Scripture Out Of The Heart Flows The Issues Of Life Biblical Foundation For Christian Morality

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Biblical Foundation For Christian Morality

Introduction

The term ‘morality’ is defined in an explanatory manner in two broad classifications in this article: (a) general description, (b) biblical description. The main reason for this classification is the possibility of comparing the biblical moral system, which is the focus of the study, with other moral systems. Scott B. Rae noted, ‘most people use the terms morality and ethics interchangeably. Technically, morality refers to the actual content of good and evil. Morality is the end result of ethical considerations, the essence of right and wrong’.1 With this difference noted, the terms will be discussed in this paper as an inseparable pair.

General definition of morality

According to the New Bible Dictionary, the words ‘ethics’ and ‘morals’ mean ‘customs’ according to the Greek and Latin books.2 The idea is to find out the things that are usually done and conclude that these are the things that a person should do. Logically, it follows that these are things that will seem right to the individual, but also to society. Scott B. Rae goes a little further in stating what morality is primarily concerned with. He said that morality is primarily concerned with questions of right and wrong, the ability to distinguish between the two and the justification of the distinction.3 In society, there may be norms regarding what is right and what is wrong. However, society is faced with so many new and challenging issues that people are forced to make ethical considerations. Samuel Enoch Stumpf in his book ‘Elements of Philosophy’ asks the following questions: Why can’t we do exactly what we want? What difference does it make to anyone how we behave? Why is the question of ethics even raised? Why should we think that one way of behaving is better than another? That telling the truth is better than trying to get out of trouble by telling a lie? And who has the authority to tell us what to do? He concludes that ethics should be studied in order to find answers to the questions what should I do? And why would I do that?4 It can be seen from Stumpf’s statement that the main issue that divides people in their moral views is that of the ultimate source of moral authority.

In the first seven chapters of his book ‘Ethics: Options and Problems’, Norman L. Geisler shows this division among people as he discusses the basic approaches to ethics. He states that ethical systems can be broadly divided into two main categories: deontological (duty-centered) and teleological (goal-centered). Deontological systems are systems based on principles in which actions (or character or even intentions) are inherently right or wrong. Teleological systems, on the other hand, are systems that are based on the end result that results from the action.5 Scott B. Rae in his discussion of ethical systems included another division – relativism, to the one already mentioned by Geisler. According to him, ‘relativism’ refers to an ethical system in which rights and wrongs are not absolute and immutable, but relative to one’s culture (cultural relativism) or one’s own personal preferences (moral subjectivism).6 However, this third category may still fit under two Geisler divisions. Furthermore, Geisler stated that there are six main ethical views: (i) antinomianism – says that there are no moral norms; (ii) Situationism – affirms that there is one absolute law (the law of love); (iii) Generalism – claims that there are some general laws, but not one; (iv) unqualified absolute laws that never conflict; (v) conflict absolutism – claims that there are many absolute norms that sometimes conflict and that one is obliged to do the lesser evil; and (vi) graded absolutism – holds that many absolute laws sometimes conflict, but one is responsible for obeying a higher law. Geisler pointed out that these six subcategories are based on the point of view of the ethical approach, which revolves around norms – deontological. 7 In contrast, the second approach does not emphasize norms, but ends – teleological, and is described as a non-normative or utilitarian approach.

Biblical definition

1. General observations

DH Field noted that ‘biblical ethics is God-centered, rather than following the opinion of the majority or conforming to conventional behavior, Scripture encourages us to begin with God and his requirements – not man and his habits – when seeking moral guidance’.8 To understand the biblical definition of morality, it is necessary to examine the Scriptures, as Field noted, to see what God says and requires. He points out five things from the Bible about biblical morality, points us to the person of God to discover this nature of goodness. Only God is good and it is his will that expresses what is good, acceptable and perfect; ii) the source of moral knowledge is revelation. According to the Bible, knowledge of right and wrong is not so much a matter of philosophical inquiry as acceptance of divine revelation; iii) moral teaching is a phrase like praise, not a statement. With the exception of the wisdom literature of the OT, moral judgments are clearly stated rather than rationally argued. On the other hand, philosophers had to justify their moral judgment in order to convince people that they were good; iv) The basic ethical requirement in biblical ethics is following God. God sums up goodness in his person. Man’s supreme ideal according to the Bible is to imitate him; v) Religion and ethics are theocentric. The moral teachings of the scriptures lose their credibility once the religious background is removed. Religion and ethics are linked as the basis of construction. Biblical ethics springs from biblical doctrine and the two are inseparable. 9

2. Morality in the Old Testament

From a more general overview of biblical morality, it is correct to understand the concept as presented in the two testaments. In the OT, a close understanding of the Covenant, the Law and the Prophets can give a clearer understanding of morality. These three aspects will now be examined individually.

a) Alliance

The covenant that God made with Israel through Moses (Exodus 24) had direct and far-reaching significance. God’s grace, seen in his acts of love and care in the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, provides the main motive for obedience to his commandments. The Israelites as God’s partners were united to respond gracefully to God’s previous acts of underserved love. They are called to his will in gratitude for his mercy, instead of submitting in fear to threats of punishment. For this reason, for example, slaves were to be treated generously because God treated the Hebrew slaves in Egypt generously.

