Using the Old Testament for Ethical Guidance (Jan-Feb 2005)

By Matt Dabbs

An Excerpt from Christian Ethics

by Larry Chouinard and Margaret McLaughlin
Reviewed by Greg Taylor
January – February, 2005

Chapter 1.4
Using the Old Testament for Ethical Guidance (PDF) by Rick Marrs,
edited by Larry Chouinard, Ph.D. and Margaret McLaughlin, MSW

Every Christian ought to read Christian Ethics: The Issues of Life and Death, edited by Larry Chouinard, David Fiensy, and George F. Pickens.

The book is so valuable, we’ve decided to review several of the chapters in detail and provide four whole chapter excerpts and offer a link to purchase the book.

It also goes a long way in setting the stage for our Wineskins issue on ethics and points us toward an ethic that is grounded in who God is. In other words, we are talking about ethics with a theological foundation.

Why should every Christian read this multi-author work? As the title says, it deals with issues every human experiences—life and death and the way we live in between. Ethics deals with the questions of right and wrong, but it runs so much deeper than the average person may perceive on first glance.

This volume in particular covers four major parts of ethics:

  • Ethical Foundations
  • Social Ethical Issues
  • The Family and Ethical Choices
  • The Christian and Medical Ethics

The eighteen writers, says one of the editors, George F. Pickens, share three things in common: the belief that ethics ought to be “rooted in Christian Scripture,” that Christians are called to live distinctly from the culture around us, and the third thing they have in common is that they all share a religious community background of the Stone-Campbell (Restoration) Movement.

Chapter 1.1 A review and full excerpt of”God’s Commands and Christian Ethics: A Theology of Christian Life” Ron Highfield on Christian Ethics (PDF).

Christian EthicsIf you’ve already read my review and excerpt of Ron Highfield’s article (link above), you know that this book grounds ethics in God’s nature. The operative question, therefore, is “As image bearers of God, then, how do we live?”

But ethics is not easily kept in a simplistic category of individual morality. The chapter we offer today as a whole excerpt from Christian Ethics is about justice, about our misconceptions of justice that are influenced perhaps more by culture than Scripture, and a corrective to this notion of justice that is found in the Bible as it relates to our actions in the world toward the poor, minority groups, immigrants, non-Christians, and children.

The chapter also introduces us to the idea of community and national sin. While we often view sin correctly as “missing the mark,” it is not always considered in Scripture as individual but as national and pervasive in a culture that needs to hear a prophetic call for a U-turn. The chapter is convicting, particularly if you’ve never considered that ethics is more than morality related to sex life and personal choices.

Perhaps most important is the concept in the piece of Shalom (peace). This is not simply a narrow definition of peace meaning “no war.” The experience of Shalom is God’s desire for right treatment of one another that leads to good relationships. Chouinard and McLaughlin point out that in Scripture mercy and justice are not necessarily opposites but are often considered the same. We often contrast God’s mercy and justice, in the sense that we ask for God’s mercy, not his justice. But in a Shalom framework, they claim that God’s justice is merciful.

Chapter 2.1
The Bible and Social Justice (PDF)
by Larry Chouinard, Ph.D. and Margaret McLaughlin, MSW
Order Christian Ethics Parma Press, 2004.

Greg TaylorGreg Taylor is managing editor of New Wineskins.

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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1577 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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