Ethical Decision Making

Although naturalistic theology is still extremely influential throughout the Churches, there is significant debate about the philosophical and theological justification for ethical issues. Bob Bowie, senior lecturer in RE at Canterbury Christ Church University writes, ‘It is important that students understand that there is a wide variety of approaches to Christian ethical decision making. Catholic ethical thinking involves natural moral law, virtue theory and ideas about conscience. Other Christian denominations have various ethical approaches, from the very liberal protestant situationist approach to the more conservative absolutist understandings of biblical teachings. For some Christian’s the moral authority that is primary is the Church teaching authority, for others it is the Bible and for others it is individual conscience, or a combination of all three. This diversity means that it is very difficult to generalise about Christians when expressing their beliefs about certain moral issues.

‘Conservative Christians might oppose abortion, homosexual relationships, sex outside marriage, while liberal Christians may well take different views. Some Christians take pacifist views on war and violence (such as Quakers and some non-conformist traditions) while others take a view that wars may be just (Just War Theory). Some American conservative Christians believe the death penalty is a justifiable form of punishment for a Christian community while others disagree.

‘It is also important to note that not all Churches require their followers to adhere to all of the Church’s statements of moral theology, while others maintain a strict view of how the followers should live. There are dissenting voices within single traditions.’

Christians nevertheless believe in the sanctity of life and the place of the world, as God’s creation, as the stage upon which life is acted out. By placing God, rather than humans, at the centre of these issues, Christians are able to reflect upon controversial issues before forming a conclusion.

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