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Ethics in Christianity

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Ethics in Christianity

According to Webster, ethics is "the science of moral duty."

He further describes it as "the science of ideal human

character." The word in Greek means "dwelling" or "stall,"

as in a safe place to live (our word "morals" comes from the

Latin word for ethics). The implication is that humans

depend on right choices for security. For a Christian, and

indeed for many non-Christians, Jesus Christ is the only

perfectly ethical person. He is the perfect man, always

making right choices, and to believe him to be flawed is to

abandon Christianity completely. Upon this fact and

foundation, we have a second belief that we are to allow God

to transform us into an image of His Son, Jesus. Jesus calls

us to follow him, become his disciples and inherit eternal

life. If Jesus is the ideal human being, and we are called

to imitate him, then we are called to an ethical life.

What is the Basis for Christian Ethics?

Christian ideas of right and wrong originate in revealed

truth, i.e. they stem from what God has taught us through

Jesus and the prophets and Apostles. This primarily means

the Bible for some, although as Catholics we accept as

equally true the teachings of the Apostles handed down

through the bishops and known as Tradition. For both the

Bible and Tradition, we believe we must obey because the

teachings come from God, not because they are wise, will

ensure a long life or prosperity. Christian ethics may be

contrasted with Utilitarianism, whose adherents simply "do

what works." Utilitarian ethics allowed the Holocaust,

slavery, and totalitarian Communism. Because Christians do

not believe humans made themselves or occurred "naturally,"

we do not believe we are free to do whatever su...

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Our own ethics must be built on revealed truth. Over time

the Church has spoken out on moral issues. Each teaching of

the Church is built on some more basic ethical truth. Each

of these truths is built ultimately on the Ten Commandments,

which originated with God Himself. Since God has commanded

obedience and trust, to disobey any commandment is to

disobey God in at least two ways. Jesus never said to obey

most God's Law. He did say that to disregard even the

smallest part of God's Law is to be considered least in the

Kingdom of God (Matthew 5:19).

An Exercise In Ethics

In class, choose a few Church teachings and try to follow

them back to the Ten Commandments, the Gospel or the early

Church. Use a chalkboard or large paper to draw these in the

form of branches in a tree. Try to follow what would happen

if one of the more basic truths were removed.
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