Basic Christian Ethics

Basic Christian Ethics

Basic Christian Ethics

Basic Christian Ethics

Excerpt

In his novel Pierre, Herman Melville sourly defines the gospel of love as "a volume bound in rose leaves, clasped with violets, and by the beaks of hummingbirds printed with peach-juice on the leaves of lilies." Actually Christian ethics is more like "labor and fortitude" than "sweetness and light." The task of dispelling such misunderstanding requires the same thoroughness and exactness in analyzing the principles of Christian ethics as are necessary in any other realm of thought where the issues are of vital human concern. In the end, of course, the student of Christian ethics can only know that he knows what the simplest true Christian vigorously "doing the truth" knows already. Yet understanding is essential no less than performance if ever we hope to comprehend the structure of the Christian life.

As a treatise on basic Christian ethics, this book endeavors to stand within the way the Bible views morality. The central ethical notion or "category" in Christian ethics is "obedient love"--the sort of love the gospels describe as "love fulfilling the law" and St. Paul designates as "faith that works through love." This volume undertakes to explain many facets of the meaning of Christian "obedient love," and its meaning for morality. This concept, basic to any understanding of the Christian outlook with the demands it places upon moral action, gives us the clue essential to understanding certain other ideas, such as "justice," "right" or "obligation," "duties to oneself," "vocation," "virtues" of moral character, "sinfulness" and the "image of God," which in turn are of crucial importance in elaborating a theory of Christian ethics.

A system of Christian ethics would be incomplete without some comparison with non-Christian moral philosophies. Many . . .

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