Christian Ethics Test

What does my religion tell me is right or wrong in this situation?

How to identify an ethical issue using the Christian Ethic's Test:

Ethical guidance in Christianity is provided by several means, including rules for conduct in the sacred scriptures of the Bible, the teaching of the prophets in the Old Testament, the teaching of Jesus and his disciples in the New Testament, the authoritative teaching of the various Christian churches, the interpretation and teaching of priests and ministers, the moral exemplars such as the saints, and the considerable body of work on ethics by Christian scholars. Which of these sources of guidance are emphasized will depend on the denomination, sect, congregation, or individual making the ethical judgment.

How to introduce Christian Ethics tests into a business, professional or social conversation:

To use this test, ask

  • What would God want me to do in this situation?  

  • Would Jesus do this action?

  • What would Holy Scripture, Church teaching, or the lives of the Saints inspire me to do? 

    • I could add that this insight might be valuable even for those who do not share my religious beliefs.

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Why is this a valid way to decide right and wrong?

The guidance I receive from my religion is justified by my belief that the universe I live in is the way my religion describes it.  Therefore, if I follow the guidance of my religion, I will be able to do what is right and thereby maintain my relationship with the divine and I will know how best to live together with others.

Though they have many elements in common, religious ethics may differ across different traditions within Christianity.

Applying the test:

STEP 1: Identify the source or sources of ethical guidance in Christianity that offers guidance in the situation.  
These include:

-the rules for conduct like the Ten Commandments in the sacred scriptures of the Bible

-the teaching of the prophets in the Old Testament

-the teaching of Jesus and his disciples in the New Testament

-the authoritative teaching of the Christian church the person belongs to

-the interpretation and teaching of individual priests and ministers

-the teaching and example of moral exemplars such as the saints

-the considerable body of work on ethics by Christian scholars


STEP 2: Explain how a Christian should apply this guidance to this specific situation 

Strengths of Christian Ethics:

Because guidance for how to live is part of my faith commitment, Religion tests motivate me to act on what I see to be the right thing to do.

Christianity provides decision making guides and motivations on each of the three Kohlberg levels of:


What's in it for me--salvation or damnation

Rule following--the Ten Commandments and Church teachings
My autonomous Decision Making--as St. Augustine said: "Love God and do whatever you want."

-For a brief summary of Lawrence Kohlber's analysis of the levels of moral development, click here! 


Kohlberg identifies:

Level A: the Premoral, in which I act based on a punishment and obedience orientation
Level B: Conventional Role Conformity which includes acting to maintain authority
Level C: Morality of Accepted Moral Principles, which includes acting by making decisions based on individual principles of conscience

The Christian world view, though interpreted differently by different faith communities, gives vivid accounts of what is right and wrong, illustrated by scripture, and teaching, and the lives of the Saints.

Christian ethical insights are often shared with other ethics traditions so a personal religious judgment can often be linked to a secular ethics test when I share it with others who may not share my faith.

Weaknesses of Christian Ethics:

Those who take their Christian ethics as being directly from God may consider their judgments based on this divine guidance to be the only possible ethical answer in a situation and be unwilling to look at any other source of ethics guidance as providing valuable insights.  This weakness is not limited to religions’ views of what is right or wrong.

Christian ethics guidance may not be accepted by those outside that faith tradition. In addition to people of other faiths, there are growing numbers of people around the world who have no religious beliefs or do not belong to any religion. These "nones" are predicted to reach 1.2 billion worldwide by 2060. There are countries like South Korea, Vietnam, and Japan where they are a majority, and a recent study showed that 70 percent of 18 - 29 year olds in the U.K. identify as having "no religion."

There are also settings such as commercial workplaces where religious ethics tests are considered personal and not a part of the discussion of what's right or wrong.

Click the following links for case examples

 

For a page of quick links to move between ethical theories and steps to operationalize these theories, return to the EthicsOps Theory + Practice page.

 

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