Moral Decisions and The Christian
Pastor Rick Rogers
I. DEFINITIONS AND DISTINCTIONS
A. The Biblical Terms
(ethos) meaning custom, manner, usage
a. 1 Cor. 15:33, .. evil communications corrupt " (personal
b. John 19:40, " manner of the Jews " (cultural meaning)
c. Luke 4:16, " and as his custom was " (religious
meaning manner of life
a. James 3:13, " out of a good conversation "
b. 1 Peter 3:2, 16, " your chaste conversation "
c. 2 Peter 3:11, " all holy conversation "
B. The Basic Concepts
1. General ethics: the sign of right conduct.
2. Biblical ethics: the discovery and systematic formulation of conduct as
revealed in the Scriptures.
3. Ethics concerns the laws which regulate our actions, and the norms of
what we should and should not do
4. Ethics convey the right principles. The action is as good as the
authority on which it is based.
C. Normative Ethics and Meta- Ethics (though distinct by
definition, they are part of the same process. It basically deals with our actions /
beliefs and the reason for them).
1. Normative ethics deals with which actions are right and obligatory
2. Meta-ethics is sub-divided:
a. discussions about the meaning of ethical terms and concepts such as
right, ought and good (philosophical).
b. considerations of how ethical judgments can be justified or established
(subjective - especially in a pluralistic culture).
D. Descriptive and Prescriptive Language
1. Descriptive language deals with what is actually done.
2. Prescriptive language deals with what ought to be done setting a
Example: Johnny stole an apple (descriptive). Johnny should not steal
E. Degrees of Ethics
1. Morally permissible means one may or may not do something and not
incur any moral guilt. Examples: listening to classical music, eating chocolate,
reading Tom Sawyer, ...
2. Morally obligatory means there is a moral command which mandates
or forbids an action. Examples: Mandate - Honor thy father and thy mother. Forbidden
- Thou shalt not kill.
3. Morally supererogatory actions are not duties, but are
praiseworthy actions which go above and beyond the normal call of duty. "Greater
love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends," John
F. Dilemma in Ethics: some important perspectives
1. An agent is moral if he does an act that is morally good or refrains from
an act if it is morally bad. Dilemma: does not address the motive, Isa.
6:6, Matt. 6:1ff.
2. One acts morally correct if good comes from his action (consequences are
the key). Dilemmas: may well lead to situation ethics. Who determines what is morally
good? An action may be moral even if it fails (you may try to save a drowning child,
but fail. Would it then cease to be morally good?)
Expln: It is crucial to understand that consequence or result of an action is
not what makes an action moral. Is a robber morally right if a bank installs an alarm
because he tried to rob it? The protection provided by the alarm may be good, but the
robbers motives were bad!
G. Demonstration of Biblical Ethics (each of these can be
demonstrated in John 14:15)
1. The person must have acted by choice, not compulsion (" if "
2. The motives for action (" ye love Me ")
3. The act must be morally right and proper (" keep my commandments ")
II. DECIPHERING AND DEVELOPMENT
A. Proper Hermeneutics. In biblical ethics, proper
hermeneutical methods are crucial as one develops personal and collective convictions.
There are questions to be asked:
1. Is the passage of Scripture interpreted accurately? (interpretation of
2. Is the passage a mandate, a choice or a principle? (interpretation of
3. What was the setting and intent of the original writer? (interpretation
4. Is there a dispensational distinction? (interpretation of text)
5. How does the passage fit modern culture? (application of the text)
6. Can this passage be applied without contradicting other principles?
(cohesion of the text) e. g. Acts 5:29 / Romans 13:1-7; 1 Timothy 5:19-20 /
Hebrews 13:7, 17.
B. Biblical Ethics in Our Pluralistic Culture
1. Man is made in the image of God he possesses intellect, emotions,
volition, and the ability to rule over the earth, cf. Gen.
marred by the fall, man still possesses His image, Gen. 9:6; 1 Cor.
11:7; James 3:9.
Man still has a NEED for God, and he knows it!
2. Man is given a conscience to determine what is right and wrong, cf. Romans
2:14-15, which is convicted by the Holy Spirit when he sins, John
16:8-11. Of course,
man has the ability to reject that conviction and sear his conscience, 1 Tim. 4:2 and
/ or have a defiled conscience, Titus 1:15. Though the word "conscience" is
not used in 2 Peter 2, it describes the defiled or seared conscience well.
3. Because of the Divine image (imago Dei) and the conscience God has
given man, he is without excuse when he disobeys or denies God or His law, Romans
1:18-32. All are judged by His Word! This judgment may occur on the culture itself (e.
g., note the flood, Gen. 6; Sodom and Gomorrah, Gen.
18; the fall of Israel, 2
Kings 17; and Judah, 2 Kings 25) because of their disobedience to Him. It may also
fall on individuals (1 Cor. 5:5; 1 Tim. 1:19-20; 2 Peter 2:1). Ultimately all the
unredeemed will judged at the Great White Throne (Rev. 20:11ff) and all of the
redeemed will give an account at the Bema Seat (Rom. 14:10-13; 1 Cor.
4. Thus, when our culture denies God and His Word, it doesnt negate their
responsibility to obey Him! When critics of our American Heritage negate the biblical
stand our fore-fathers took, and redefine our foundational documents (i. e.,the
phrase separation of church and state is NOT in any of them) to say that
Christianity has no place in government, they are and will be held liable when the
documents relate to the laws of God.
C. Personal Convictions from 1 Corinthians (Principles for
1. Does this activity bring glory to God, 10:31?
2. Is this activity spiritually beneficial, 6:12?
3. Is this activity enslaving, 6:12?
4. Does this activity edify myself or another believer, 10:23?
5. Could this activity hinder the growth of a fellow believer, 8:13?
6. Does this activity defile my conscience, 8:7-10?