This course examines the relationship of the Gospel to obedience. It considers the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love. It then addresses the role of the law as a framework for Christian life, noting the impact of redemptive-historical and cultural shifts in our appropriation of the law.
ST608 Lesson 01
Explore the goal of ethics. How ought we then to live? What are the calls to life as a Christian? Explore the word, "Is". Consider that ethics cannot be separated from reality. Any ethical theory presupposes ultimate truth, even if it is atheistic, nihilistic, or agnostic. First, consider that "Is" does not imply "ought". Just because something is some way does not mean that is how it ought to be. Examine examples in terms of genetics such as violence, alcoholism, and homosexuality. Consider that homosexuality is genetic and that as a result, the action for liberals is that it is ok and for conservatives it is not true. Consider that there is no such thing as pure one hundred percent genetic determinism. Secondly, consider that "ought" does imply an "is". An ethical statement implies something about reality. Consider the phrases, “I'm pushing my beliefs on you;” “I'm wearing stripes and polka dots;” and “2 + 2 = 5.” Does ethics stand more on what is true or more on what is norm?
ST608 Lesson 02
Continue the discussion that ethical theory presupposes ultimate truth. Few people are willing to say there is no such thing as ethics. Where does morality come from? The moral argument in and of itself will not get us to the gospel but it opens the door to the existence of God. "Ought" is one of the fundamental terms of ethics and implies an obligation to act in a particular way. Thirdly, "Ought" implies "Can". Consider examples of “ought” in the phrases, “You ought to draw a square circle; you ought to fly home by flapping your arms; and you ought to make your bed.” There can be no ought for a logical incoherence. We cannot have an obligation we cannot fulfill. Consider that the word "Can" is a critical word for the implication of freedom of the will. Can an alcoholic in a bar not drink? Is that person responsible if they do drink? Explore the term “Would.” There are situations in which even if we can not do it, there is only one thing we would do. Free will is the statement of what can we do. If there really is no freedom of the will then there is really no responsibility.
ST608 Lesson 03
In what way is our will free? Libertarianism is the view that freedom is incompatible with determinism and, in fact, that humans have free wills, so there is no pre-determination of human choices. For Libertarianism, the ability to choose means that prediction or foreknowledge of what we will do is impossible. Determinism is the view that freedom is incompatible with determinism and that, in fact, human beings are not free. God, genes, or the environment determine. Compatibilism is the view that freedom is compatible with determinism. View a chart on Libertarianism showing the influence of experience, biology, environment and the Self on choice that leads to actions. (Alternatively, a libertarian position could make the self the cause of choice by reducing the reality or constancy of the self; either the real self imprecisely determines action, or the imprecise self fully determines action. Either way, there must remain an inability of the choice to be precisely anticipated given the nature of the self and the environment.) Consider for “can” there are many choices. For “would” there are many choices. View a chart on Physical (biological) Determinism that shows Biology (plus experience and environment) causing actions. This view has only an illusion of Self and Choice. (Related positions will insert God, experience (as in behaviorism) or other apparently external forces in place of biology in explaining other types of determinism. Calvin is accused of the position where biology is replaced by God, but similarly making the self illusory. Calvin knew of this accusation, and replied that he was a compatibilist.) Consider Grace and Law arguments. The work of the Holy Spirit is in us. The Holy Spirit is not in place of us. Compatibilism is the view that freedom is compatible with determinism. The three concepts are that people have free will; there is predestination; and free will and predestination are incompatible. Does Scripture anywhere indicate that free will and predestination are incompatible? View a chart on Compatibilism showing experience, biology, and environment influence or are contained under or by the Self which causes choice, which then causes actions. (This position does not avoid determinism, for the self is a concrete reality, which, while free, is not indecipherable. Thus, the choice is determined by the nature of the self (and the desires or motives therein), in accordance with the particular situation. The foundations of the concrete nature of the self are varied, but in all cases there is a real determination of choice according to the self's nature, not external, forcing factors.) In Determinism there is only one choice - it is predetermined- there is no "would". In Compatibilism there are many choices under can but only one under would. Consider the statement: “Free will is incompatible with predestination.” Consider that what we need is not more freedom but a different person who is being free.
ST608 Lesson 04
Are we able to not sin? Consider that there is a constraint on our freedom even if we don't feel it because we exercise our freedom in exactly the way God wanted us to. There are limitations to our choices. Realize that we act like people are most responsible when they are doing what they most want to do - what is most predetermined.
ST608 Lesson 05
Explore the Moral vs. Ethical. Consider that it is a slippery distinction. Explore the distinction in normal use as actual vs. theoretical and as John Frame shows in The Doctrine of the Christian Life, synonymous. Moral is how good or not good you actually are. Ethics is concerned with what you ought to be - it is more intellectual than active. Could there be a moral atheist? If moral means ultimate truth, then we can't deny God and behavior morally. Moral is what you are. Ethics is what you thoughtfully are. In terms of ultimate truth, we can't have a moral atheist. Explore “The Good”. Teleological Good refers to value for a purpose. Telos means "purpose". The Ontological Good refers to ultimate goodness. Consider that "good" was once a deeply powerful word! Which of the big three is ethics focused on? The Big Three are the “Why” or the purpose, end, and goal (telos). The “Who” is the person, character, and virtue. The “How” is the law, principle, command, and rule. Explore Frame's example of a triangle containing the person, purpose, and rule. Consider that Christian ethics has the person, purpose, and rule in it all the time.
ST608 Lesson 06
Commonly people will say, "There is a logical contradiction between our freedom and the predetermination of what we are going to do." Consider the account of Peter and his denial of Christ. The account contains free will, determinism and the realization of guilt. Luke 22:34,60-62 tells us, " Jesus replied, ‘I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know me’ . . .But Peter said, ‘Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!’ At that moment, while he was still speaking, a rooster crowed. Then the Lord turned and looked straight at Peter, and Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, ‘Before a rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.’ And he went outside and wept bitterly.” What Peter did was preordained and he was obviously free and responsible. Explore the types of ethical theories. Consider that typologically-pure theories are rare! The Teleological concerns the ends or is a purpose-based ethics. The ends justify the means. For Ethical Egoism, I ought to act in such a way as to maximize my own happiness, pleasure, or well-being and minimize my own pain or suffering. Hedonism is short-term and focuses on maximizing pleasure. Drug use, especially opiates, is a kind of ultimate expression of hedonism. There has never been a thoughtful promoter of Hedonism because the hedonist would be doing drugs instead of writing a book about it. It is often thought of as "Epicurean Delights," or pure and deep pleasures. However, Epicurus was not hedonistic!!! Consider that maximization of pleasure and minimization of pain makes a kind of peaceful life that is preferred. It is ok to forgo pleasure, or even experience pain, for the sake of long-term pleasure. At its best, pleasure is a capacity to sense actual goodness, so its pursuit is actually the pursuit of the truly "good". In Psychological Egoism, human beings always do choose to act in order to maximize their own self-interest. This theory is worth knowing, but it is not an ethical theory. It is impossible to verify or falsify. Evolutionary psychology ultimately leads to a form of this theory. "Creatures act to maximize the long-term survival of their genes."