The SBJT Forum: Foundations for Ethics in a Secular Age -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 04:1 (Spring 2000)
Article: The SBJT Forum: Foundations for Ethics in a Secular Age
Author: Anonymous

The SBJT Forum:
Foundations for Ethics in a Secular Age

Editor’s Note: Readers should be aware of the forum’s format. Scott Hafemann, Stephen Wellum, Bruce Ware, James Parker, and R. Albert Mohler, Jr. have been asked specific questions to which they have provided written responses. These writers are not responding to one another. The journal’s goal for the Forum is to provide significant thinkers’ views on topics of interest without requiring lengthy articles from these heavily-committed individuals. Their answers are presented in an order that hopefully makes the forum read as much like a unified presentation as possible.

SBJT: How would you develop a Christian ethic from the standpoint of the Scriptures?

Scott Hafemann: My greatest concern is that in approaching ethics from the standpoint of “problems” or “issues” (e.g., what is the Christian view of armed conflict, of abortion, of lending money at interest, of lying to save a life, of making babies in test tubes?, etc.), we are careful to avoid viewing people as independent, neutral figures who approach ethics as problem solvers. Nor should we reduce the pastor or counselor to an advice giver or a moralist, a cheerleader or an ethicist, so that the scriptures become a book of “case studies” in ethical dilemmas. This is not the way to go.*

I am not denying that we must work hard to determine our Christian response to the moral questions we face. In doing so, however, we must not turn to the commands and life-examples in the Bible as either advice or as ethical principles for living. To do so is to disregard their function and to deny their context. The commands of God are not “tips” or even “requirements for living,” now that one believes in Christ, as if they are something that needs to be added to our relationship with God. Nor are they natural laws to be obeyed as reflections of a natural theology. Rather, I am convinced more and more that the commands of God are expressions of His character as applied to His people within the covenant He made with them. The commands of God are theological statements, through and through. As such, they are not added to our life with Christ, they define our life with Christ. And taken together, the biblical commands make the one central, alldetermining point of the Bible: God is the all-sufficient source and supply of our lives. Though inherently offensive to the self-reliance and self-glorification that is so much a part of modern culture (and every culture since the Fall), the heart of “ethics” is Paul’s stark reminder that we cannot claim anything as coming from ourselves (cf. Acts 17:24–25; Rom 11:36; Eph 2:8–...

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