Moral Choices: An Introduction to Ethics / Edition 3

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Overview

With its unique union of theory and application and its well-organized, easy-to-use design, Moral Choices has earned its place as the standard text for college ethics courses. This third edition offers extensive updates, revisions, and brand new material, all designed to help students develop a sound and current basis for making ethical decisions in today's complex postmodern culture.

Moral Choices outlines the distinctive elements of Christian ethics while avoiding undue dogmatism. The book also introduces other ethical systems and their key historical proponents, including Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and Immanuel Kant.

After describing a seven-step procedure for tackling ethical dilemmas, author Scott Rae uses case studies to address some of today's most pressing social issues. He guides students in thinking critically and biblically about:
? Abortion ? Reproductive Technologies ? Euthanasia ? Capital Punishment
? Sexual Ethics ? The Morality of War ? Genetic Technologies and Human Cloning ? NEW: Ethics and Economics

NEW FEATURES
* Online resources for instructors, with test banks, PowerPoint presentations, and more
* Chapter on ethics and economics covering global capitalism, environmental ethics, and business ethics
* Significant new material on bioethics and stem cell and embryo research
* Discussion questions at the end of each chapter
* Sidebars with case studies for discussion

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What People Are Saying

From the Publisher
'I have profitably used Moral Choices as a central textbook in my Christian Ethics courses since it first came out in 1995. This new edition builds on the strengths of the previous editions by deepening the analysis, bringing the discussions up to date, and adding a needful new chapter on ethics and economics. The book remains clear, readable, well-informed, biblical, and pertinent for the moral questions and challenges facing Christians today.' -- Doug Groothuis, Professor of Philosophy, Denver Seminary

'Scott Rae is one of the leading Evangelical ethicists in North America, and this thoroughly updated version of Moral Choices features the excellence we have come to expect from his pen. Based on its breadth of coverage, depth of insight, and accessibility of style, it is now the go-to text for colleges and seminaries. It is also a must read for pastors and laypersons who want to be informed about the ethical issues of our day. I highly recommend it.' -- J. P. Moreland, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, Talbot School of Theology

' Moral Choices is characterized by particular strength in its discussion of ethical methodology, its approach to bioethical and business ethics issues, its accessibility and readability, its use of cases and discussion questions, and its engagement with a wide range of both secular and Christian thinkers through the ages. It is conservative and evangelical while remaining irenic and dialogical.' -- David P. Gushee, Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics, Mercer University

'This is a well-crafted introduction to Christian ethics. Professor Rae exhibits in his work the very virtues that he extols his readers to emulate. His love of learning, Christ, and the good, the true, and the beautiful comes through loud and clear. Although one may find oneself disagreeing with Professor Rae, as I do on a few issues, you will be more informed, challenged, and enlightened as a consequence of reading this book.' -- Francis J. Beckwith, Professor, of Philosophy and Church-State Studies, Baylor University

'Moral Choices is an outstanding text for an introductory course in bioethics. The survey of philosophical thinking throughout history sets the context for dialogue. The model that is presented is especially useful for beginning students. Our classes work through the model to learn the principles, and then apply that model to 1-2 topics, working in depth. As a result, its strengths and weaknesses are revealed. Then, students are able to understand the challenges associated with bioethical issues. This enables them to be equipped for issues that are arising. Moral Choices has been a foundational component to accomplish this.' Mount Vernon Nazarene University -- Paul Madtes Jr.

'I have profitably used Moral Choices as a central textbook in my Christian Ethics courses since it first came out in 1995. This new edition builds on the strengths of the previous editions by deepening the analysis, bringing the discussions up to date, and adding a needed new chapter on ethics and economics. The book remains clear, readable, well-informed, biblical, and pertinent for the moral questions and challenges facing Christians today.' Denver Seminary -- Doug Groothuis

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780310291091
  • Publisher: Zondervan
  • Publication date: 7/17/2009
  • Edition description: New
  • Edition number: 3
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 264,060
  • Product dimensions: 7.40 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Scott B. Rae (PhD, University of Southern California) is professor of Christian ethics at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, La Mirada, California.
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Read an Excerpt

CHRISTIAN ETHICS

Despite modern departures from it, the Judeo-Christian system of morality has had a profound impact on society from its inception. In this chapter we will put forth the various emphases in Christian ethics and address some of the criticisms of Christian ethics. Initially, we will establish a scriptural foundation by examining various points of ethical emphasis in both Old and New Testaments. Although both Old and New Testament ethics are vast subjects on which entire volumes have been written, a synthesis of the major emphases in biblical ethics is all that space here will allow.

Much of biblical ethics revolves around God's specially revealed commands. For many people, therefore, the divine command theory of ethics has become synonymous with biblical ethics. Such a theory of ethics, however, raises questions about whether something is good because God commanded it or whether God commands something because it is good. This is known as the "Euthyphro dilemma," since the question was first raised by Plato in his dialogue Euthyphro. This dilemma cannot be adequately addressed without a consideration of what is called natural law. Previously emphasized primarily by Roman Catholics and at times treated with scorn by Protestants, this concept is important for a fully developed biblical ethic. Its definition and biblical justification will be explored toward the end of this chapter.

