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Why a Christian Ethic?

Why an ethics based specifically on Christianity? - especially in a multicultural and multifaith world? - and don't all the religions agree on ethics? Or why not a humanist secular ethics on which all could agree? Are atheists unethical?

These are important issues to discuss if the aims of this website are to be understood; and important issues to settle if this website is to insist on promoting a Christian, or rather biblical, approach to architecture, not only for Christians, but also for secularists and those of other religions.

The Case for Choosing a Christian Ethic

The Jubilee Centre has put the case for biblically based ethics in its newsletter Engage of Autumn 2006, and most recently in its Cambridge Paper of December 2012 Christianity: the true humanism.

 

Because all people are made in God's image we can expect non-Christians to see, to a meaningful extent, the wisdom of God's ways. A biblically inspired ethic will not always or necessarily be rejected outside the community of faith. Just as in Proverbs 8 wisdom is said to "raise my voice to all mankind" so we ought to be seeking to persuade non-Christian friends, colleagues or political leaders to embrace the way of wisdom. Doing so is an act of love because non-Christians, or predominantly non-Christian societies, that listen will in general experience blessing. That is the way the moral order operates.

Our conviction is that where human beings, whether Christian or not, live in God's world God's way, healthier relationships and thus a richer and more fulfilling life is the general outcome. This is the way of wisdom; it is folly to kick against the order of creation and walk another path.
                                                                                                 
(Engage, Autumn 2006)

Christianity is the most coherent form of humanism. By contrast, secular humanism is historically and philosophically  dependent upon Christianity's view of the human person.
                                                            
(Christianity: the true humanism,  December 2012)

This is why the Ten Commandments, those ordering our relationship with God as well as those guiding our relationships with each other, are of universal application, and do not just apply to Jews and Christians.

The Old Testament is the history of people failing to keep these commandments, but with the prophecy of a coming Messiah (Saviour) who will enable them to do so. The New Testament is the account of this Messiah (Jesus Christ, Anointed Saviour) who offers humankind the power to go beyond assenting to moral principles to putting them into practice.

Traditionally western society has been based on Christianity, a Judeo-Christian world view based on the teaching of the Bible in both old and new testaments. While this does not support the notion of Christendom associated with the Emperor Constantine, the crusades or theocratic states (apart from ancient Israel) it does uphold the concept of individuals, institutions and governments following Christian principles.

 

Why be Moral?

Charles Colson (of Watergate fame) has asked if western society can discard its Judeo-Christian heritage and live happily (and virtuously) ever after.  (Third Way November 2000).

"With the enlightenment intellectuals began to argue that since God was no longer needed to explain creation, he was no longer needed to establish moral laws. Reason alone would form the basis for morality."

Since then the big question has been that posed by Dostoyevsky. Can man be good without God?

Unfortunately reason alone cannot come up with a viable moral system acceptable to even the majority.

A universal code of ethics was attempted during the 1940s, drawn up by the greatest scholars from every discipline, but even at the organising session "battle lines were drawn between traditionalists and modernists."

Science was seen as the only absolute by the modernists (though of course this is not accepted in today's postmodern world) who argued that all values are relative - except tolerance! The original goal of defining 'cultural universals' proved to be impossible.

Today ethics has degenerated into relativism when even each individual has it his way - like Frank Sinatra.

Are atheists unethical?

Third Way magazine recently questioned the basis of their ethics

Atheists are not unethical but hold to a different ethic. However their liberal ethic, admittedly differing more from Christian morality in the area of sexual ethics than over architecture, actually has a Christian foundation without which it would not exist.

They constantly insist that religion is not only harmful but completely unnecessary. Who needs religion when we can get by with good old common decency?
Ardent atheists end up appealing to universal professions and declarations of rights. The early inspiration is the American Bill of Rights in which the authors 'hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights...... But the only reason any of the Rights were self evident to the authors was because they were , by and large, Christians.

However it is mainly in the West with its culture based on Christianity that human rights are upheld

[Traditional] Western social norms and mores are far from universal. In fact many 'self-evident truths' are utterly offensive to 'civilised' people from other nations..... The fact is that atheists all enjoy the benefits of a Christian society, which includes freedom of expression, equality before the law and tolerance.

Third Way April 2007

Human Rights

Is this the answer?

In the UK the government is implementing the Human Rights Act as "an ethical language we can all recognise and sign up to . One that is based on principles of our common humanity."

But this approach focuses on rights to the detriment of duties and responsibilities, further increasing the claims culture. It has also led to refused planning applications being granted at appeal on the grounds of human rights, that people have the right to build whatever they like, irrespective of what the land is zoned for, and without regard to their neighbours. It has become a Bill of Rights for individuals to the expense of the common good, the rights of communities.

 

Interpretation

Isn't  it all a question of interpretation anyway?

No prophecy of scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.  But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive opinions.   (2 Peter 1v20 - 2v1.  NRSV)

It may appear from this that we can never be sure of having the correct interpretation of the Bible. However this is not so as the Bible is its own interpreter. Every verse should be interpreted in the light of the whole of the Bible's teaching, and in such a way that it does not contradict any other teaching.
This is different from the scriptures of other religions, for instance Islam. The Koran is open to various interpretations, by ordinary Muslims, by imams, or by Islamist terrorists, and there is no central authority to determine who is right.

 
 
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