The alliance also fosters an intense awareness of corporate solidarity in Israel. Its effect was not only to unite the individual with God, but also to bind all the members of the covenant into one community. A person’s transgression can therefore affect the whole community (Još 7), and everyone is obliged to help a person in need. The strong emphasis on OT ethics depends on social ethics.

b) Law

The covenant provided the context for the giving of God’s law. A special feature of the OT law was its emphasis on maintaining correct relationships between people and between people and God. It can be noted that the most serious consequence of violating the law is not material punishment, but the consequent termination of relations. (Ho 1:2). The Ten Commandments, which should be considered the heart of the law, deal with the most basic of relationships. They lay down the basic holiness that governs belief, worship and life.

c) Prophets

Social conditions in Israel had changed dramatically since the time of Moses, and the Israelites failed to see how the law required obedience in their daily dealings in society, which also affected their relationship with God. The prophets made it their business to interpret the law by digging to the underlying principles and applying them to the concrete moral problems of their time.

2. Morality in the New Testament

Norman L. Geisler made the following observations about the New Testament

Ethics:

1) That Christian ethics is based on God’s will. It is, as she says, a form

divine command position; an ethical duty, which is something we should

does. It is prescribed;

2) that Christian ethics is absolute. The fact that God’s moral character does

not to change (Mal 3:16) means that the moral obligations arising from his nature are absolute. Geisler points out that everything that can be traced back to God’s immutable moral character is a moral absolute, eg holiness, justice, love, truthfulness, and mercy. Other commandments derive from God’s will, but they are not absolute. That is, they must be respected because God prescribed them, but He did not prescribe them for all people, times and places. Absolute moral duties, on the contrary, bind all men at all times and in all places;

3) That Christian ethics is based on God’s revelation. What God commands

it is revealed generally (Romans 1:19-20; 2:12-15) in nature, and

especially (Romans 2:2-18; 3:2) in the Holy Scriptures. God’s general revelation

contains his commandment for all men. His special revelation declares his

the will for the believer;

4) That Christian ethics is prescriptive because moral correctness is prescribed

moral God. Geisler pointed out that there is no moral law without a

moral lawgiver or moral lawgiver without a moral lawgiver. Therefore

Christian ethics is prescriptive, not descriptive. Christians do not have their own

ethics in the standard of Christians, but in the standard for Christians – The

Bible; and

5) Christian ethics is deontological. That is, based on the principles in which

actions (or character or even intentions) are inherently right or wrong.10

CONCLUSION

Morality, as defined in this work, is the actual content of good and evil. However, the main question is how to determine it. The main question that arises from this question is: Where lies the ultimate source of moral authority? One group of people believe that authority is immanent, that human beings have the authority to create their own moral rules and systems – they fall into the category of teleological ethics. Another group believes that moral authority is transcendent, that is, that authority exists outside of ordinary human experience. In biblical morality, that authority is God, who revealed himself to people through his special and general revelation. This makes biblical ethics unique. It is deontological. Both in the Old and New Testaments, it is seen that morality is based on the nature and character of God.

As pointed out, ethics and morality are inseparable. For Christians, ethics is not so much determining good, but choosing it. For non-Christians, it is more a determination of good. Whether one is a Christian or not as a human being, one is bound to engage in ethical considerations.

FINAL NOTES

1Scott Rae, Moral Choices: An Introduction to Ethics (Michigan: Zondervan

Publishing House, 1995), p. 15.

2D.H. Field, Ethics: A New Biblical Dictionary. (Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 1982),

p. 351.

3Scott Rae, Moral Choices: An Introduction to Ethics (Michigan: Zondervan

Publishing House, 1995), p. 21.

4Enoch Stumpf, The Elements of Philosophy (London: McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1993), p. 21.

5Norman L. Geisler, Ethics: Options and Problems. Michigan: Baker Book House,

1989), p. 24.

6Scott Rae, Moral Choices: An Introduction to Ethics (Michigan: Zondervan

Publishing House, 1995), p. 16.

7Norman L. Geisler, Ethics: Options and Issues. Michigan: Baker Book House,

1989), p. 25.

8D.H. Field, Ethics: A New Biblical Dictionary. (Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 1982),

p. 351.

9 Ibid., p. 351.

10Norman L. Geisler, Ethics: Options and Problems. Michigan: Baker Book House,

1989), p. 22 -24.

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