An Introduction to Christian Ethics / Edition 3

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Helping readers look at moral issues seriously, intelligently, and from a Christian perspective, this comprehensive and thought-provoking introduction to the study of Christian ethics emphasizes the use of scripture, tradition, and the Christian community as resources to help formulate a personal approach in ethical living as it describes a variety of contemporary approaches to the consideration of ethical issues; discusses the author's own methods for making ethical decisions; and explores some of the critical issues of our day. Acquaints readers with both the field of ethics in general and varieties of Christian ethical systems in particular, and assists them in the formulation of an approach that they will find valid for themselves. Combines theological, philosophical, historical, and sociological perspectives in examining moral issues. Considers sources of guidance, biblical ethics, faith working through love, Christian ethics and such contemporary issues as human sexuality, marriage relationships, issues in biomedical ethics, and the status of women. Discusses citizenship in a democracy, punishment for crime, war and the quest for peace, ecology and our moral responsibility, and much more. Offers new discussions on the ethics of Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, and the moral implications of cloning. For readers interested in ethics, religion and/or philosophy.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780130951311
  • Publisher: Prentice Hall Professional Technical Reference
  • Publication date: 7/9/1998
  • Edition description: Older Edition
  • Edition number: 3
  • Pages: 290
  • Product dimensions: 6.01 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.54 (d)

