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Biblical Foundation for Christian Morality

Introduction

The term ‘morality’ has been explanatoryly defined under two broad classifications in this article: (a) general description, (b) biblical description. The main reason for this classification is to be able to compare the biblical system of morality, which is the focus of the study, with other systems of morality. Scott B. Rae observed, ‘Most people use the terms morality and ethics interchangeably. Technically, morality refers to the actual content of good and evil. Morality is the end result of ethical deliberations, the substance of good and evil.’1 While this difference is noted, the terms will be discussed as an inseparable pair in this article.

General definition of morality

According to the New Bible Dictionary, the words ‘ethics’ and ‘morals’ in the Greek and Latin books mean ‘customs’.2 The idea is to discover the things that are habitually done and conclude that these are the things one should do. do. Logically, it follows that these are the things that will seem right to the individual and also to society. Scott B. Rae goes a bit further by stating what morality is primarily concerned with. He said that morality is primarily concerned with issues of right and wrong, the ability to distinguish between the two, and the justification for the distinction.3 There may be norms in society, regarding what is right and what is wrong. wrong. However, society faces so many new and challenging problems that people are forced to deliberate on ethics. Samuel Enoch Stumpf, in his book ‘Elements of Philosophy’, has the following questions: Why can’t we do exactly what we want to do? What does anyone care how we behave? Why does the question of ethics arise in the first place? Why should we think that one way of behaving is better than the other? That telling the truth is better than trying to get us out of trouble by telling a falsehood? And who has the authority to tell us what to do? He concludes by saying that one must study ethics to find answers to the questions, what should I do? And why should I?4 From Stumpf’s statement it can be seen that the main issue dividing people in their moral views is that of the ultimate source of moral authority.

Norman L. Geisler in the first seven chapters of his book, ‘Ethics: Choices and Problems’ shows this division between people when he discusses the basic approaches to ethics. He claims that ethical systems could be broadly divided into two main categories: deontological (duty-focused) and teleological (end-focused). Ethical systems are systems that are based on principles in which actions (or character or even intentions) are inherently right or wrong. Teleological systems, on the other hand, are systems that are based on the final result produced by an action.5 Scott B. Rae, in his discussion of ethical systems, included one more division: relativism, to what was already established by Geisler . According to him, ‘relativism’ refers to an ethical system in which successes and errors are not absolute and immutable, but relative to one’s own culture (cultural relativism) or to one’s own personal preferences (moral subjectivism).6 However , this third category can still fit under Geisler’s two divisions. In addition, Geisler stated that there are six main ethical views: (i) Antinomianism: he says that there are no moral norms; (ii) Situationism-he asserts that there is an absolute law (the law of love); (iii) Generalism: he claims that there are some general laws but none; (iv) unconditional absolute laws that never conflict; (v) conflicting absolutism – holds that there are many absolute rules that sometimes conflict and one is obliged to do the lesser evil; and (vi) graded absolutism: holds that many absolute laws sometimes conflict, but one is responsible for obeying the higher law. Geisler pointed out that these six subcategories are based on one view of the ethical approach, which revolves around norms: deontological.7 In contrast, the other approach does not emphasize norms but rather ends: teleological, and is described as a non-normative or utilitarian approach.

Biblical definition

1. General comments

DH Field observed that “biblical ethics is God-centered, rather than following majority opinion or conforming to habitual behavior, Scripture encourages us to begin with God and his requirements, not man and his habits, when seeking moral guidelines”. .8 To understand the biblical definition of morality, one needs to examine scripture, as Field observed, to see what God says and requires. He points to five things from the Bible about biblical morality that point us to the person of God to discover that nature of goodness. Only God is good and it is his will that expresses what is good, acceptable and perfect; ii) the source of moral knowledge is revelation. According to the Bible, the knowledge of good and evil is not so much an object of philosophical investigation as an acceptance of divine revelation; iii) moral teaching is a phrase like praise, not statements. With the exception of the wisdom literature of the Old Testament, moral judgments are stated bluntly, not reasonably argued. Philosophers, on the other hand, had to reason their moral judgment to convince people that they are good; iv) The basic ethical requirement in biblical ethics is to imitate God. God sums up goodness in his own person. The supreme ideal of man according to the Bible is to imitate him; v) Religion and ethics is theocentric. The moral teachings of Scripture lose their credibility once the religious foundation is removed. Religion and ethics are related as the basis for construction. Biblical ethics arises from biblical doctrine and the two are inseparable. 9

2. Morality in the Old Testament

From a more general view of biblical morality, it is appropriate to understand the concept as it is presented in the two testaments. In the OT, a closer understanding of the covenant, the Law, and the Prophets can give one a clearer understanding of morality. These three aspects will now be examined individually.

a) The Pact

The covenant that God made with Israel through Moses (Exodus 24) had a far-reaching and direct meaning. God’s grace, as seen in his actions of love and concern in delivering Israel from Egypt, provides the primary motive for obedience to his commandments. The Israelites, as God’s partners, were united in responding graciously to God’s earlier acts of neglected love. They were called to his will in gratitude for his grace, rather than submitting in terror to the threats of punishment. That is why, for example, slaves had to be treated generously because God treated the Hebrew slaves in Egypt generously.

