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Christian Ethics

Christian Ethics

From Shame to Sin

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The transformation of the Roman world from polytheistic to Christian is one of the most sweeping ideological changes of premodern history. At the center was sex. Kyle Harper examines how Christianity changed the ethics of sexual behavior from shame to sin, and shows how the roots of modern sexuality are grounded in an ancient religious revolution. “Harper brings a classicist’s expertise to this rich, provocative account of early Christian attempts to transform Roman sexual culture and the understandings of the body, property, sexuality, and the cosmos that formed its basis. This important contribution contextualizes Christian Scripture in a more exhaustive and extensive way than most theological and biblical studies treatments do. The author shows how Christian preaching and teaching responded to social customs and understandings. He indicates the ways in which Christians both borrowed and transformed notions of fate, fortune, and self-control found in classical novels and other Christian literature. Harper also traces the arc of development of Christian sexual ethics into the first few centuries of the church, showing that not only Paul but other Christian writers and theologians as well were deeply shaped by cultural debates over the sexual role of slaves and the value of virginity. Students of classics, Christian ethics, and the New Testament will find this outstanding book indispensable.” ~ A. W. Klink in Choice

Sexual Morality in a Christless World

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Author Matthew Rueger openly embraces this hot topic, writing compassionately with a father’s heart and adamantly with a fierce determination to outline the truth from a reasoned, conservative Christian perspective. This book came to life following a series of presentations that Rueger gave on the subjects of homosexuality and same-sex marriage. The audience? A skeptical, secular-minded bunch of college students in their ethics class at Iowa State University. Christians need to expect the unpleasant from their opponents, arm themselves with answers to common objections, and speak in clarity and love. Rueger shares a game plan for families and churches facing the future, moving from important accounts of history to the tangles of the twenty-first century.

In Search of Moral Knowledge

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Scott Smith, carefully and consciously, with philosophical rigor and clarity of word, offers a defense of moral knowledge that is tightly tethered to more ancient, and Christian, understandings of the good, the true and the beautiful. The result is a compelling case for why philosophical naturalism, including its cousin, nominalism, must be rejected by anyone who sincerely seeks after moral knowledge. Smith’s greatest accomplishment in this book, however, is the way in which he interacts, at a high level, with contemporary philosophical schools of thought and ancient traditions in a way fully accessible to the educated layman and college student. ~ Francis J. Beckwith

Jean-Jacques Rouseau on the Golden Rule

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Even the precept of doing unto others as we would have them do unto us has no true foundation other than conscience and sentiment; for where is the precise reason for me, being myself, to act as if I were another, especially when I am morally certain of never finding myself in the same situation? And who will guarantee me that in very faithfully following this maxim I will get others to follow it similarly with me? The wicked man gets advantage from the just man’s probity and his own injustice. He is delighted that everyone, with the exception of himself, be just. This agreement, whatever may be said about it, is not very advantageous for good men. When the strength of an expansive soul makes me identify myself with my fellow, and I feel that I am, so to speak, in him, it is in order not to suffer that I do not want him to suffer. I am interested in him for love of myself, and the reason for the precept is in nature itself, which inspires in me the desire of my well-being in whatever place I feel my existence. From this I conclude that it is not true that the precepts of natural law are founded on reason alone. They have a base more solid and sure. Love of men derived from love of self is the principle of the human justice. The summation of all morality is given by the Gospel in its summation of the law.

The Wisdom of the Christian Faith

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Although typically separated, philosophy and New Testament theology are mutually beneficial for the understanding of the distinctive wisdom that guides Christian thought and life. The Wisdom of the Christian Faith fills a major gap in the literature on the philosophy of religion. It is the first book on the philosophy of religion to be authored entirely by philosophers while directly engaging themes of wisdom in the Christian tradition. The book consists of all new essays, with contributions from John Cottingham, Paul Gooch, Gordon Graham, John Hare, Michael T. McFall, Paul K. Moser, Andrew Pinsent, Robert Roberts, Charles Taliaferro, William Wainwright, Jerry Walls, Sylvia Walsh, Paul Weithman, and Merold Westphal.

Being Good

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In this volume university professors — experts in theology and philosophy — explore what Being Good looks like on a practical level. Coming from a distinctively Christian perspective, the authors all believe that every Christian should try to embody the moral and intellectual virtues that Christ alone perfectly displayed. The chapters — on faith, open-mindedness, wisdom, zeal, hope, contentment, courage, love, compassion, forgiveness, and humility — include several discussion questions. Contributors: Michael W. Austin, Jason Baehr, Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung, R. Douglas Geivett, David A. Horner, William C. Mattison III, Paul K. Moser, Andrew Pinsent, Steve L. Porter, James S. Spiegel, Charles Taliaferro, David R. Turner.

