Thursday, September 9, 2021

Kingdom Ethics: Race

Racial discrimination is a big issue which this country has faced and it has its influence in every social-political structure. Justice rather than reconciliation is the better rubric under which to consider the issue of race. If reconciliation is understood as the repair of broken relationships and the restoration of trusting an intimate community between persons and groups, then justice is its first step. Racial reconciliation is not possible unless there is first the redress of race-based or race-lined injustice.

        Some of the injustice can be seen in the violent crimes and death committed against Black people or a particular group of people. We see hate crimes and death penalties handed over to a particular group of people. This has led to a reduction in life expectancy. Many of the political decisions and steps taken are racially biased. We see power imbalances and discrimination at every level. We see from history that there existed housing discrimination and exclusion from voting rights. Even some people are excluded from churches and other voluntary associations.

        God-given diversity of human family was twisted by sin into the destruction of human community long before the first slaves reached this country. The Bible records the conflicts between the human people groups and offers rich normative resources for racial justice and reconciliation. There are distinctions drawn between the Israelites and other people and these are religious-moral rather than racial. Jesus clearly undertook his ministry within the Jewish context but much of the ministry was focused in Galilee and he also visited non-Jewish areas.

There is a need to overcome these differences and provide justice for people who have suffered as a result of racial discrimination. As Christians, we need to learn to see people in the way God sees them. All human beings are the creation of God and every one is created in the image of God. This does not mean that we do something which may display that we see everyone as equal but it has to come from deep inside of us and it needs to be reflected in our words, actions, and thought.  I believe that it will require a lot of repentance or intentional effort from our side so that we see people as equal and not discriminate based on the color of skin or any other physical traits. The main point is that we cannot ignore justice in any form of reconciliation we aspire to have with people whom we betrayed or oppressed.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

Stassen, Glen H. and David P. Gushee. Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2003.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Kingdom Ethics: Shame and Conscience

In his chapter on Shame and Conscience, Bonhoeffer says that man is reminded of his dis-union with God in shame. Conscience is man’s disunion with himself and it relates to himself and is not concerned with God and other men. Conscience is satisfied when the prohibition is not disobeyed. Whatever is not forbidden is permitted and for conscience, life falls into two parts: what is permitted and what is forbidden. 

There is no positive commandment and what is permitted for conscience is identical with good and it does not register the fact. And even in this man is in a state of disunion with his origin. The range of experience of conscience does not extend to the fact that this unity itself pre-supposes disunion with God and with man and that consequently beyond the disobedience to the prohibition, the prohibition itself, as the call of conscience, arises with disunion from the origin. 

This means that conscience is not concerned with man’s relation to God and to other men but with man’s relation with himself. Bearing within himself the knowledge of good and evil, man has become judge over God and man just as he is judge over himself. Man begins to reflect upon himself while he starts knowing of good and evil in disunion with the origin and in conflict, the judge is invoked and the judge is the knowledge of good and evil which is the man.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Ethics. New York, NY: Touchstone, 1955.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Kingdom Ethics: Love

Some of the key points from Kingdom Ethics: Love.

Love is at the heart of the life of Christ, his teaching, and his death on the Cross and for Christians, love is the heart of living. Even on the cross, Jesus reflected his compassion through his actions. It is important for Christians to understand what we mean by love and what the true shape of love is. It is important to compare and discern which form of love fits best for Christian ethics.

    Sacrificial love is the agape love which is purely unselfish, spontaneous and unmotivated by any value or benefit the other might have for us. It is not created by any value it sees in others but instead creates value in them. This love is regardless of the attractiveness of the one we love and is not something we do but God initiates it as a pure gift and we reflect the love that shines from God through us towards others. The sacrificial love throws its pure white light on our usual way of loving and reveals our selfish rationalizing and calculating but it has some very damaging liabilities. People sometimes see it as ideal and impossible and they either write it off as impractical or experience its lack with a guilty conscience. It also seems to sewer the connection between love and justice. It has also been used to keep oppressed people at their place. It also seems to understand the significance of Jesus’ death. Jesus did not die on the Cross for the sake of self-sacrifice but to deliver us from our bondage to sin.