OLD TESTAMENT ETHICS

Just as the Old Testament is not a systematic theology but a mixture of different theological emphases presented in a variety of literary styles, so too, the Old Testament is not a carefully arranged system of ethics, but a mixture of different types of moral reasoning. The Old Testament reflects great diversity in methods of moral reasoning. With the Mosaic Law providing the ethical principles by which Israel ordered its life, it is not surprising that deontology, or an appeal to principles, is strongly emphasized in the Old Testament. In their appeal to the Law as the basis of their prophetic message, the prophets depend heavily on deontology. But there is more to morality in the Old Testament than the simple appeal to principles and commands. The Wisdom Literature contains a measure of utilitarian reasoning. For example, many of the Proverbs contain explicit descriptions of the consequences of certain actions and character traits. The writers of the Proverbs appear to praise wisdom because of the good consequences it produces, while they warn against folly because of the harmful consequences that it produces. To be sure, the Wisdom Literature is ultimately grounded in the Law, and thus ultimately grounded in principles. The Wisdom Literature, then, does not attempt to use utilitarianism as a self-sufficient system for discovering morality, but the appeal to principles is supplemented by appeal to consequences, a use of both utilitarian and deontological methods.

The Old Testament also appeals to egoism and self-interest, specifically in the covenant blessings and cursings in Deuteronomy 27-30. Here God reveals to Moses that Israel's agriculture and national security face certain consequences dependent on her obedience to the covenant. Thus her loyalty to the covenant will result in certain blessings, while her disobedience will lead to certain cursings. Accordingly, Israel would have a high degree of self-interest to obey the Law. The prophets repeatedly refer to the blessings and cursings of the covenant in their attempts to call Israel back to faithfulness to God, suggesting that the covenant cursings and blessings form a significant aspect of Old Testament ethics. Again, this is not to say that Scripture uses egoism as a self-sufficient ethical system, but rather, that the appeal to principles is supplemented by an appeal to self-interest.

Finally, the Old Testament also appeals to natural law. For example, the book of Proverbs defines right and wrong (wisdom and folly) by observations drawn from nature (Prov. 6: 6-11; see also Ps. 19: 1-6) and human relationships (Prov. 24: 30-34). Natural law is not strictly limited to observations from nature, however. It refers to universal moral principles that are not specifically derived from special revelation. The oracles to the nations (e.g., see Isa. 13-23; Jer. 46-51; Ezek. 25-32) are good examples of biblical appeal to natural law. Unlike Israel who had the Mosaic Law, these nations lacked the Law and are still condemned for many of the same transgressions as Israel, including injustice, violence, and oppression of the poor. We can conclude, therefore, that these nations were somehow aware of their crimes, otherwise God could not be just in holding them accountable for their crimes. The means by which God made them aware of these moral obligations is general revelation, or natural law. Thus in the Old Testament natural law supplements the ethics provided by special revelation.

THE LAW AS THE CORE OF OLD TESTAMENT ETHICS

The foundation of Old Testament ethics is the Law. Some scholars use the term Law more narrowly to refer to the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20: 1-7; Deut. 5: 1-21). We will use it more broadly to refer to the first five books of the Old Testament, the Pentateuch, but especially to the material found in Exodus 20-40, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy 5-30. The Law sets out the fundamental principles and commands for Israel and consists of three primary parts: (1) the moral law, or the Ten Commandments; (2) the civil law, which governed social relations and institutions; and (3) the ceremonial law, which governed Israel's worship of God. When referring to Old Testament ethics, most scholars use the moral and civil law as the foundation. The ceremonial law is often considered a part of Israel's religious ritual, and not strictly related to ethics.

Much of the remainder of the Old Testament ethics can be seen in relation to the Law. In the Poetic Literature, especially Psalms, worship is often presented as a response to the revelation of God in the Law. The Wisdom Literature attempts to take the general demands of the Law and make them persuasive to an international audience, without any of the features directly related to Israel, such as the sacrificial system, the Promised Land, the covenants, and the tabernacle or temple. The Prophets appeal to the Law as their primary point of reference in making their indictments against Israel.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments 8