Understanding Religious Ethics

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This accessible introduction to religious ethics focuses on the major forms of ethical reasoning encompassing the three “Abrahamic” religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It examines the ethical dimensions of these faiths, both individually and comparatively, by exploring how and what they think about a series of important issues such as friendship, marriage, homosexuality, lying, forgiveness and its limits, the death penalty, the environment, warfare, and the meaning of work, career, and vocation. In doing all of this, the book offers insight both into these particular traditions and into the common moral challenges confronting all people today. The book pays serious attention not just to what each faith has to say about an issue, but also to how each faith explains and defends its moral viewpoints. Equal attention is given to each faith’s deliberation and judgments on specific issues, the styles and modes of reasoning by which those judgments are reached, and the ways in which those judgments reveal some of these traditions’ deepest convictions about God, the cosmos, and humanity. Timely and insightful, Understanding Religious Ethics offers a powerful model of how the traditions can be understood and engaged charitably and critically – the sort of understanding and engagement that will be increasingly necessary in the twenty-first century. ~ Product Description

Ethics: Approaching Moral Decisions

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With over 60,000 copies in print since its original publication in 1984, Ethics has served numerous generations of students as a classic introduction to philosophical ethics from a Christian perspective. Over the years the philosophical landscape has changed somewhat, and in this new edition Arthur Holmes adjusts the argument and information throughout, completely rewriting the earlier chapter on virtue ethics and adding a new chapter on the moral agent. The book addresses the questions: What is good? What is right? How can we know? In doing so it also surveys a variety of approaches to ethics, including cultural relativism, emotivism, ethical egoism and utilitarianism all with an acknowledgment of the new postmodern environment. Features: 1) Introduces various ethical systems, 2) Contrasts a Christian ethic with other ethical systems, 3) Deals with contemporary moral dilemmas, 4) Includes a new chapter on the moral agent, 5) Features adjusted and updated arguments and information to reflect the current philosophical landscape.

Timothy Keller on Concern for This World

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Christianity, therefore, is perhaps the most materialistic of the world’s faiths. Jesus’s miracles were not so much violations of the natural order, but a restoration of the natural order. God did not create a world with blindness, leprosy, hunger, and death in it. Jesus’s miracles were signs that someday all these corruptions of his creation would be abolished. Christians therefore can talk of saving the soul and of building social systems that deliver safe streets and warm homes in the same sentence. With integrity. ¶ Jesus hates suffering, injustice, evil, and death so much, he came and experienced it to defeat it and someday, to wipe the world clean of it. Knowing all this, Christians cannot be passive about hunger, sickness, and injustice. Karl Marx and others have charged that religion is “the opiate of the masses.” That is, it is a sedative that makes people passive toward injustice, because there will be “pie in the sky bye and bye.” That may be true of some religions that teach people that this material world is unimportant or illusory. Christianity, however, teaches that God hates the suffering and oppression of this material world so much, he was willing to get involved in it and to fight against it. Properly understood, Christianity is by no means the opiate of the people. It’s more like the smelling salts.

R. C. Sproul on Ex Lex and Euthyphro

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In the Ex Lex debate, the question was raised as to whether God’s will functioned apart from any law or outside of any law (ex lex), or whether the will of God was itself subjected to some norm of righteousness or cosmic law that God was required to follow and, therefore, His will was exercised under law (sub lego). The question was: Is God apart from law or is He under law? ¶ The church’s response to this dilemma was to say basically “a pox on both houses,” and to declare that God is neither apart from law nor under law in these respective senses. Rather, the church responded by affirming that God is both apart from law and under law, in so far as He is free from any restraints imposed upon Him by some law that exists outside of Himself. In that sense, He is apart from law and not under law. Yet at the same time, God is not arbitrary or capricious and works according to the law of His own nature. The church declared that God is a law unto Himself.

Donald W. Shriver, Jr. on Postmodern History

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Post-modernists know many ways to disparage and eliminate claims to truth in all of these dimensions. If history (as assessment of what actually happened) is infinitely malleable at the behest of the powerful, if moral suppositions about what histories are important to recover, are arbitrary, if personal experience has nothing to do with collective acknowledgment of truth, if human suffering is not accessible to moral judgement at the moment or post facto, and if the facts of history cannot be attributed in some tangible way to human agency, then both judicial institutions and truth commissions are philosophically illegitimate. Such illegitimacy would spell the demise of Christian ethics, of course, for the discipline, with Christian theology, has a stake in the truths of history, in vital distinctions between just and unjust suffering, and in the obligations which persons and societies owe to identify, curb, and remedy wrongs suffered by any of our neighbours.