The pact also fosters an intense consciousness of corporate solidarity in Israel. Its effect was not only to unite the individual with God, but also to unite all the members of the covenant into a single community. One man’s transgression, therefore, can affect the entire community (josh 7), and everyone is obligated to help a person in need. The strong emphasis on OT ethics hinges on social ethics.

b) The Law

The covenant provided the context for the giving of God’s law. A distinctive feature of OT law was its emphasis on maintaining right relationships between people and between people and God. It should be noted that the most serious sequence of the transgression of the law was not any material punishment, but the consequent rupture of relations. (Hosea 1:2). The Ten Commandments, which should be seen as the heart of the law, deal with the most fundamental relationships. They establish the basic sanctity that governs belief, worship and life.

c) The prophets

Social conditions in Israel have changed dramatically since the time of Moses, and the Israelites failed to see how the law required obedience in their daily dealings in society, which also affected their relationship with God. The Prophets were concerned with interpreting the law by delving into its basic principle and applying it to the concrete moral problems of their time.

2. Morality in the New Testament

Norman L. Geisler made the following observations about the New Testament

Ethics:

1) That Christian ethics is based on the will of God. It is, as she says, a way of

divine command post; an ethical duty, which is something we must

do. It is prescriptive;

2) that Christian ethics is absolute. The fact that God’s moral character is not

not change (Mal 3:16) means that those moral obligations that emanate from his nature are absolute. Geisler points out that everything that can be traced back to God’s unchanging moral character is a moral absolute, for example, holiness, justice, love, truthfulness, and mercy. Other commands flow from God’s will, but they are not absolute. That is, they must be obeyed because God prescribed them, but He did not prescribe them for all people, times, and places. Absolute moral duties, on the contrary, bind all people at all times and in all places;

3) That Christian ethics is based on God’s revelation. what God commands

has been revealed both in general (Rom. 1:19-20; 2:12-15) in nature, and

specifically (Romans 2:2-18; 3:2) in Scripture. God’s General Revelation

contains his mandate for all people. The special revelation of him declared his

will for the believer;

4) That Christian ethics is prescriptive since moral rectitude is prescribed by

to the Moral God. Geisler pointed out that there is no moral law without a

Moral legislator, or a moral legislation without a moral legislator. Therefore

Christian ethics is prescriptive, not descriptive. Christians do not have their

ethics in the norm of Christians but in the norm for Christians – The

Bible; Y

5) Christian ethics is deontological. That is, on the basis of principles in which

actions (or character or even intentions) are inherently right or wrong.10

CONCLUSION

Morality, as defined in this article, is the actual content of good and evil. However, the main problem is how to determine it. The main question that arises from this topic is: Where is the ultimate source of moral authority? A group of people believe that authority is immanent, human beings have the authority to create their own rules and moral systems; they fall under the category of teleological ethics. The other group believes that moral authority is transcendent, that is, the authority exists outside of ordinary human experience. In biblical morality, that authority is God, who has revealed himself to human beings through his special and general revelation. That makes biblical ethics unique. it is deontological. In both the Old and New Testaments, morality is seen to be based on the nature and character of God.

As noted, ethics and morality are inseparable. For Christians, ethics is not so much determining the good end of choosing it. For non-Christians it is more about determining the good. Whether or not one is a Christian as a human being, he will certainly get involved in ethical deliberations.

END NOTES

1Scott Rae, Moral Choices: An Introduction to Ethics (Michigan: Zondervan

Editorial, 1995), p. fifteen.

2D.H. Field, Ethics: New Bible Dictionary. (Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 1982),

p. 351 .

3Scott Rae, Moral Choices: An Introduction to Ethics (Michigan: Zondervan

Editorial, 1995), p. twenty-one

4Enoch Stumpf, Elements of Philosophy (London: McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1993), p. twenty-one

5Norman L. Geisler, Ethics: Options and Problems. Michigan: Baker Book House,

1989), p. 24

6Scott Rae, Moral Choices: An Introduction to Ethics (Michigan: Zondervan

Editorial, 1995), p. sixteen.

7Norman L. Geisler, Ethics: Choices and Problems. Michigan: Baker Book House,

1989), p. 25

8D.H. Field, Ethics: New Bible Dictionary. (Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 1982),

p. 351 .

9Ibid., p. 351.

10 Norman L. Geisler, Ethics: Choices and Issues. Michigan: Baker Book House,

1989), pp. 22 -24.

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