    Mutual love is the love which is two-way and not one-way. The New Testament doctrine of love is based first on the mutual love between God, the Father and the son. Another type of love is the love with equal regard. This love means that we value all persons equally regardless of their special traits, actions, merits of what they can do for us. This fits well with the struggle for justice. Equal regard also seems to assume that the problem we have is to get a correct philosophical definition of our ethical norm. Another kind of love is the delivering love which is not a single principle but a complex drama which is with dramatic actions. Christian love points centrally to the drama of Jesus Christ.

    God in Christ loves us even to point of becoming vulnerable to our rejection of him at the Cross. The delivering love offered in the cross has continuity with the works of God and the deeds of deliverance. Jesus did not merely die for the sake of sacrifice but to deliver us. Delivering love does not divorce the Cross from the greedy injustice and the legalistic hate that continue to cause Jesus to be crucified again. We need to understand that love includes confrontation, and God’s love confronts those who are far away from him. As Christians we need to evaluate our own life and see what kind of love we should have towards others as it concerns how we behave and how we deals with people.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

Stassen, Glen H. and David P. Gushee. Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2003.


Monday, September 6, 2021

Kingdom Ethics: Authority and Scripture

Below is a reflection from Kingdom Ethics: Authority and Scripture.

The two key methodological issues in Christian ethics raised by Jesus when he talks about law and the prophets found in Matthew 5:17-20 are:

  1. Where shall Christians turn for authoritative insight and direction in shaping their ethics which relates to the source of authority?
  2. How shall scripture be interpreted in Christian ethics and how is Scripture used?

            The issue of biblical authority is a recurring question in church life and Christian ethics. If the church is functioning as it should, it will continually and very earnestly engage in a search for authoritative direction and insight concerning its character and its conduct. It is not enough to say that Scripture, tradition, divine guidance, conscience, church leaders, and the other function as the sources of authority. Christians need to know which among these sources they should really use and how to order and rank the constellation of sources to which they turn. Jesus Christ in his teaching and preaching constantly upheld the Scripture quoting, alluding to, or showing the impact of all aspects of his Bible. It is clear that Jesus immersed himself in the Scriptures, knew them well, and lived out what he understood them to teach. Jesus’ discussion of the Pharisaic/ Rabbinic religious tradition makes the centrality and the authority of Scriptures strikingly clear while also revealing his approach to tradition itself. On a scriptural basis, Jesus rejected the tradition. For Jesus, a clear distinction existed between the Word of God and human tradition. Jesus clearly cherished the Jewish religious tradition and participated in it in a wide variety of ways but he insisted on subjecting the tradition to Scripture and to God’s creative and redemptive intentions. The place of divine encounter in the life and ministry of Jesus is apparent, Though Scripture records no direct example of Jesus’ moral teachings flowing out of the divine encounter. Jesus frequently retreats into prayer, especially before major decisions and experiences. There is no mention of what happened during these encounters but his teaching and preaching reflect the impact and centrality of Hebrew Scripture. Even his central teaching concerning the kingdom of God is a biblical concept and it is not something he discovered and created through his encounter with God. Christian ethics has repeatedly addressed the sources of authority and they have identified it in the use of the Bible.