Table of Contents


Preface xi

Introduction: To the Student xiii


1 An Overview of Ethics ______________________________ 1

Definitions 3

Subject Matter 4

Assumptions 5

Cautions 7

2 Alternatives to Christian Ethics _____________________ 11

Religious Systems, 11

Judaism, 12

Islam, 14

Hinduism, 16

Buddhism, 18

Humanism, 19

Objectivism, 22

Behaviorism, 25

3 Alternatives within Christian Ethics _________________ 28

Obedience to External Authority, 28

In Roman Catholicism, 29

In Protestantism, 32

Responsibility for Personal Decisions, 35

What Am I to Do?, 36

What Am I to Be?, 38

Transforming Society, 40

Reinhold Neibuhr’s “Impossible Possibility”, 41

Paul Ramsey’s “Obedient Love”, 42

James Gustafson’s “Theocentric Ethics”, 43

Liberation Theology, 45


4 Sources of Guidance _______________________________ 53

The Bible, 55

The Christian Community, 57

The Nature of the Church, 57

The Function of the Church, 59

The Christian in the Church, 60

Personal Experience, 61

The Use of the Mind, 61

The Prompting of the Conscience, 62

The Leadership of the Spirit, 64

5 Biblical Ethics _____________________________________ 67

The Hebrew Scripture, 67

General Characteristics of Hebrew Morality, 68

The Law, The Prophets, and The Writings, 69

Jesus and the Gospels, 74

Jesus and Judaism, 74

Characteristics of Jesus’s Ethical Teachings, 77

Basic Concepts in Jesus’s Ethical Teachings, 78

The Example of Jesus, 85

The Ethical Teachings of Paul, 86

Theology and Ethics, 87

An Ethic of Responsible Freedom, 88

An Ethic of Love, 90

An Ethic of a New Life, 91

6 Faith Working Through Love ________________________ 94

Theological Premises, 94

Beliefs about God, 94

Beliefs about Humankind, 95

Beliefs about History, 96

Faith, 98

Faith and Salvation, 98

Life in the Christian Community, 100

The Instruction of Scripture, 102

Worship and Morality, 103

Love (Agape), 104

The Nature of Love, 105

The Source of Love, 106

The Demands of Love, 107

The Relationship between Love and Justice, 108

Decision, 111


7 Human Sexuality and the Marriage Relationship _____ 117

The Current Scene, 117

AChristian Interpretation of Sexuality, 120

ATheological Perspective, 120

Questions about the Relationship, 123

AChristian Interpretation of Marriage, 127

Homosexuality and the Christian Faith, 132

Contemporary Social Perspectives, 132

ABiblical Perspective, 134

Varying Christian Interpretations, 135

Homosexuality and the Christian Way of Life, 137

Living-Together Arrangements, 140

8 Life and Death: Issues in Biomedical Ethics _________ 146

Abortion, 146

Biomedical Parenting, 152

Responsible Parenting, 156

Cloning, 158

Embryonic Stem Cell Research, 162

Organ Transplants, 166

The Care of the Dying, 169

9 Christian Ethics and Ethnicity______________________ 179

Stereotypes, Prejudice, and Discrimination, 180

Changes in the Social Structure, 182

AChristian Approach, 188

Biblical Concepts, 188

Power for Social Change, 191

AStrategy for Christian Involvement, 194

10 The Status of Women______________________________ 198

Images of Women, 198

Women and the Law, 201

Women and Employment, 203

The Feminist Movement, 205

Women and the Scripture, 208

AChristian Approach to Current Issues, 213

11 Citizenship in a Democracy ________________________ 217

American Democratic Government, 217

Biblical Teachings, 222

The Hebrew Scripture, 222

The Christian Scripture, 223

The Christian as Citizen, 227

The Obligations of Citizenship, 228

The Contribution of Christians, 229

Suggestions for Involvement, 231

12 Punishment for Crime _____________________________ 235

The Concept of Punishment, 235

The Rights of Victims, 239

Capital Punishment, 241

13 War and the Quest for Peace ______________________ 248

The Bible and War, 248

Christianity and Traditional Warfare, 251

Christianity and Modern Warfare, 252

Christianity and Terrorism, 255

Christianity and Preemptive Warfare, 258

The Quest for Peace, 260

14 Work, Property, and Community _____________________267

The Context: Capitalism, 269

AChristian Perspective on Property, 271

AChristian Perspective on Work, 273

Personal Issues in an Impersonal

Economic Order, 274

Social Issues in an Impersonal Economic Order, 276

Ideals and Economics, 284

15 Ecology and Moral Responsibility____________________288

The Ecological Problem, 290

Biblical Concepts, 293

Theological Reflection, 295

Suggestions for Involvement, 299

Glossary 305

Bibliography 309


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This book is a college-level introductory textbook in Christian ethics. This statement indicates three important facts. First, the book is based on the Christian faith and is written for people who stand within that faith. The text recognizes as viable options a number of other systems and indeed, because of their significance, describes some of them briefly without attempting to assess their strengths and weaknesses. Yet this book is an effort to state a Christian ethic—a Christian method of making moral decisions. It makes certain assumptions, which are proper subjects of debate in Christian theological discussion, that reflect the theology of Protestant Christianity. Although in the field of ethics there is a significant mutual influence between Protestant and Catholic thinkers, there are also significant differences. At many points, therefore, my own Protestantism is clearly revealed.

Second, this is an introductory textbook. It is intended to acquaint beginning students with both the field of ethics in general and varieties of Christian ethical systems in particular and to assist them in formulating an approach that they will find valid for themselves. It is further intended to help them consider from a Christian perspective a wide variety of ethical issues, both personal and social, with which modern men and women must deal.

Third, this text is written for college students and is designed to help them develop a method of dealing with the thorny moral issues that they face not only as students but also as people involved in the life of the broader community. It does not, therefore, assume either the experience or the preparation of students at thegraduate level.

The plan of the book is clearly indicated in the part and chapter titles. Part I (Chapters 1 through 3) introduces the field of ethics and a variety of approaches to its study. Part II (Chapters 4 through 6) describes my own method for making ethical decisions. Part III (Chapters 7 through 15) deals with some of the issues that demand attention today. No attempt is made to draw a line between "personal" and "social" issues because most issues have both personal and social implications, and the two aspects are therefore considered together.

To assist the students, I have prepared a glossary of unusual terms and common terms that are given a distinct meaning in the study of Christian ethics. The first time those words are used in the text they appear in boldface. All quotations of scripture are taken from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible.

I am grateful to Meredith College for the sabbatical that enabled me to complete the major portion of the actual writing of the first edition of this book. I am deeply indebted to three long-time colleagues at Meredith College, B. H. Cochran, Allen Page, and Bob Vance, for continuing discussion and debate, the fruits of which are reflected in much of what I have written. I am further indebted to the students who have taken my course in Christian ethics and have criticized this work in both oral and written form. Hugh T. McElwain at Rosary College, Dean M. Martin at Campbell University, and Emmanuel K. Twesigye at Ohio Wesleyan University made valuable suggestions that were incorporated in the second edition. In making revisions for the third edition I benefited greatly from suggestions made by Rev. Mark A. Duntley, Jr., at Lewis and Clark College; Charles L. Kammer at the College of Wooster; Ronald A. Smith at Hardin-Simmons University; and Edward R. Sunshine at Barry University. In this fourth edition I have taken into account the suggestions of these additional reviewers: Akin Akinade at High Point University, NC; Pamela K. Brubaker at California Lutheran University, CA; and James B. Martin-Schramm at Luther College, IA. While I have updated material throughout the book, the most significant revisions are found in Chapters 2, 7, 8, and 9.

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