Ethics, Morality and Values
How does Jesus relate to the great ethical and moral issues of our age?
We are finite beings and as such will never be in the position of knowing everything. This is in contrast to God who does not reason in the same way we do because he knows. We, however, must make use of certain assumptions, which we may not be able to prove absolutely but which we use to reason on as we investigate the world around us. These assumptions make up our worldview and are the lens or perspective each of us uses to make decisions about the world. They are, however, largely hidden or unconscious. Most people are not aware of them and if asked find it hard to articulate these assumptions. Further, most of us are unaware that our ethics, morality and values are derived from these assumptions. Even more than this, often our values are simply those of our family or the group we are associated with and are in conflict with what we say we believe. As young people leave secondary education and move out into work or further studies, they will enter into an ocean of values based on other than a Christian worldview. If they either do not understand the assumptions they are working from, and those others are working from, or they are not aware of the inconsistencies of their supposed beliefs and what they actually value, then they will have great difficulty standing against this ocean of contrary opinions.
There are only a limited number of worldviews, but each of them can be developed in various directions. A Christian worldview starts with God as creator, humanity created in his image but now fallen in sin, God revealing himself in the Bible, Jesus as the Son of God and so on. Besides Christianity, other prominent worldviews include:
Secular - Humanist
Cosmic Humanist (Hinduism is an example of this)
Each of these have their own assumptions upon which they build their views on everything else in life. Marxism and Secular-Humanism for example both take materialism, that is there is only the physical universe and nothing else, as their starting point. The Bible gives Christians their key assumptions or reference points from which they reason. These key reference points are essential to understanding the rest of creation, and are given to us by God so we can rightly orient ourselves in every area of life.
The true nature of a worldview, and the window into which worldview we really hold, can be shown by how we respond to the key ethical controversies of our age. Some of these include:
Stem Cell research involving foetal tissue (Bio-technology issues in general)
Same sex marriage, homosexuality and sexuality issues in general
Free Speech vs ...
Freedom of Religion vs ...
God has revealed himself to all people at all times through creation, but people worship the creation instead of the creator
Humanity is fundamentally religious. All peoples, in all nations, in every age have worshipped in one form or another.
Religion means more than organised religions like Christianity or Islam. It is about ultimate realities.
Each religion/worldview has a set of basic assumptions on which everything else stands and from which we derive out values
These basic assumptions are the key issues to be discussed
Concerning the many ethical issues of our age, the Bible has both general principles and specific passages which relate to these questions. These are best accessed through the resources below. The following are general passages:
Genesis 1 - God as creator is the foundation upon which all else is built. Some of the implications are:
God created all things and so is fundamentally different from his creation
God as creator is the true source of all things, including joy, peace, hope, meaning
God is a personal being, so the universe at its core is personal, not impersonal, hence relationships/morality not knowledge are the ultimate goal
God created all things good. Evil is an intruder into creation and not part of God’s ultimate plan or nature.
God created and sustains all things and so owns and has the right to judge his creation
There is only one God and so the one God is lord over all nations and cultures
God created us in his image and so we are more than animals and consequently have rights they do not have
God created both men and women in his image and so there is no difference between men and women in terms of their standing before God
God set us as stewards over his creation. We are free to exploit it, but should do so as his representatives, so the worship of the creation is ruled out, as is ruthless greed.
Genesis 1:26-28 - created in God's image, we are inherently religious
Romans 1:18-32 - We worship the creation instead of the creator and suppress the truth. In a sense, there are only two basic religious/philosophical positions. One is Monism, which means that there is only one reality, the Creation if you like, and that all answers and hence all worship is found here. So, the Hindu might believe everyone and everything is God, while the Materialist might believe that only the physical reality is real, yet for both they focus on this creation and seek to know and understand it by the same means, that is we explore and understand it. The other is Dualism, which posits a Creation and a Creator, where all the answers and worship lie outside the creation and hence outside ourselves. Only Christianity is truly dualistic because only Christianity put its faith solely in the the God who came into the world in the person of Jesus to save us. In all other religions we essentially save ourselves, even if they do acknowledge a Creator.
Galatians 1:6-10 - only one Gospel
Colossians 2:6-15 - call to not follow worldly philosophies (the background here is thought to be a kind of incipient Gnosticism, which was an important philosophical/religious movement at the time of Christ and afterwards. It was highly syncretistic, that is it absorbed other beliefs into itself an attempted to do so with Christianity. It is similar to Hinduism in this aspect. Rather they were to ground themselves in Christ and work outwards to all of life from there.
John 14:6 - the way, the truth and the life, one way to the Father
Luke 1:1-4 - faith based on the facts
Romans 12:1-2 - renew our minds
1 Cor 15:1-12 - many, many witnesses saw Jesus
1 John 1:1-4 - saw and touched Jesus
2 Peter 2:16-18 - not made up stories
Matthew 7:15-28 - true and false teachers, true and false disciples, be careful how you build
John 3:16-21 - we either love the light or we love the darkness
Genesis 3-6 - unbelief as the root cause of all sin, led to sin being part of all creation and part of every person. The idea is not that we are all as bad as Satan, but that there is no aspect of our being which is free from sin. All people, and every part of every person is tainted, like a white cloth which has been washed with a red dye. Further, it means that given the right circumstances we are all capable of being a Hitler or Stalin and so on. The outworking of this is we are not objective truth seekers. We deny it, bend it, suppress it, avoid it and embrace darkness instead. Being radically honest with yourself is a major achievement but part of how God wants to work in our lives.
Understanding the Times - Kindle 2015 Edition - gives a good overview of the major worldview and how they impact on a range of key areas, for example Law, History, Biology
http://creation.com/stem-cells-and-genesis - good summary of the embryonic stem cell issue as a well as an example of how Biblical foundations relate to questions like these. See also related articles which branch to related bio-technology issues
Any of the ethical issues can be used as a subject in its own right and as a model of how to think about such questions. Get students to brainstorm the issues they are aware of and which they are concerned about. Use this to decide what will be covered in the time allowed.
View videos on relevant topic and use as a discussion starter
Arrange a debate between students on a given question
Many students will have some personal experience related to such questions. Try to open it up for sharing and thoughtful discussion
Look at the Ten Commandments, see videos, and the idea that God has given us rules to live by. Discuss, why and what happens when we ignore his rules
Open up key passages of scripture and discuss in depth their meaning, helping students to learn how to interpret the Bible
Use relevant current media related to current topics and use as a discussion base
In the style of the videos in the Resource section, students can create their own video designed for someone who is not a Christian