What is ethics?....continued
Why should we bother about ethics?
Why should we bother about ethics at all? Surely as far as
Christian ethics are concerned, well, didn't they go out with the proverbial
In today's world we are exercised about absolutes for
behaviour and refuse such notions. Society looks for a fixed point on which to
base standards for behaviour in an ever-moving and ever-growing accumulation of
reasoning. Therefore in today's society words like standards and responsibility
are indefinable, and we face a future in an amoral society.
Imagine that it were possible to mark a molecule of water in
an ocean and after several days come back and look for that molecule. Well, we
would not find it. This is what happens with an amoral society; it deals with
each situation differently.
William Barclay in his book "Ethics in a permissive society"
"If you want to put it in one sentence, ethics is the
science of behaviour. Ethics is the bit of religion that tells us how we ought
to behave. Now it so happens that in regard to ethics we are facing today a
situation which the Christian church never had to face before.
Not so very long ago, when I was young and first
entered the ministry, the great battle cry was: 'don't bother about theology;
stick to ethics.' People would say: 'Stop talking about the Trinity and about
the two natures of Jesus and all that sort of thing, and stick to ethics. Never
mind theology; just stick to the Sermon on the Mount, and let the abstractions
and the abstruseness's and the
philosophy and the meta-physics go.' People said: 'Take theology away - I can't
understand it anyway.'
But thirty years ago no one ever really questioned the
Christian ethic. Thirty years ago no one ever doubted that divorce was
disgraceful; that illegitimate babies were a disaster; that chastity was a good
thing; that an honest day's work was part of the duty of any respectable and
responsible man; that honesty ought to be part of life. But today, for the
first time in history, the whole Christian ethic is under attack. It is not
only the theology that people want to abandon it is the ethic as well.
That is why it is so important to look at the Christian
ethic today, to see what it is all about, and to ask if it is still as binding
It would seem clear that as society abandons the standards
and moral values of its forefathers, behaviour deteriorates. Christian ethics
are the standard for conduct and behaviour that is the way forward for the
global society of the twenty first century.
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