethics below
The situational perspective examines the situation or problems. It asks, "what are the best means of means of accomplishing God's purposes?". That is, how can we take the present situation and change it so that more of God's purposes are achieved? Here we explore the consequences of our actions. We ask, "if we do this, will it enhance the glory of God?". Will it please God in the end?

The normative perspective  focuses on the Word of God (the Bible). It is the standard for our decisions. Our purpose is to determine our duty, our ethical norm or our obligation. So we bring our problem to the Bible and ask, "what does Scripture say about this situation?". 

The existential perspective focuses on the ethical agent, the person(s) who iss trying to find out what to do. From this perspective, the ethical question becomes, "How must I change if I am to do God's will?". Here the focus is inward, examining our heart's relationship to God. It deals with our holiness and inner character. 

These three perspectives are interdependent. We can't understand the situation fully until we know what the Bible teaches and until we know understand our own role in the situation. We can't understand ourselves fully, apart from the Bible or apart from the situation that is our environment. And we don't understand the Bible unless we can apply it to situations and to ourselves. Hence these are "perspectives" not "parts". 

To illustrate. Suppose someone comes and asks us - is it okay for Christians to go on strike? The first question we must ask is, "what is meant by striking?". We also want to know why do these people want to strike? Who are the players involved? What is driving them? What is their motive? How much information do they posses about their decisions?  

The second question is what does Scripture say about situation? As we move to look at the Bible we may find aspects of our situation also clarified. We may find our "motive" perhaps is wrong. Scripture may throw up other dimensions to striking we have not considered - for example we may conclude that it is us who are responsible due to our sins for the situation. 

The third question is what should be our response? Depending on the interplay between our situation and the Scripture study, we may reach various conclusions - convicting us to respond to God accordingly. 


Copyright © Chola Mukanga 2013

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

I am what I am by Gloria Gaynor

Beverly Knight closed the opening ceremony of the Paralympics with what has been dubbed the signature tune of the Paralympics. I had no idea Ms Knight is still in the singing business. And clearly going by the raving reviews she will continue to be around. One media source says her performance was so electric that "there wasn’t a dry eye to be seen as she sang the lyrics to the song and people even watching at home felt the passion in her words" . The song was Gloria Gaynor's I am what I am . Clearly not written by Gloria Gaynor but certainly musically owned and popularized by her. It opens triumphantly: I am what I am / I am my own special creation / So come take a look / Give me the hook or the ovation / It's my world that I want to have a little pride in / My world and it's not a place I have to hide in / Life's not worth a damn till you can say I am what I am The words “I am what I am” echo over ten times in the song. A bold declaration that she

The Humility of Newton

Thou hast honoured me. Thou hast given me a tongue and a pen, many friends; (Thou] hast made me extensively known among thy people and I have reason to hope, useful to many by my preaching and writings... It is of thine own that I can serve thee. And if others speak well of me, I have no cause to speak or think well of myself. They see only my outward walk; to thee I appear as I am. In thy sight I am a poor, unworthy, unfaithful inconsistent creature. And I may well wonder that Thou hast not long ago taken thy word utterly out of my mouth and forbidden me to make mention of thy Name any more! JOHN NEWTON ( Source : Wise Counsel) Newton wrote these words addressed to God in his diary in 1789. In that year, Newton’s fame had grown significantly because of his publishing ‘ Thoughts upon the African Slave Trade’ and his appearance before Her Majesty’s Privy Council appointed to investigate the slave trade.  I find Newton’s words quite challenging. The words reveal a heart truly shaped by t

I Am Mother

I think it is true to say that the Netflix film I Am Mother is one the most disturbing movies I have watched for a long time. The film is set in a near future. Human life has been wiped out. An artificial intelligence (AI) called Mother is living inside a bunker where thousands of embroyos are stored. It selects an embryo and initiates a program to grow a baby within 24 hours. The AI then goes on to raise the child as its mother over the next few years.  After 16 years, the girl, who now goes by the name of Daughter (Clara Rugaard) is a teenager. She has never been outside because Mother has told her that the air is toxic. Her time is spend being home schooled in science and ethics so that she can become a perfect human being. The bond between Daughter and Mother is unusually strong. To our surprise there does not appear to be any mental or pyschological trauma of having a machine as her mother.  The strength of the bond between man and machine is tested when a nameless Woman (Hilary