The Ethics of Aquinas

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In this comprehensive anthology, twenty-seven outstanding scholars from North America and Europe address every major aspect of Thomas Aquinas’s understanding of morality and comment on his remarkable legacy. The opening chapters of The Ethics of Aquinas introduce readers to the sources, methods, and major themes of Aquinas’s ethics. Part II of the book provides an extended discussion of ideas in the Second Part of the Summa Theologiae, in which contributors present cogent interpretations of the structure, major arguments, and themes of each of the treatises. The third and final part examines the legacy of Thomistic ethics for the twentieth century and today. These essays reflect a diverse group of scholars representing a variety of intellectual perspectives. Contributors span numerous fields of study, including intellectual history, medieval studies, moral philosophy, religious ethics, and moral theology. This remarkable variety underscores how interpretations of Thomas’s ethics continue to develop and evolve — and stimulate fervent discussion within the academy and the church. ~ Product Description

Go And Do Likewise

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What does Jesus have to do with ethics? There are two brief answers given by believers: "everything" and "not much." While evangelical or fundamentalist Christians would find authoritative guidance in the words and commands of Jesus as recorded in the New Testament, many mainstream Christian ethicists would say that Jesus is too concrete or narrowly particular to have any direct import for ethics.In this book, Williams Spohn takes a middle way, showing how Jesus is the "concrete universal" of Christian ethics. By forming a bridge from the lives of contemporary Christians to the words and deeds of Jesus, Jesus’ story as a whole exemplifies moral perception, motivation and Christian identity. In addition, Spohn shows how the practices of Christian spirituality — specifically prayer, service, and community — train the imagination and reorient emotions to produce a character and a way of life consonant with Christian New Testament moral teaching. ~ Product Description

The Moral Vision of the New Testamant

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This is an amazing book — solid scholarship and well thought-out interpretation delivered with a sense of urgency and sincerity. If you are at all interested in Ethics or the state of New Testament scholarship, this book is an absolute necessity. Hays sees distinct (though overlapping) tasks in the process of “doing ethics” and is able to explain and apply them clearly. His emphasis on seeing ethical questions through the “focal lenses” of Cross, Community and New Creation is a wonderful guidepost for anyone concerned with faithful, Spirit-driven scholarship. He stresses that an “integrative act of the imagination” is required to be able to apply the Scripture to our world and suggests methods for achieving it. Hays analyzes five theologian/ethicists in light of his approach (including Barth, Hauerwas, and Schussler-Fiorenza) and, in doing so, further clarifies how his approach can be used by others. The final section of the book applies Hays’ approach to contemporary issues. Partly because of his obvious authority in Greek and New Testament scholarship, and partly because of his honest, passionate approach, his conclusions are bold and very persuasive.

Humanness, Personhood, and The Right to Die

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A widely adopted approach to end-of-life ethical questions fails to make explicit certain crucial metaphysical ideas entailed by it and when those ideas are clarified, then it can be shown to be inadequate. These metaphysical themes cluster around the notions of personal identity, personhood and humanness, and the metaphysics of substance. In order to clarify and critique the approach just mentioned, I focus on the writings of Robert N. Wennberg as a paradigm case by, first, stating his views of personal identity, humanness, personhood, and the relations among them; second, offering a comparison of a view of humans as substances (understood in the classic interpretation of Aristotle and Aquinas) vs. a view of humans as property-things; third, applying the metaphysical distinctions surfaced in the second section towards a critique of Wennberg.

The Life and Death Debate

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This work is an introductory treatment of issues and options in social and bioethics which center on the end of life. Moreland and Geisler have attempted to simplify and summarize various end-of-life topics without being simplistic or caricaturing different viewpoints, even though the authors’ own viewpoints are made perfectly clear. A comprehensive bibliography, glossary, and subject and author index make this a valuable textbook as well as a resource for further study. The major purpose of this book is to make the reader think more clearly and deeply about the important issues discussed between its covers. Beginning the work is an essay that introduces the dilemma of ethical decisions. The following chapters separately discuss the situations of abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, suicide, capital punishment, and war. The discussion concludes with a chapter of practical and theoretical guidance for making ethical decisions. A glossary, subject index, author index, and selected bibliography for each chapter make this a valuable text. This important work will not only appeal to experienced philosophers, but also to students of moral philosophy, theology, and ethics. ~ Synopsis

Christian Ethics: Options and Issues

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An introductory presentation of Christian ethics, where the Bible is taken as the authoritative text for discussing issues such as homosexuality, abortion, war/civil disobedience, and other similar ethical issues. "This book is the most current of Geisler’s books on ethics and incorporates many of the points of previous works such as Ethics: Alternatives & Issues, Options in Contemporary Christian Ethics, and The Christian Ethic of Love. The book is, as the title suggests, a presentation of Christian ethics, so the Bible is taken as the standard text for discussing certain issues such as homosexuality, abortion, war/civil disobedience, and other similar ethical issues. But scientific and rational arguments are also used in addition to Biblical exposition to reach conclusions." ~ Cameron B. Clark @ Amazon.com

