Editor’s Introduction -- By: John H. Armstrong

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 05:4 (Fall 1996)
Article: Editor’s Introduction
Author: John H. Armstrong


Editor’s Introduction

John H. Armstrong

The subject of ethics is generally conceived of in terms of a system of moral values, a way of treating or thinking about moral questions and choices; thus the Oxford English Dictionary (Shorter) speaks of ethics as a “field of moral science” or as “rules of conduct.” This is a starting point for a general definition but is inadequate for distinctly Christian purposes.

Biblical ethics relates human values and conduct directly to the text of the Word of God. Because Christians have historically believed that God speaks His mind to the world in the sacred Scriptures the Bible has always governed their approach to ethics. Christian ethics, as a subset of this larger field of thought, includes reflective and distinctive Christian thought about ethical decision making as well as the consideration of the history of Christian theologians’ response to the myriad of moral questions and decisions believers in Christ face. Indeed, ethics is related to theology in general and the living of the Christian life specifically. It is related to Justification because men made righteous through faith are new men. It is related to Sanctification because men being made progressively holy long not only to be right before God but to do the right corram deo. It is related to Glorification because those whom He will glorify are, by union with Christ, “being made holy” (Heb. 10:14).

Robertson McQuilkin writes:

Ethics might be called a system of moral values and duties. It has to do with ideal human character, actions, and ends. What ought a person to do or refrain from doing? What attitudes and behavior should be viewed as good? And why should they be considered good? What is the highest good, “the chief end of man,” the purpose of human existence? These are the questions the study of ethics seeks to answer.1

The word “ethics” itself is derived from two very similar Greek words which mean simply, “custom or usage and sometimes custom or practice as prescribed by law.”2 Professor John Murray suggests in his classic lectures on Christian ethics, Principles of Conduct, that the one instance in which the New Testament exemplifies more closely than any other the idea to which ethics has been used in Christian thought is 1 Corinthians 15:33. Here the apostle writes, “Bad company corrupts good morals.” The term “good morals” (or “good character,” NIV) refers to the manner of life and conduct ...

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