Secular Morality In Matters Of Life And Death -- By: David Cook

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 24:4 (NA 2008)
Article: Secular Morality In Matters Of Life And Death
Author: David Cook

Secular Morality In Matters Of Life And Death

David Cook

Fellow at Green College, Oxford University
Holmes Professor of Faith and Learning, Wheaton College

I do quite a lot of travel, and when you travel sometimes you want to be left alone. I want to give you a little clue how to achieve that. When people ask you, “What do you do for a living?” You say, “I teach philosophy.” That is the end of every conversation. I never had anybody say, “Wow! A real, live philosopher! Have I ever got some philosophical questions for you!” But every now and then I feel almost human and want some human contact. So when they say, “What do you do for a living?” then I say, “I teach ethics.” They think that is the county next to Thuthex (Sussex). “No, I teach medical ethics,” and they think that is a disease that doctors catch from senior doctors. Then they all tell me about their “friend,” and they know remarkable details of their “friend’s” medical problems. They describe it and want me to comment on their “friend’s” medical problem, because everyone is interested in medical issues today.

I used to work in an Episcopalian seminary. For a Baptist like me, that was hard going. It was interesting that in the seminary we had a particular model. Our model was to draw what we called vicars (pastors) who had in one hand a newspaper and in the other hand a Bible because we wanted to bring God’s Word and God’s world together. Sometimes, you know, we need to keep God’s Word fresh. So I like to read different translations, and I like particularly J.B. Phillip’s translation of Romans 12:2. He does not say, “Do not be conformed to this world.” He says, “Do not let this world squeeze you into its mold.” Whether we like it or not, we live in a society, a culture, a world, a global world which is trying to squeeze us into its own mold. I want to think this morning about how people outside the church, how non-Christians, how secular people, how people in government make decisions, particularly about questions of life and death.

I want you to imagine a nice, friendly discussion between a Roman Catholic doctor and a rabid feminist, and they are discussing that innocuous issue -abortion. The feminist says, “A woman has a fundamental right to do whatever she wants with her own body.” The Roman Catholic doctor says, “Why?” The woman says, “Well... Well, a woman has a fundamental right to do whatever she wants with her own body. For her, it is a principle.” The Roman Catholic doctor says, “Abortion is wrong.” The feminist says, “Why?” The Roman Catholic says, “It is wrong because it is wrong.” You see there are people in our secular world

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