The Grey Zone of Ethics
I wouldn’t say that questions of right and wrong are straightforward for people today. Take almost any ethical topic you can think of, and there’s disagreement in the church as well as in the culture.
Even when Christians agree . . . with what the Bible teaches . . . they aren’t sure why they think something is right or wrong or where they should go in the Bible to find out about it.
Is it ever right to lie? Can a Christian serve in the military or in military combat? What about end-of-life decisions when people are terminally ill? What about divorce and remarriage—what are the relevant biblical principles? What should Christians think about questions of birth control and in vitro fertilization? What about wealth and poverty and our responsibility regarding poverty in the world? How should Christians treat Sunday? Should it be a day of rest, or is that just an Old Testament law?
We could go on and on. Even when Christians agree instinctively with what the Bible teaches about some of these things, they aren’t sure why they think something is right or wrong or where they should go in the Bible to find out about it.
The Underlying Questions of Ethics
In addition to that, there are several broader questions about the background to ethics. Do we have to obey the Old Testament laws or any of them? How should we understand them? Does it make any difference in our lives if we seek to walk in obedience to God’s commands or just carelessly disobey them sometimes? Are some sins worse than others? What should we think about subjective guidance when people have a sense that God is leading them to do or say something? What about the study of the Bible for ethical questions in general? Do we need specialized scholars with years of training to tell us what God’s will is or did God give us a Bible that we can read and understand ourselves?
Those are larger questions that have to do with the study of ethics, and I think all them make the study of Christian ethics a valuable and very interesting topic for study today.
Why should we study ethics from a biblical perspective? Why should we collect and summarize the Bible’s teaching in a systematic way?
The notion that we sometimes have to choose the lesser sin is a dangerous and deeply harmful idea for the Christian life.
What is Christian ethics and what role should it play in the life of a believer?