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DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Drop the Anchor

Written by: on November 21, 2015

In their book The Matrix of Christian Ethics: Integrating Philosophy and Moral Theology in a Postmodern Context, Patrick Nullens and Ronald T. Michener take us on an historical journey of discovery as we explore the approaches taken to ethics and morals throughout the centuries by various philosophers.

 

For many, ethics is based solely on what a particular society or group deems normal. Laws and rules are established to uphold these “normal” behaviors. As long as everyone believes the same way, all is well; sort of. What happens when “normal” shifts? The fact is, we have a propensity to normalize certain behaviors while demonizing others, but how do we measure the legitimacy of the norm? Ethics gets messed up if it is only tasked with normalization and lacks any sort of compass. Certain behaviors may be considered “normal” within the confines of a mental institution or prison, but when compared with standards of behavior from “outside” of these institutions, the deficits become apparent. The same applies to societies. Many Nazis carried out horrific acts while viewed as “ethical” people by others who held the same beliefs. We currently live in a country where plagiarism (which is not considered unethical in some countries) is illegal and punishable but killing millions of unborn babies is protected by law.

 

Ethic must be anchored in something. As Christians, it seems obvious that this anchor is the Bible. “Christian ethics seeks the will of God from love in faith. For this purpose we need the commandments in Scripture.”[1] But even Christians who hold the Bible as their standard embrace diverse views of what is considered ethical. Three conversations in the past few weeks highlight the disparity in ethics for professing Christians.

Conversation #1 “I’m struggling with people in the church doing things that were always against the rules and considered sin when I was growing up. How do we know what is really sin?”

Conversation #2 “I can act however I want. The Bible says ‘do not judge’, so no one better ever tell me that what I am doing is wrong.”

Conversation #3 “I don’t understand how it is so hard to stop ISIS. Just find out where they are any kill them all. We didn’t worry about collateral damage in World War Two, and we won.”

 

These conversations illustrate that one anchor is often insufficient. A boat needs more than one anchor; with only one anchor, the boat is tossed about and becomes very unstable. Adding a second anchor keeps the boat in the desired location and gives stability. Another anchor for Christian ethics is a focus of Christ’s kingdom and his righteousness; “The most important demand is that we seek his kingdom and his righteousness…Righteousness is a summary of God’s will as it is and will be manifested in his Kingdom.”[2] “We must continually ask ourselves whether our decisions and actions contribute to or harm the manifestation of God’s kingdom.”[3]

Another anchor is the conscience. While it is possible to shape our conscience in ways that are harmful, a healthy conscience becomes a great tool. I love the way Nullens and Michener stress both the role and the formation of the conscience, “The conscience is developed as it summits to the influence of Christ, Scripture, and the faith community through the work of the Holy Spirit. This is not simply about blind obedience to the hard facts of the law, but it is about discovering joy in obedience to the purposes we were created for.”[4]

 

[1] Patrick Nullens and Ronald T. Michener, The Matrix of Christian Ethics: Integrating Philosophy and Moral Theology in a Postmodern Context (Colorado Springs, Colo.: Paternoster, 2010), 166.

[2] Ibid., 169.

[3] Ibid., 169-170.

[4] Ibid., 187.

About the Author

mm

Brian Yost

Brian is a husband and father of three. He works with Free Methodist World Missions and is currently serving in Latin America.

5 responses to “Drop the Anchor”

  1. Phillip Struckmeyer says:

    Brian, I have been thinking much of the ISIS mindset. How impressionable is the human mind if one can be indoctrinated to such horrible belief systems and act on it. I saw some snips and clips of training camps and the age at which some are being exposed to an ISIS norm. I guess my take home thought is how hard/intentionally we must help shape the human mind. It is amazing, but it is corruptible. As Christians that think our greatest response is accountability to the helping of trying to shape the human mind and capacity to God’s intended way. When we get that wrong I think we commit equal atrocities in the Church and in the world. Definitely an unimaginable challenge, but one our faith must undertake. Nice post. Good luck in the coming weeks in getting to the finish line!

    • mm Brian Yost says:

      When the one guy said, “just kill them all”, I asked him how well that has worked in the past. He pointed to the Old Testament instructions for Israel to kill their enemies. I then mentioned Jesus command to love our enemies and pray for them. I asked him what would happen if we sent missionaries to love them and share Christ with them rather than send soldiers to kill them. He looked at me like I was an idiot.

  2. Travis Biglow says:

    Praise the Lord Brian,

    You sound like a pastor that has to face people with different views and different problems ha ha. I wanted to talk about this “We currently live in a country where plagiarism (which is not considered unethical in some countries) is illegal and punishable but killing millions of unborn babies is protected by law.” This is really a great comparison and it should be really studied. How can you get abortions and its legal and can be sued or kicked out of a school for plagiarism? While plagiarism is wrong and im not advocated it should be done but abortion is really a higher moral issue and it really should not be done. Im not going to go into that but really enjoyed your post!

  3. mm Brian Yost says:

    Like you, I’m not advocating plagiarism or piracy, but it is shocking how our society gives the stamp of approval to so many ungodly things while at the same time preaching to the world about morality.

  4. Dawnel Volzke says:

    Brian,
    I love your analogy of an anchor. By measuring the impact of our actions in light of Scripture, we expose dark or immoral values or decisions. When we aren’t anchored in Christ, we begin to go down a slippery slope. Often, we are unaware that our anchor isn’t solid or that we are slipping. I believe this is where much of the church is today – in a place of complacency, loosely anchored, and subject to the shifting winds of society’s morals and views.

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