Publisher's Preface 9

1 Introduction: Why Study Ethics? 11

2 Christian Ethics 24

3 Ethical Systems and Ways of Moral Reasoning 63

4 Making Ethical Decisions 104

5 Abortion and Embryonic Stem Cell Research 121

6 Reproductive Technologies 155

7 Biotechnology, Genetics, and Human Cloning 191

8 Physician-Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia 212

9 Capital Punishment 247

10 Sexual Ethics 270

11 The Morality of War 302

12 Ethics and Economics 329

General Index 363

Scripture Index 371

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First Chapter

CHRISTIAN ETHICS Despite modern departures from it, the Judeo-Christian system of morality has had a profound impact on society from its inception. In this chapter we will put forth the various emphases in Christian ethics and address some of the criticisms of Christian ethics. Initially, we will establish a scriptural foundation by examining various points of ethical emphasis in both Old and New Testaments. Although both Old and New Testament ethics are vast subjects on which entire volumes have been written, a synthesis of the major emphases in biblical ethics is all that space here will allow.
Much of biblical ethics revolves around God's specially revealed commands. For many people, therefore, the divine command theory of ethics has become synonymous with biblical ethics. Such a theory of ethics, however, raises questions about whether something is good because God commanded it or whether God commands something because it is good. This is known as the 'Euthyphro dilemma,' since the question was first raised by Plato in his dialogue Euthyphro. This dilemma cannot be adequately addressed without a consideration of what is called natural law. Previously emphasized primarily by Roman Catholics and at times treated with scorn by Protestants, this concept is important for a fully developed biblical ethic. Its definition and biblical justification will be explored toward the end of this chapter.
OLD TESTAMENT ETHICS Just as the Old Testament is not a systematic theology but a mixture of different theological emphases presented in a variety of literary styles, so too, the Old Testament is not a carefully arranged system of ethics, but a mixture of different types of moral reasoning. The Old Testament reflects great diversity in methods of moral reasoning. With the Mosaic Law providing the ethical principles by which Israel ordered its life, it is not surprising that deontology, or an appeal to principles, is strongly emphasized in the Old Testament. In their appeal to the Law as the basis of their prophetic message, the prophets depend heavily on deontology. But there is more to morality in the Old Testament than the simple appeal to principles and commands. The Wisdom Literature contains a measure of utilitarian reasoning. For example, many of the Proverbs contain explicit descriptions of the consequences of certain actions and character traits. The writers of the Proverbs appear to praise wisdom because of the good consequences it produces, while they warn against folly because of the harmful consequences that it produces. To be sure, the Wisdom Literature is ultimately grounded in the Law, and thus ultimately grounded in principles. The Wisdom Literature, then, does not attempt to use utilitarianism as a self-sufficient system for discovering morality, but the appeal to principles is supplemented by appeal to consequences, a use of both utilitarian and deontological methods.
The Old Testament also appeals to egoism and self-interest, specifically in the covenant blessings and cursings in Deuteronomy 27-30. Here God reveals to Moses that Israel's agriculture and national security face certain consequences dependent on her obedience to the covenant. Thus her loyalty to the covenant will result in certain blessings, while her disobedience will lead to certain cursings. Accordingly, Israel would have a high degree of self-interest to obey the Law. The prophets repeatedly refer to the blessings and cursings of the covenant in their attempts to call Israel back to faithfulness to God, suggesting that the covenant cursings and blessings form a significant aspect of Old Testament ethics. Again, this is not to say that Scripture uses egoism as a self-sufficient ethical system, but rather, that the appeal to principles is supplemented by an appeal to self-interest.
Finally, the Old Testament also appeals to natural law. For example, the book of Proverbs defines right and wrong (wisdom and folly) by observations drawn from nature (Prov. 6:6-11; see also Ps. 19:1-6) and human relationships (Prov. 24:30-34). Natural law is not strictly limited to observations from nature, however. It refers to universal moral principles that are not specifically derived from special revelation. The oracles to the nations (e.g., see Isa. 13-23; Jer. 46-51; Ezek. 25-32) are good examples of biblical appeal to natural law. Unlike Israel who had the Mosaic Law, these nations lacked the Law and are still condemned for many of the same transgressions as Israel, including injustice, violence, and oppression of the poor. We can conclude, therefore, that these nations were somehow aware of their crimes, otherwise God could not be just in holding them accountable for their crimes. The means by which God made them aware of these moral obligations is general revelation, or natural law. Thus in the Old Testament natural law supplements the ethics provided by special revelation.1
THE LAW AS THE CORE OF OLD TESTAMENT ETHICS The foundation of Old Testament ethics is the Law. Some scholars use the term Law more narrowly to refer to the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:1-7; Deut. 5:1-21). We will use it more broadly to refer to the first five books of the Old Testament, the Pentateuch, but especially to the material found in Exodus 20-40, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy 5-30. The Law sets out the fundamental principles and commands for Israel and consists of three primary parts: (1) the moral law, or the Ten Commandments; (2) the civil law, which governed social relations and institutions; and (3) the ceremonial law, which governed Israel's worship of God. When referring to Old Testament ethics, most scholars use the moral and civil law as the foundation. The ceremonial law is often considered a part of Israel's religious ritual, and not strictly related to ethics.
Much of the remainder of the Old Testament ethics can be seen in relation to the Law. In the Poetic Literature, especially Psalms, worship is often presented as a response to the revelation of God in the Law. The Wisdom Literature attempts to take the general demands of the Law and make them persuasive to an international audience, without any of the features directly related to Israel, such as the sacrificial system, the Promised Land, the covenants, and the tabernacle or temple. The Prophets appeal to the Law as their primary point of reference in making their indictments against Israel.

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