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They held that salvation comes from faith, not from human works.

Protestantism ultimately rejected the Catholic sacrament of penance and thus never developed the casuistry involved in carrying out the role of the confessor as judge. Protestant ethics has been described as an ethics of inspiration, primarily because it does not usually get into a minute philosophical discussion of the morality of particular acts.

The Reformation insistence on the importance of Scripture characterizes much of Protestant ethics, but Scripture has been used in different ways. When God's immanence is stressed, there is a tendency to find in Scripture a moral message that can be lived by Christians in this world.

When the transcendence of God is stressed, Scripture tends to be used more dialectically to include a judging and critical role with regard to every human enterprise. Perhaps the greatest change in Protestantism came to the fore in the nineteenth-century dispute over a critical approach to Scripture. Whereas liberal Protestantism — and soon most of mainstream Protestantism — employed literary and historical criticism to understand the Bible, fundamentalist Protestantism has continued to see the Bible primarily in terms of propositional truths or ethical norms and rules that God has revealed for all time and that Christians are called to obey.

Such a deontological approach based on God's absolute laws given in Scripture cannot be accepted by Protestants who approach Scripture with the hermeneutical tools of biblical scholarship.

Christian Ethics Part I

Many contemporary Protestants see in Scripture the description of the mighty acts of God in history to which followers of Jesus must respond, and they consequently adopt a responsibility model of Christian ethics rather than a deontological approach. Protestantism in general gives more significance to the theological aspects of Christian ethics than did traditional Roman Catholic ethics. Catholic ethics tended to see the moral life of all in this world in the light of natural law, whereas Protestantism has generally understood life in this world in relationship to the Bible and to theological concerns.

Soteriology, Christology, and eschatology all have some influence on much of Protestant ethics. For example, Protestant ethics tends to see sin primarily in theological categories as a lack of faith, whereas Roman Catholicism understands sin primarily as actions that are morally wrong. For some Protestants the primacy of grace and of Christ rules out any significant role for the human and the natural in Christian ethics.


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For others the effects of sin are so strong that human reason and human nature cannot be valid sources of ethical wisdom and knowledge. Even those Protestant ethicists who would be more open to the human on theological grounds shy away from the ontology and metaphysics that undergird Roman Catholic natural-law thinking. Protestants have also tended to give more significance to history than to nature, because history is more compatible with biblical categories and with the insistence on the freedom of God and of human beings.

The first systematic, scientific, and independent treatment of Protestant ethics separated from dogmatic theology was produced by Georg Calixtus d.

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Although the early reformers did not write scientific Christian ethics as such, they dealt with significant methodological and substantive issues affecting Christian ethics. Justification by faith active in love stands at the heart of Lutheran theology and is opposed to merit, justification by works, and legalism. The emphasis on Scripture, even to the point of accepting the axiom "scripture alone," is another characteristic of the Reformation.

Love, Human and Divine: The Heart of Christian Ethics

Luther stressed freedom above all, but the dialectical aspect of his thought is seen in his famous saying "A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all. Lutheran social ethics is based on the two-realm theory, referring to the realm of creation and the realm of redemption. In the realm of creation, which involves the social life of human beings, there are true vocations for Christians, but the content of these vocations and what one does are not affected by Jesus, faith, or grace.

Redemption affects only one's motivations. For this reason, Lutheran social ethics has often been accused of passivism and acceptance of the status quo. John Calvin d. God is primarily sovereign will.

Philosophy and Christian Theology (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

Justification does not involve a pietistic response in trust; it means that the will of God becomes active in believers. Calvin came closer to a Roman Catholic understanding, and Calvinists like Catholics have tended to become legalists. Calvin was also more open than Luther to a natural-law approach, although not to the Catholic metaphysics of natural law. Like Luther, Calvin stressed the secular vocation of Christians, but he interpreted Christian work in the world in a more active and transforming way.

Introducing Christian Ethics - Chapter 2 - Scott Rae - Textbook Plus

Some later Calvinists have seen in worldly success a sign of God's predestining will for the individual. In the twentieth century, Max Weber proposed the controversial theory that the spirit of capitalism was compatible with and abetted by Calvinist ethics. The Anabaptist-Mennonite tradition, or the left wing of the Reformation, from its sixteenth-century origins has stressed the radical call of discipleship, believer's baptism, and a committed, inflexible following of the radical ethical demands of the gospel.

