Saturday, December 17, 2005

delivering love as a foundation for christian ethics

In response to the question posed by some Pharisees about which of God’s laws was the greatest, Jesus replied, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”[1] Later, near the closing of His ministry, Jesus reiterated this idea to his disciples with a “new commandment, that you love one another.”[2]

In their book, Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context, Glen Stassen and David Gushee attempt “to reclaim Jesus Christ for Christian Ethics and for the moral life of the churches.”[3] Although Jesus proclaimed love as His primary and foundational commandment, the importance of Christian love does not find its place until the last third of Kingdom Ethics, following chapters on the Christian ethics of war, peace, capital punishment, abortion, euthanasia, and biotechnology.[4] In this paper I will briefly outline what Stassen and Gushee (S/G) offer as the foundation of Christian ethics and show, using their criteria, that Christian love should have been included in this foundation. I will then explain S/G’s reasons for appropriately understanding Christian love as delivering love. Finally, using the particular ethical issue of capital punishment, I will briefly show how this understanding of love used as a foundation for ethics, provides the basis for a better and more complete (though perhaps more complicated) Christian response.

read the rest here

[1] Matthew 22:37-9. All Biblical quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version.

[2] John 13:34.

[3] Glen Stassen and David Gushee, Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 11.

[4] Kingdom Ethics is composed of twenty-one chapters, with each chapter highlighting an important aspect of Christian ethics in light of Jesus’ teachings. While the chapters are not necessarily ordered by importance, S/G assert that the first six chapters are “the foundation” and “the perennial themes of moral authority and moral norms in Christian ethics” (Ibid., 13). Love is not a chapter topic until the sixteenth chapter.

1 comment:

  1. Great post. To build upon your point, check out Norman Geisler's latest book 'Love Your Neighbor: Thinking Wisely About Right and Wrong'--ethics cannot be just black and white law. There has to be that element of love that motivates our desire for obedience. Geisler does a great job of fleshing it out. A must read.


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