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Michael Wooten

THEO 404 01

Prof. Whalen

25 April 2018

Christian Ethics

For comparing the differences between the ethics of Christian, other religious institutions,

and secular thought, lets view human reproduction. For Christianity, abortion is quite simple as

stated by Catholicism, “The Roman Catholic Church says that deliberately causing an abortion is

a grave moral wrong”, but can also be more nuanced as, “The Church of England is keen to

ensure that as many abortions as possible are carried out as early as possible. However, in the

rare exceptions that a termination has to be carried out beyond 24 weeks, it should only take

place where there is a serious foetal [sic] disability and survival will be for a very short period of

time” (Religion”). Within Christianity itself there is disagreement on whether abortion is

ethically acceptable, and Buddhism mirrors this disagreement as traditional Buddhists would

agree with Roman Catholic thinking and modern Buddhists with The Church of England. What

both religions compared here can agree on is that reproduction should not be tampered with as it

is a holy act, excluding the conditional exceptions of the more progressive beliefs. Secular

thought considers the specific morals of individuals and can be summarized in this way by

Maurizio Mori, “Promoting the old idea that reproduction is to be left to divine providence or to

God itself is to cultivate a sort of irresponsibility, that of allowing people not to assume their own

burden for their children. Leaving choice to natural process is a means of detracting from

responsibility” (51). It is the responsibility of people to decide what is right and wrong based on
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their own unique understanding. Simply leaving the fate of a life in the hands of religious

tradition would be unacceptable to someone of the secular perspective. To put it simply, the

religious ideas are grounded in a higher authority towards which, “Ancient moralists asked

questions about the good life, human excellence, and fulfilment. Modern moral philosophers, on

the other hand, ask what is a person’s moral duty or obligation” (Loobuyck 193).

Ethics are externally provided codes of conduct, while morals are an individual set of

beliefs, best described by Henri Blocher, “Ethical is roughly equivalent to teleological, focussing

[sic] on ends or goals, on the Good we are to pursue, and moral to deontological, focussing [sic]

on duty, norms and obligation” (116). Christianity has various ethics that may not be accepted by

believers themselves, as evidenced by the many denominations resulting from favoring certain

beliefs over others. Perhaps the most obvious example is the command to love your enemies as

you love yourself. Everyone proclaims this to be an acceptable teaching that all should follow,

yet most do not. When you are cut off in traffic or insulted by another, does one not feel

contempt towards the people responsible. And are there simply not times that regardless of how

nice a person may act, you find yourself annoyed? Of course, this can be taken as simply having

a corrupt human nature. Another reason would be that people have their own morals they use to

decide what is right and wrong. Jeffrey Morgan writes that religious ethics are secondary and

the, “conscience becomes the means for an individual to be her own final court of appeal, to

know for herself what is right and, in turn, to be her own self-disclosing judge” (540).

Christianity provides rigid ethical law, and people’s morality provides loopholes and justification

as to why a situation is exempt from Christian ethics.

The Bible should be fully used as a resource for Christian ethics as its goal is to present

the, “picture of reason and will as the single response of the moral agent to the redeemed moral
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order…” (Morgan 543). The laws laid out by God Himself are made with the intent of giving

people a way of staying holy and correcting each other when they go against biblical ethics. Any

ideas of man are inevitably corrupted by the sin nature that works against salvation and keeps

humanity from salvation. What can be trusted as a source of laws above reproach. The Bible

provides a context, “in which a person is able to evaluate her actions in light of a moral order that

bears witness to God’s gracious actions in history” (543). This means that for humanity to follow

the Bible is to live by a code of conduct in keeping with the laws of God, the supreme being and

ultimate authority. With God being everything good in the world and perfection itself, it makes

no sense to limit the ethical power of the Bible unless one does not wish to do what is right.

Therefore, to be morally sound is to be following biblical ethics. Ultimately, it is understood by

Christian philosophers, “that the human being is a reasoning-willing being whose reason and will

are to act as a single, unified response to the moral order God has restored in Christ” (543).

Morality has changed over time as people’s understandings of natural law changes. With

innovation changing lifestyles and experiences among other cultures helping to inform our

understanding, new perspectives are taken on once familiar subjects through a new lens. Morgan

compares this specifically with the changing Christian morality on page 554, “Whereas in the

New Testament and in much patristic literature conscience is an awareness of oneself as

accountable to God and a moral order within which a person is a moral agent, here in the

scholastic era the identification of conscience and moral reason suggests a shift in the locus of

accountability”. It is through a tolerance and acceptance of different ideas that once

unquestionable ethics become applicable only in certain settings that does not hold over

everybody. How can Christians claim Buddhists are wrong for not believing in a god in a time

where this is seen as prejudiced and oppressive? This also applies to the various denominations
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within Christianity that originally splintered from Catholicism. Society changed its methods of

living and the Catholic beliefs became too ritualistic for the taste of people who thought God

would want a freer style of worship. This is not too say one form of worship is better than the

other for being the first, but merely to demonstrate that time provides new experiences that alter

people’s ideas about right and wrong.

Ethical living can be promoted within Christianity by using morals as a tool of

conscience:

By means of the conscience, then, a person, as a reasoning-willing agent, is interrogated

about her attentiveness of faith. She is questioned about her responsiveness to the

redeemed moral order within which she lives. The authority exists outside of her in the

moral order that has been brought under Christ’s lordship and her conscience serves to

question her response to that order; significantly, the conscience itself does not bear any

legislative moral authority. (Morgan 543)

Viewing morality as a way to test oneself against God’s will is surely ideal for those looking to

live a holy and Christ-like life. Society itself could also better itself by testing morality against

ethical foundations. Close scrutiny of actions against their consequences is the way to best

understand. Lori Keleher provides a suggestion to reason from, “Suppose we take as our final

goal to develop a more human life for each person and a more human society for all. If this is our

goal, then it is not good to promote access to markets if doing so will mean exploiting workers

and violating human rights, because exploitation will not make us more human as individuals or

as a society…” (25). Overall ideas for unchangeable ethical values must be determined to for

society to best promote ethical living.


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Works Cited

Blocher, Henri A. G. “The Theological Foundation of Christian Ethics: Methodological Issues.”

European Journal of Theology, vol. 24, no. 2, 2015, pp. 114–131

Keleher, Lori. “Toward an Integral Human Development Ethics.” Veritas, no. 37, 2017, pp. 19–

34., doi:10.4067/s0718-92732017000200019

Loobuyck, Patrick. “The Moral Requirement In Theistic And Secular Ethics.” The Heythrop

Journal, vol. 51, no. 2, 2010, pp. 192–207., doi:10.1111/j.1468-2265.2008.00394.x.

Morgan, Jeffrey. “A Loss of Judgment: The Dismissal of the Judicial Conscience in Recent

Christian Ethics.” Journal of Religious Ethics, vol. 45, no. 3, 2017, pp. 539–561.,

doi:10.1111/jore.12189

Mori, Maurizio. “A Secular Perspective on 21st Century Ethics in Human Reproduction: Why

Religious Views and Attitudes Are Becoming Obsolete and Possibly Dangerous.”

Reproductive BioMedicine Online, vol. 17, 2008, pp. 49–51., doi:10.1016/s1472-

6483(10)60330-6

“Religion: Religions.” BBC, BBC, www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/

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