How Would You Answer These Ethics Questions?


English: A section of a page from the Wicked B...

English: A section of a page from the Wicked Bible of 1631. The image is not copyrighted due to the age of the work. The section highlights a contemporary typographical error insofar as it omits the word not from the commandment “Thou shalt not commit adultery”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have taken a day for study today. One of the things I have been able to finally accomplish is to get a list of paper topics out to my students in Christian Ethics.  I have pasted the paper topics below in the form of propositions, which I expect the students either to defend or rebut. I am posting these topics because I thought you might find them interesting. You may want to think through the topics as well and answer them for yourself. Feel free to share your response to one or all of the topics:

1.  Christians should be protesting against the oppressing sin of usury because it is more clearly condemned in the Bible than abortion. (See Daily Kos article)

 

2.  Matthew 19:1-11 stands in complete agreement with Luke 16:18.

And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” (Matthew 19:9, NASB)

18 “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries one who is divorced from a husband commits adultery.” (Luke 16:18, NASB)

 

3.  There is never a situation in which it is acceptable for a Christian to lie—a thorough consideration.

 

4.  A proper biblical understanding of theology leads to the conclusion that masturbation is a sin for the Christian.

 

5.  The most important reason Christians cannot be utilitarian or consequentialist in their actions is ______________________________________ (fill in the blank, then defend it).

 

6.  Any Christian in any country throughout the world who wishes to live a consistent, Christian life of faith will suffer persecution.

3 Life Lessons from Listening to Groovy Music


When it comes to music, I got stuck in the ‘70’s.  In my mind, very little compares favorably to Carole King or James Taylor—or Gordon Lightfoot, America, or Seals and Crofts.  My favorite Spotify playlist is called “Dad’s Groovy Music” because since the ‘70’s, I have been groovy—the way a 33LP ought to be.

So it’s no wonder that I dig Crosby, Stills, and Nash’s most popular single: Southern Cross. (I know, it’s from the early 80’s, but it has the flavor of the 70’s.)   Ostensibly, the song is about the famous astronomical wonder down under: The Southern Cross.  In reality, the song is about the breakup of Stephen Stills’s marriage.  When understood in this context, the song contains at least three significant life lessons.

First—and I will admit that this first lesson applies more broadly than a single song—Southern Cross is about listening for redemption.  Some would argue that Christians ought not listen to secular music at all because it does not glorify God.  They would say that holiness demands our abstaining from Crosby, Stills, and Nash. I am not mocking their position.  The point is valid. I once cleansed myself of a 130 volume CD collection out of concern for holiness.  Music is a vehicle for carrying a message, and its message can easily carry us away from everything good. Never listen with an unguarded mind.  But if we listen with a guarded mind, we can find hints of redemption.

Here is what I mean. In the Old Testament, God’s people were told to be Holy because the Lord their God is Holy.  The same message is affirmed for God’s people in the New Testament.  But a significant change happened between the Old Testament and the New.  Jesus came, and with Jesus came redemption.  In the Old Testament, holiness took the form of abstaining from things the rest of the nations were indulging.

Life Lesson 1: In the New Testament, holiness looks less like abstention and more like redemption.  Meditate on Paul’s comments in Colossians 2:20-22, and you will see what I mean.[1]  Christians are holy through the redemption of Christ. We are alive to a new resurrected reality and, as such, ought to be those who point everything and everyone in this world to reality of Christ and His kingdom, which has begun.

So, with redemptive ears turned to the message of the Southern Cross, I offer two more life lessons.  These are easily grasped.  Stephen Sills wrote this song after his divorce in an attempt to find healing.  His crying out to his estranged wife is evident in the line: “In a noisy bar in Avalon, I tried to call you.”  He then admits that he understands why twice she ran away.

Southern Cross on Australia Flag

But in the chorus, he makes plain the permanence of marriage: “What heaven brought you and me cannot be forgotten.”  Stills even acknowledges that “spirits” are using him, and a larger voice is calling.  He gets that divorce cost him something real.  He gets that he needs something larger than himself if he will heal.  He looks to the heavens for his help but comes up short, finding only the Southern Cross. With redemptive ears, we can hear the permanence of eternal things even in secular lyrics.

Life Lesson Two: God has set eternity into every heart (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Listen to others with redemptive ears, and you will be able to point them to eternal realities.

Finally, realize that most folks live in a contradictory mindset.  While Stills gets the eternal nature of marriage, he feels also that it is lost. So, he must conclude, “Somebody fine will come along, Make me forget about loving you. At the Southern Cross.”  On the one hand, he sees that marriage is an eternal reality which cannot be forgotten.  On the other hand, when he feels all is lost, he professes belief that someone will come along who can erase it all.

If we listen closely to what others are saying, we might help them see that eternal things are real, and they need not give in to the contradiction.

Life Lesson Three: Eternity is real. Don’t live in contradiction.


            [1] Colossians2:20ff, If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, 21 “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” 22 (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? 23 These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence (NASB).

De-funding the American Dream


Who is responsible for this bad economy?  Republicans?  Democrats? President Obama, or George Bush?  Pushing aside our partisan passions, we could probably all agree that no single individual is responsible either for a good economy or a bad one.  Although all politicians like to claim credit for the good times (and point fingers of blame during the bad), the truth is, our economy is not driven by any individual.  Rather, it is driven by all the individuals who make up our country.  Together, we control the economy.

A recent article by David Goldman in First Things points out what might be the single most significant factor underlying our economic woes: The loss of the nuclear family in America.  If Goldman is right in his assessment, the loss of the nuclear family in America means that our present housing crisis is only just begun and will not improve without an increased priority on the family.  Although the population of the United States has increased by 50% since 1970, the number of two-parent families has remained the same.  The number of houses built for families has kept pace with the population increase.  However, there are just not enough families to fill the houses.  This demographic downgrade of the family means that there are not enough young families capable of investing in the future of America.

Where have all the families gone?  Well, it turns out that while everyone has been focused on the “important” issues on Wall Street and in Washington, DC, the most important issues were being cast aside into the crate labeled “controversial.”  Though a few folks like Dr. James Dobson have been raising the alarms in defense of the family, most have silently acquiesced to the cultural accommodations on abortion, marriage, and no-fault divorce.  The last few decades have indeed brought a bulging economy, but at what cost?

While the economy appeared to be booming because of borrowed money, the family was failing.  Now that the economy is failing, we are finding out that the heart of the American family is barely beating.   The family heart rate may not be sufficient to supply the investment America needs for her future.  So, Wall Street and the White House will keep shuffling a billion here or a trillion there, but their solutions may simply be a study of a forest without any trees.  The disintegration of the family is to the United States what deforestation is to the rain forests.  Sure, it makes you seem prosperous for a day, but it is killing your every tomorrow.

If Goldman’s article is correct, then the deforestation of the American family may well be the de-funding of the American dream.  My prayer is for a revival of family life in America.

Let’s Stay Together


Couples are deciding to stay together instead of getting divorced.  While we can all shout “Hooray” to such good news, we should first understand the reason couples are staying together.  Apparently, it’s too expensive to get divorced!  This story speaks of the reality that divorce takes a huge toll on home economics.  Divorce has caused many (particularly women) to live in poverty.  More and more people are realizing that fact.  Where it used to be that couples would stay together for the kids; now, couples are staying together for the cash.  Read the article