The believers form a sect that stands in opposition to the existing culture and society and bears witness to the gospel, especially the call to peace and nonviolence. There has been no dominant figure in Anglican ethics, and thus no established pattern of doing Anglican ethics. However, in the Anglican community there have been important ethical thinkers who have served as a bridge between Roman Catholic ethics and Protestant ethics.

Methodism developed a moral theory calling for spiritual growth and moral renewal. The Enlightenment had a great influence on Protestant theology and ethics. Nineteenth-century Protestantism saw the emergence of liberal theology.

Friedrich Schleiermacher d. Schleiermacher proposed an ethical theory dealing with goods, duties, and virtues, and he saw moral concerns as present and influencing all other areas of life, especially political, intellectual, aesthetic, and religious. Late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century liberal theology stressed the immanence of God working in human experience and history, the possibility of Christians living out the ethics of Jesus, and evolutionary human progress, while it downplayed divine transcendence and the power of sin. Within the context of liberal Protestant theology, the Social Gospel movement came to the fore in the first two decades of the twentieth century in the United States , especially under the leadership of Walter Rauschenbusch d.

In response to the problems created by the industrial revolution and in response to the privatism and individualism of past Christian ethics, the Social Gospel stressed that the kingdom of God should be made more present on earth and that the social order can and should be Christianized. In England and Germany many Christian thinkers embraced a moderate Christian socialism.

The reaction stressed the transcendence of God, the dialectical relationship between the existing world and the kingdom of God, the power of sin, and the fact that the fullness of God's kingdom lies outside history. In respect to the contemporary international scene, the World Council of Churches has addressed many contemporary social issues with strong support for liberation movements and has called for just, participative, and sustainable societies.

Even greater diversity characterized Protestant ethics in the latter part of the twentieth century. Methodologically, teleological, deontological, and responsibility models continued to thrive. Some newer methodological approaches have also appeared — an emphasis on praxis, narrative approaches, virtue theory, and on the particularity of Christian ethics as directly addressing only the Christian church and not the world. In terms of content or substance, conservative, liberal, and radical approaches have appeared in both personal and social issues.

It is impossible to summarize the developments in Christian ethics since the mid-twentieth century. Paradoxically, greater diversity exists in Christian ethics in general and in each of its three traditions, but at the same time the boundaries separating the three traditions are disappearing and a more ecumenical approach has come to the fore.

There are many reasons for this greater diversity. No longer does the European — North American world totally dominate the field of Christian ethics, especially in the Catholic and Protestant traditions. South America , Africa, and Asia have produced an increasing number of Christian ethicists. The emphasis on context and particularity intensifies the diversity as Christian ethicists deal with the realities of their own cultures and ethos.

The industrialized world has also witnessed a growing number of women teaching and writing in Christian ethics. Until the latter half of the twentieth century, the seminary was the primary home of Christian ethicists, but now the discipline exists in colleges and universities. As a result, the number of people teaching and writing in the area of Christian ethics has grown considerably.

The move to the academy means that Christian ethics now addresses both the church and the academy with different emphases according to different individuals. In this milieu, methodological diversity has flourished. The field of Christian ethics has become so vast and complex that different specializations, such as personal ethics, sexual ethics, bioethics, economic ethics, and political ethics, have come into existence.

It is difficult now for any one person to claim to embrace the whole area of Christian ethics. But the ecumenical aspect of Christian ethics has also increased dramatically, together with shared concerns and approaches even in different cultures and countries. In the United States, Europe, France, and England, ecumenical societies of Christian ethicists exist, hold annual meetings, and encourage greater professionalization in the discipline.

These groups both exemplify and facilitate a more ecumenical way of doing Christian ethics. In the diaspora situation, Eastern Orthodox ethicists are a small minority, but they are actively involved in many of these societies. The important moral issues facing the world in the political, economic, technological, biomedical, and personal areas are the same for all Christians.

Addressing issues such as violence, poverty, justice, and bioethical experimentation brings Christian ethicists from diverse traditions closer together. Not only content but also methodological approaches have blurred the lines separating the different traditions and have emphasized common traits.

Christian Ethics

Liberation theology well illustrates a methodological approach that is found today in different religious traditions. Liberation theology began primarily with Catholic theologians in South America in the late s who emphasized the option for the poor, praxis, and the scriptural account of Exodus as paradigmatic for understanding salvation and the role of the church today.

Various forms of liberation theology now exist in practically all countries of the world, especially in those with a large number of poor, oppressed, and marginalized people. In the United States, black liberation theology began around the same time, originally as a black Protestant approach, though one which has now influenced both black and white, and both Protestant and Catholic, churches in the United States.