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Posted on September 11, 2019 at 12:01 PM

About this time in the semester, after discussing some basic
things about the discipline of ethics and looking at some of the main ethical
theories in western philosophical ethics, I begin a discussion of Christian
ethics with the students in my bioethics class. I intend this to form a
foundation on which they can ground their thinking about the issues in
bioethics that we will discuss throughout the rest of the class. This year I
decided to begin by talking about what Christian ethics is not, because we live
in a world that has misunderstandings about many things including Christian
ethics.

Here are the things that I have suggested to them that
Christina ethics is not.

#1 It is not that we are better than they are (or that I am
better than you are.)

Commonly when someone says that something is wrong, those
who want to do it say that those who say it should not be done are trying to
show that they are morally superior. I think this is a common motivation for
making moral statements, but it should never be a part of Christian ethics. It
contradicts what we, as Christians, believe. A fundamental part of the gospel
is that we are all wrong. We are all sinful and in need of redemption. It is
essential to our faith to believe that we are not better than anyone.

#2 It is not about what I think is right.

For those who believe in subjective relativism, ethics is
truly about what I think is right. For the cultural relativist it is about what
my group thinks is right. Even among many moral philosophers who believe in
objective moral truth, whether they are Kantians or Utilitarians, ethics is
about what I can determine to be right, based on my intellect and reason. From
a biblical Christian viewpoint, it is what God thinks is right that is
important. We are just trying to understand what he has revealed to us. None of
us understands the mind of God completely. When we disagree, discussing why we
think as we do can help us both get a better understanding of what God thinks
about it.

#3 It is not about being good enough for heaven (or earning
a relationship with God.)

Our society’s cultural religion says that as long as we do
more good than bad, we can expect heaven as our reward. The Christian gospel
says that our relationship with God and ultimate destiny are entirely dependent
on Jesus’ death and resurrection. It is not about being good enough or doing
more good than bad. So why do we care about ethics? Genesis says that we were
created in the image of God. One of the things that means is that God intended
to be a reflection of himself and his glory. Since God is a moral being who is
good and we are sinful, we must be transformed to reflect God and bring glory
to him.  Living morally upright lives
through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit as people who have been
reborn through Jesus’ death and resurrection allows us to worship God by living
lives that reflect his goodness. That is what Christian ethics is.

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