            If Scripture is to be so central, a source of authority, we must be careful about how we interpret it for Christian ethics. We can see that the Sermon on the Mount is best understood as a series of interpretations of teachings in the Torah and the prophets. For Jesus, the Hebrew Scriptures were to be interpreted not through the grid of Rabbinic Scribal Casuistry dominant in his day but instead that offered by the prophets of Israel. Jesus interpreted the Torah as a gracious, divine covenant rather than as the law. Jesus understood the Torah as an expression of God’s grace just as the Exodus was an expression of God’s grace. Interpreting Scripture through a prophetic grid leads to a moral than on the cultic aspect of the law. Jesus had a prophetic rather than a legalistic understanding of the content of righteousness. Jesus repeatedly calls his listeners to turn from an emphasis on ritual defilement and outward purity and to an awareness of the wellsprings of real moral purity. Jesus’ emphasis on the heart is apparent through the Sermon on the Mount and it should not be misconstrued by saying that conduct does not matter but only the heart’s attitude matters. Jesus whole-heartedly affirmed the validity and the continuing authority of the Law and the prophets. Obedience, deeds, and practices are the keywords and they are not merely assent to the right moral convictions. Scripture is the central source of authority for Christian ethics and Jesus is the key to interpret Scripture. 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Stassen, Glen H. and David P. Gushee. Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2003.

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Ethics. New York, NY: Touchstone, 1955.

Davis, John Jefferson. Evangelical Ethics. Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 2004.

 

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Reflections on Evangelical Ethics

Technologically, we are making a lot of progress, but morally we appear to be lost. Evangelical Christians are challenged to formulate their positions on what are literally matters of life and death. Since the time of reformation, the subject of casuistry has become less fashionable in Protestant circles. 

Jesus in no way minimized the role of specific obedience to the commandments of God but made such specific obedience a test of the genuineness of the disciples’ love. The teachings of the Scripture are the final quote of appeal for ethics. Human reason, church tradition, and the natural social sciences may aid moral reflections but divine revelation found in the Bible constitutes the bottom line of the decision-making process. 

The Word of God is the only infallible and inerrant rule of faith and practice and consequently is the highest authority for both doctrine and morals. There has been a widespread tendency in modern biblical scholarship to minimize the prescriptive element in New Testament ethics in favor of a generalized appeal to Christian faith and love apart from the specifics of the law. The love of God shed abroad in the heart of the believer is indeed the dynamic motivation of Christian behavior, but this love demonstrates itself in harmony with and not apart from, the specific commandments and the precepts of the Holy Scriptures. 

The Bible endorses the principle that human life is of far greater value than physical property or possessions. When the loss of God conflicts with the loss of man, the human loss must yield to the higher authority of God. Christians seeking to influence public policy will recognize both the value and the limitations of civil law as an instrument of social change. Civil laws that are consistent with the teachings of Scriptures point society to a higher standard of righteousness which is fulfilled only in Jesus Christ. Such laws remain a worthy object of Christian concern and social action.



BIBLIOGRAPHY

Stassen, Glen H. and David P. Gushee. Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2003.

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Problem with Relativism

Relativism is a knowledge-denying claim i.e.; that truth claims are really just opinions or culturally-shaped perspectives. Facts, moral precepts, or values can be true for you and at the same time not true for me. Relativists deny that objective universal truth exists. Many Christians struggle to respond to relativism and fail to live a faithful life in a morally discouraging culture. The culture war between truth and relativism is not at all new and the belief that universal objective truth does not exist (alethic skepticism) or cannot be known (epistemological skepticism) is not a latecomer to the Western civilization. Although relativism has intermittently appeared and reappeared throughout history, its dominance of culture is new. They argue that rather than having a significant voice in public life, religion has to be relegated to private and personal life. Relativism is a knowledge-denying enterprise and if you say you know something you are not really a relativist. It claims that knowledge is unattainable and objective relativism tells us that no truth is objectively true or false. One person’s truth which amounts to opinion can conflict with another’s truth and still both can be valid.

             Religious relativism maintains that one religion can be true for one person or culture while untrue for another. Religious beliefs are seen as simply an accident of birth and are a product of historical happenstance and the argument goes that no single religious belief can be universally or objectively true. Moral relativism rejects any binding moral values for all maintaining that there is no objective ethical right and wrong and that morality is an individual or cultural matter.