The Virtue of Faith

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Robert Merrihew Adams has been a leader in renewing philosophical respect for the idea that moral obligation may be founded on the commands of God. This collection of Adams’ essays, two of which are previously unpublished, draws from his extensive writings on philosophical theology that discuss metaphysical, epistemological, and ethical issues surrounding the concept of God — whether God exists or not, what God is or would be like, and how we ought to relate ourselves to such a being. Adams studies the relation between religion and ethics, delving into an analysis of moral arguments for theistic belief. In several essays, he applies contemporary studies in the metaphysics of individuality, possibility and necessity, and counterfactual conditionals to issues surrounding the existence of God and problems of evil. ~ Product Description

C.S. Lewis on Ethics and Christianity

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Christianity claims to give an account of facts — to tell you what the real universe is like. Its account of the universe may be true, or it may not, and once the question is really before you, then your natural inquisitivenes must make you want to answer. If Christianity is untrue, then no honest man will want to believe it, however helpful it might be: if it is true, every honest man will want to believe it, even if it gives him no help at all. As soon as we have realized this, we realise something else. If Christianity should happen to be true, then it is quite impossible that those who know this truth and those who don’t should be equally well-equipped for leading a good life. Knowledge of the facts must make a difference to one’s actions.

Bertrand Russell on Christian Ethics

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The fundamental defect of Christian ethics consists in the fact that it labels certain classes of acts ‘sins’ and others ‘virtue’ on grounds that have nothing to do with their social consequences.

St. Francis of Assisi on Being and Instrument

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Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is doubt, faith. Where there is despair, hope. Where there is darkness, light. Where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love. For it is in giving that we receive. It is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life. Amen.

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche on Love and Christian Virtues

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Love is the state in which man sees things most widely different from what they are. The force of illusion reaches its zenith here, as likewise the sweetening and transfiguring power. When a man is in love he endures more than at other times; he submits to everything. The thing was to discover a religion in which it was possible to love: by this means the worst in life is overcome — it is no longer even seen. So much for three Christian virtues Faith, Hope, and Charity: I call them the three Christian precautionary measures.

John Stuart Mill on Christian Morality

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Christian morality (so called) has all the characters of a reaction; it is, in great part, a protest against Paganism. Its ideal is negative rather than positive; passive rather than active; Innocence rather than Nobleness; Abstinence from Evil, rather than energetic Pursuit of Good: in its precepts (as has been well said) “thou shalt not” predominates unduly over “thou shalt.” In its horror of sensuality, it made an idol of asceticism, which has been gradually compromised away into one of legality. It holds out the hope of heaven and the threat of hell, as the appointed and appropriate motives to a virtuous life: in this falling far below the best of the ancients, and doing what lies in it to give to human morality an essentially selfish character, by disconnecting each man’s feelings of duty from the interests of his fellow-creatures, except so far as a self-interested inducement is offered to him for consulting them. It is essentially a doctrine of passive obedience; it inculcates submission to all authorities found established; who indeed are not to be actively obeyed when they command what religion forbids, but who are not to be resisted, far less rebelled against, for any amount of wrong to ourselves.

John Brown on Biblical Ethics and Self-Attestation

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It has been remarked, that the moral precepts of Christianity are highly valuable, not only when viewed in reference to their primary and direct object, the direction and guidance of the movements of the inner and outer man, the regulation of the temper and conduct, the dispositions and actions, but also when considered in their subsidiary and indirect references, particularly in their bearing on the evidence of the Divine origin of that system of revelation of which they form so important a part. That bearing is manifold. Let us look at it in its various phases. Were a book, consisting partly of doctrinal statements and partly of moral precepts, claiming a Divine origin, put into our hands; and were we to find on perusal the moral part of it fantastic and trifling, inconsistent with the principles of man’s constitution, unsuitable to the circumstances in which he is placed, and incompatible with the great laws of justice and benevolence, we should enter on the examination of the evidence appealed to, in support of its high pretensions, under the influence of a strong and justifiable suspicion. …

Leibniz on the Divine Command Theory

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In saying, therefore, that things are not good according to any standard of goodness, but simply by the will of God, it seems to me that one destroys, without realizing it, all the love of God and all his glory; for why praise him for what he has done, if he would be equally praiseworthy in doing the contrary? Where will be his justice and his wisdom if he has only a certain despotic power, if arbitrary will takes the place of reasonableness, and if in accord with the definition of tyrants, justice consists in that which is pleasing to the most powerful?