Editorial: The Importance of Ethics -- By: Thomas R. Schreiner

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 04:1 (Spring 2000)
Article: Editorial: The Importance of Ethics
Author: Thomas R. Schreiner


Editorial: The Importance of Ethics

Thomas R. Schreiner

Thomas R. Schreiner is Professor of New Testament Interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, a position he accepted after a decade of teaching at Bethel Theological Seminary. He is the author of Interpreting the Pauline Epistles, The Law and Its Fulfillment: A Pauline Theology of Law, the Baker Exegetical Commentary on Romans, and several other scholarly publications.

Pastors and Christian leaders might be forgiven for thinking that they can ignore the complex ethical questions that arise in today’s technological world. Perhaps they might be tempted to employ a referral service, so that they can direct members of their congregations to specialists when questions arise that exceed their wisdom. Obviously, busy pastors and laypersons cannot keep up on the issues in the same way as scholarly ethicists. Consulting experts on ethical questions may indeed prove to be of significant assistance as we contemplate the best course of action. Reading articles and books, after all, is one of the means by which we seek the help of those who have reflected deeply on matters in which we are novices. Indeed, we are including an issue on ethics precisely because pastors, Christian leaders, and interested laypersons need assistance in understanding ethical questions in a world with technological virtuosity.

Nevertheless, while we may seek assistance, we should not forsake our responsibility. We should not relinquish ethical questions to experts who are supposedly neutral, nor should we expect their judgments to be flawless. Ethicists, like all other human beings, are prone to error, and they may begin to assess ethical questions in ways that violate the gospel and contravene the scriptures. We are grateful for ethicists who live under the authority of the scriptures and appraise ethical questions from a biblical worldview. We must, however, grow in knowledge ourselves so that contemporary ethical debates are not assigned to a priestly elite, to experts in white coats, who hand down their pronouncements to the masses. If ethical matters are relinquished to scholarly ethicists, how will we know if they veer off course? Therefore, we must live in a balanced way by learning from ethicists who have acquired an in-depth knowledge of their field, and by learning enough about the issues to assess whether their specific advice is in accord with the scriptures.

Nor will it do to say that we will never face complex ethical decisions. Medical advances are inevitable, and hence we will surely face more and more people in our congregations struggling with ethical decisions. They will wonder about the legitimacy of in vitro fertilization and artificial insemination. Difficult decisions regarding the ...

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