            Relativism is an assault on the truth but at the same time, it has its cultural implications. On the religious front, persuasion is prohibited and evangelism is seen as cramming your religion down someone’s throat. Sharing about Jesus gets people upset and evangelism implies that you believe that your news is true and you believe that your hearers should turn from their present way of life. Another implication “is to be exclusivistic is seen as arrogant.” The variations of religious beliefs in the world claiming to know something others don’t must be wrong-headed and erroneous. Another implication is that tolerance is the cardinal virtue implying that someone is wrong sounds terribly intolerant when tolerance popularity is defined as (being open or accepting of all ideas). For example, what homosexual activists call tolerance is an unconditional acceptance of their lifestyle as legitimate and right. A final implication of relativism perhaps best explains how disputes over truth can begin to feel like a war. “Absent the possibility of truth, power rules the day.” i.e.; once the truth is whatever we say it is, asserting power over others is a natural next step.

             On the surface level, relativism sounds relaxed and easy-going. When we think through its implications and apply them rigorously to life, we see the pitfalls of being so accommodative.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Copan, Paul. True for You But Not for Me. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 2009.

Friday, September 3, 2021

The Case for a Creator: The Evidence of Consciousness: The Enigma of the Mind

This blog presents a summary of Chapter 10 from Lee Strobel's book 'The Case for a Creator.

The basic argument in the chapter- 

The basic argument of the chapter is that there is a mind or consciousness existing in human beings which is beyond or different from the brain. We are created in the image of God and hence our soul is complex to understand. The chapter deals with evidence of consciousness. Lee Strobel starts with the controversy over consciousness and concerns related to brains boundaries. Then he writes about his interview with J.P. Moreland which deals with various issues and questions regarding consciousness.

2.  The major points of the argument that impressed me the most-

Wilder Penfield, the renowned father of modern neurosurgery through performing surgery on more than a thousand epileptic patients encountered concrete evidence that the brain and the mind are actually distinct from each other, although they clearly interact. Penfield ended up agreeing with the bible’s assertion that human beings are both body and spirit. A year-long British study provided that evidence that consciousness continues after a person’s brain has stopped functioning and he or she has been clinically dead. It was dramatic new evidence that the brain and the mind are not the same but they are distinct entities. A scientist could know more about what is happening in my brain than I do but he could not know more about what is happening in my mind than I do. He can know about the brain by studying it but he cannot know about the mind without asking the person to reveal it because conscious states have the feature of being inner and private. The argument for computers being able to imitate intelligence and that can have artificial intelligence and the fact that they will never ever have consciousness and the arguments put forth were also impressive.

3.    Some questions that came up while reading the chapter -

a)     What is the relation between our feelings or emotions in relation to the debate of mind and brain? What plays a major role in determining how our emotions are controlled?

b)     If our consciousness or mind does not die when we are clinically dead and our brain ceases to exist, then what part plays the function of the brain once a person is dead? During an after-death experience, what is that part which helps in doing the function that the brain does when a person is alive? In other words, how will intelligence function when a person is devoid of his body and left only with his consciousness?

How does this argument "measure up" as an apologetic?

I think it is a good argument for the existence of an intelligent designer behind the design of human beings. The issue of the difference between mind and brain can draw the attention of a person to think beyond the natural or accidental way of thinking about human life. This argument can be used as an apologetic argument at an advanced level. The existence of consciousness which cannot be replicated in any other machines or computer is a strong argument for human beings being unique in creation. Various arguments given by J. P. Moreland in support of dualism like the inner and private mind, the reality of the soul, etc., lay down a strong foundation to understand the difference. If the existence of a consciousness which does not die when a person dies can be proved, then the destiny of this consciousness which does not die when a person dies is an interesting question. This could draw a person’s attention to a supreme power or a creator God to who people are accountable. This argument cannot be used as a standalone tool but can be combined with various other arguments.


 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Strobel, Lee. The Case for a Creator. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004.

Kingdom Ethics: Race

Racial discrimination is a big issue which this country has faced and it has its influence in every social-political structure. Justice rath...