- Religion and Philosophy
Christian Ethics - An Insight Into The Most Popular Religion In The World And Its Moral Beliefs
Every religion has its own moral "laws" which shall guide their followers to a enlightened mind and the right behaviour in situations where different decisions can be made. As Christianity belongs to the main religions in the world and is the widest spread, it has a lot of different ethics. Another reason for this diversity is, that Christians have both absolutist and relativist beliefs. The following article will display the different beliefs in christianity.
Christian Ethics is based on many theories because there is such a large diversity within Christianity. A lot of Christians will base their ethics on the writings of the bible. One of the ethics that came out from it were the ethics of Jesus. Most people just think that it is only based on the Ten Commandments, also called “Decalogue”, of the “Sermon on the Mount”, but also from the beginning it was attempting to reply to the philosophical questions of happiness. So the commandment of love is the most important one for Jesus. “Love is the fulfilling of the law. (Romans 13:10b)”
Another source of the ethical teachings of the bible comes from the ethics of Paul. They were written by him when the early Christians tried to interpret the ethics of Jesus and so it is strongly influenced by the ethics of Jesus. Paul stressed the importance of Christian freedom but to be free from judgement means also to be united with Christ and to live with everyone in harmony. He concentrated on love of the neighbour and this led to “community ethic” where everyone lives in a community led by the Holy Spirit. So it is strongly against differences of people for example that somebody works as a slave for a rich man. “...But if you are led by the spirit, you are not subject to the law... (Galatians 5:18)
The ethics of the bible caused also a big discussion about the authority of the bible. In the bible there are a lot of rules that believers shall follow, both in theory and practice. Peter Singer criticises this absolutism and says that Christians should try to find the true meaning of moral decisions: happiness. The different types of the church judge this differently and so there are no real answers to this problem. “[Judaeo-Christian ethic] is “an empty shell” which is laid aside by most people.” Peter Singer
The Divine Command Theory
Some other form of Christian Ethics is the Divine Command Theory. It says simply that actions are right or wrong whether they follow God's commands or not. This view goes completely against the morality of love because it gives strong moral rules which shall never be broken for example that you shall not murder but a lot of thinkers like Descartes thought that it would be a good theory. This leads to the question why we act morally and if there would be a reason to be ethical if God would not exist.
Plato's Connections To Christian Ethics
The whole problem of involvement of god in moral things was examined by Plato who made the Euthyphro Dilemma. It asks if something is good because good commands it or if it is good in itself and so God is commanding it. The first option has huge weaknesses because if everything which God commands is good, he could command that we should commit suicide and so it is criticised by a lot of people including Leibniz who asks why we shall praise him if we would praise him the same way if he would doing exactly the opposite of his deeds. The other option has also weaknesses because if things are intrinsically good they are independent from God and that something is independent from God contradicts with the bible.
A part of Christian ethics that is not so focused on legalism is Situation ethics. It puts love in the most important role and praises that man shall not follow every rule but also shall be flexible if more love is the result of their decision. This theory is explained most clearly by Joseph Fletcher who said that nothing is intrinsically good except love. It is heavily criticised by absolutists who say that it is too utilitarian. It is not clear if it is really a Christian Ethics although it puts love in the center but also Fletcher defines love in a different way than Jesus and in his life religion played not a big role. “As it is not possible to know God's will always, love or agape is the only moral rule.” Joseph Fletcher
The last big ethical theory in Christian Ethics is Natural Law. In short it says that nature is objectively knowable and with our reason we can understand our world. It gives rules that we shall follow which are called the primary and primary precepts. So it is a deontological and objective theory. It was invented by Thomas Aquinas and it gives clear rules to follow. There are also some problems with it too because a lot of people say that it only looks at the present and not what can happen because of actions.
In conclusion it can be said that Christian Ethics offer a broad range of different beliefs that all have only a few things in common except that they believe in some higher might. It is not only an approach to do moral decisions by looking at the action itself, it also looks at the consequences and the love in everybody.