Four things Christians need to know about ethics – introduction

Recently I have been thinking about what I have learned over the past six and a half years of working with college students and engaging them in discussions related to ethics. The students I interact with are at an evangelical Christian university and most of them are very committed to their faith. They are a very intelligent and capable group of students. They are also often very unclear about some things that I think are very essential to a Christian way of thinking about ethics and morality. Most of them have grown up in evangelical churches and I suspect that how they think reflects what their churches are teaching or failing to teach. Since many of them are students who have been in the university for several years already, how they think also reflects what we in the university are teaching or failing to teach.

What I have begun to recognize is that there are some things that distinguish how Christian ethicists think about moral things that are different from how the culture that we live in thinks about those things and that many of the students I interact with think more like the surrounding culture than a Christian ethicist. If their thinking about moral things is not transformed to reflect a more Christian way of thinking by the time they leave the university I suspect it will not change after that. If they think about moral things the same as the culture that surrounds us, then they will lives their lives in a way that is little different from that culture and is not distinctively Christian. That concerns me.

From reflection on my interactions with students over the past few years I have identified four things understood by evangelical Christians who have thought deeply about moral things that are distinct from how the majority culture in America thinks. These are things that critically impact a Christian view of bioethics. These are also things which many students would tend to understand more like the surrounding culture. If we as the church and as Christian educators are going to help raise a generation that lives distinctively Christian lives we need to communicate these things effectively. I am concerned we may not be doing so.

The four things I have identified are:
• Realizing that there is objective moral truth
• Understanding the problems of consequential ethics
• Knowing who is a person with full moral status
• Understanding the nature of human beings

Over the next 4 weeks I plan to reflect on each of these in turn.

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Trevor Stammers
Trevor Stammers

Totally agree with you especially re the meaning of objectivity. There is a lot of confusion about what constitutes an objective vs a subjective statement. Students often mistakenly think a subjective statement is about feelings and an objective one about reason! No wonder such misunderstanding leaves them vulnerable in matters of faith.