Basis for Christian Ethics
Ethics are standards of conduct or guidelines for behaviour. We often qualify ethics to apply to a particular profession or group, as in medical ethics or legal ethics, by which we mean the expected behaviour and conduct of members of a particular profession to their clients and to other professionals. Professional ethics apply only to members of that profession and are not intended to apply to conduct generally. Being a Christian is not an accident of birth or membership in a particular church. A Christian consciously uses Jesus’ life and teachings as a model for his/her life and chooses to live by a Christian ethic. These values form the foundation and provide guidelines for Christian behaviour and decision-making. If Jesus is the model we have chosen to emulate, what does that imply about attitudes, values and lifestyle? Jesus lived in a very different time and place. The passage of time and theological interpretation developed to understand him make it difficult to reconstruct his life and teachings with precision and confidence. We have a very different understanding of the world from the First Century. These differences make it necessary to translate Jesus’ teachings into words, behaviours and attitudes which are relevant today and consistent with the spirit of Jesus’ teaching. Christian ethics is particularly important to understand the ethical and behavioural implications of a decision to live a Christian life. Moral values defining right and wrong conduct are valuable for individual and personal guidance in determining how an individual or member of a group should act in a particular situation, and may have universal value as moral principles that obligate all members of society. We have a duty to live a moral life and decide what is right and wrong behaviour for us in accordance with our values. . The Dilemma of Scientific, Medical, and Technological Advances: The ethical dilemmas of postmodern society are magnified by advances in science, medicine, and technology. Advances in science and technology have brought enormous benefits to humanity and saved millions of lives. However, they raise ethical dilemmas in areas such as genetic engineering, genetic testing, gene therapy, cloning, foetal-tissue research, and euthanasia. The ethical questions of modern life are complicated, sometimes bizarre, and almost unending. The greatest issues humankind has ever faced are at a time when the moral fibre of our society is at its weakest. Ethical questions are being raised at a time when people have lost their mooring and their sense of possessing some platform to stand on as they make moral decisions. How can a Christian confront and solve the dilemmas of advances in technology and science and formulate a correct ethical system? Christian bioethics as a distinctive scholarly subject has been largely supplanted by secular bioethics. It was not just that secular bioethics obscured work done in Christian bioethics. More significantly, Christian bioethics in great measure has become indistinguishable from secular bioethics. Christian bioethics could not take its peculiarly Christian content and character seriously. That which was uniquely Christian about Christian bioethics was perceived as embarrassingly parochial. Fundamental Principles
The fundamental principles of Christian ethics are integrity and love. The word love in English has several different meanings depending on the context. It is helpful in distinguishing between these various meanings to go to the ancient Greek, which used different words that have all been translated into English as love. These Greek words are philia, eros, and agape. Philia means the love that exists between friends, the relationship with a dear friend. Eros means erotic love, the passion of lovers, the attraction of sex, physical sexual love. Agape is love of an entirely different sort. It is love of another that does not imply mutuality (as...
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