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Rebooting the Matrix of Christian Ethics

Written by: on November 19, 2015

November 19, 15

 

Rebooting the Matrix of Christian Ethics

 

I really enjoyed reading some of the philosophical ideas of Aristotle and Plato. It is incredible how they were so enlightened and were able to have insight into society and life. I think it’s a great time for Christian ethics to be rebooted and given a jump-start because in so many churches ethics don’t play a major role in decisions, elevation or in church politics. I know first hand. The Matrix of Christian Ethics: Integrating Philosophy and Moral Theology in a Postmodern Context has a lot of ideas about how we can reboot the Matrix of so many different views on ethics in our context. And in American churches we really need to do some inventory. As Nullens and Michener states, “Today North America is certainly no exception to this, even with a significant evangelical, fundamentalist population. Moral crises within and without the church are prolific. The gap between authentic Christian worldviews and practices and those of modern Western culture seems to be widening.”[1] As I began to contemplate some of the views of our modern day televangelist and to have seen how many of them have fallen, it makes you wonder if scripture is playing a big role in their life or is our Western culture dictating to them. And this is where I believe Christian ethics must come into play.

It is important to understand what is important in our faith and what is not important. And I think this is where people get off at in the church the lack of an ethic that is rooted in faith, scripture and a wholesome relationship with God. Christian ethics is a discipline that occurs a posteriori to our confession of faith. It is a disciplined reflection, processing what we believe we have received from God’s commands and guidance through the Spirit, in Scripture, and in the context of the church community.[2]

It goes further that that too because our cultural context has a lot to do with ethics as well.

A quadrilateral matrix of values, norms, virtues, and purposes will be of particular importance for the development of our specific approach to Christian ethics.[3] And I think the development of our specific approach to Christian ethics is really predicated on our cultural context of our church and our community. This is what to me makes up this Matrix of Christian Ethics. And in line with this I think the Matrix needs to be “rebooted” in other words it needs to revive again. I believe we can have differences when it comes to Ethics but we should all be biblically based when it’s all said and done. For instance family values differ from one family to another. How a person is raised will be key to how they act and participate in society. What my family taught me might be seen as low class to people who may have more money and have been exposed to more things. But that’s where I came from. But it is not an excuse to have bad ethics. Rebooting the Matrix of Christian Ethics is reviving it by learning it and we can all do that. And as children of God we should live by higher standards and principles because we are the children of God. I think we need to learn from everything and not over do one thing or another. I like what Aristotle said about moderation in life, “Typical of Aristotle’s ethical theory is the concept of the “mean” (the middle)-The art or moderation. As we see in all aspects of nature, it is always important to seek a delicate balance. When anything is taken to extremes, it goes wrong.”[4]

 

[1] Patrick Mullens & Ronald T. Michener, The Matrix of Christian Ethics: Integrating Philosophy and Moral Theology in a Postmodern Context (Colorado Springs: Paternoster Publishing, 2010), 29.

 

[2] Ibid., 11.

[3] Ibid., 12.

[4] Ibid., 121.

About the Author

mm

Travis Biglow

Pastor of Victory Empowerment Center. Regional Chaplain High Desert Regional Center Graduates Azusa Pacific University. Licensed General Contractor B. I am the married with one daughter, two grandsons and one step son.

19 responses to “Rebooting the Matrix of Christian Ethics”

  1. Jon Spellman says:

    Travis, so much to comment on in your post bro. Good job! I want to focus in on the observation that there is a gap between what we in the church say and what we do (my paraphrase of your words…) I think an example of this in our present time can be seen in the developing refugee crisis. I am not making an opinion statement here, just observing that something like this reveals where a gap may exist.

    We say things like “love your enemy, pray for those that spitefully use you…” and “God loves the most vile of sinners and his grace can reach them.” Here’s another, “when someone strikes you on one cheek, turn the other toward them.” Those are our doctrinal words — orthodoxy. But does our orthopraxy align with those words or do they quickly become platitudes? If our Christian ethics only extend as far as our words, and not to the level of behavior, what good are they?
    Thanks Trav.

    J

    • mm Nick Martineau says:

      Right on Jon…Our ethics can’t just be words but must be put into practice. Thanks.

    • Travis Biglow says:

      Amen Jon, our orthopraxy has to meet up with our orthodoxy i am at a point now that I may be unorthodox in some areas because its time to depart from some of the man made doctrines and get back to the scriptures and don’t add anything to it.

    • mm Mary Pandiani says:

      Travis and Jon, I read something recently about the idea of turning the other cheek. Did you know that if you actually turn your head (just try it), the person who is doing the slapping can’t actually hit in the same way. In that culture, you would have never used your left hand, so they would have tried slapping with the same hand, but you can’t slap any more. The power dynamic changes. What Jesus had to say about turning the other cheek might be entirely different than what we’ve traditionally said. All that to say, when it comes to ethics, there are so many nuances that force us to slow down long enough to bring in as many pieces to understand the situation as possible. But how can we possibly know everything? I guess it rests on trusting that God will use what we do have, if we come with a humble heart (something I don’t think many of the televangelists don’t usually have), to help us discern in carrying out the good for our community.

      • mm Brian Yost says:

        Wow Mary, you just blew my mind with the perspective of turning the other cheek. It reminds me of my frequent spankings as a child. We figured out that if you position your “cheeks” so the spanking comes with the left hand, it was not as painful. On the other hand, (no pun intended) the aim was not always as good, so sometimes the legs or back suffered. Wow, so much to think about.

  2. mm Nick Martineau says:

    Good stuff Travis…I appreciated when you said, “And I think the development of our specific approach to Christian ethics is really predicated on our cultural context of our church and our community.” This is so true and that’s what makes it so important for leaders/teachers to encourage biblically rooted discussions on these ethical, counter cultural, issues that we face. Thanks Travis!

    • Travis Biglow says:

      Howdy Nick,

      I concur, our cultural context is important of how we hold values up and how we don’t. Christian speaking we need to learn a lot from Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. Because these books are great for learning Ethics from a Godly perspective.

  3. Phillip Struckmeyer says:

    Travis, BAM! You said it … “It is incredible how they (Plato and Aristotle) were so enlightened and were able to have insight into society and life. I think it’s a great time for Christian ethics to be rebooted and given a jump-start because in so many churches ethics don’t play a major role in decisions, elevation or in church politics.” Were words articulate well what I have been feeling in the sense of a “reboot” needed. Maybe it is my own ignorance but I feel like I am waking up to realize a missing piece of our lives, the Church, and our society as a whole. It seems like someone opened the window and the fundamental and development of deep rooted ethics flew out the window. I agree with you and vote “Travis Biglow for President” and let’s reboot ethics in our lives, churches, and society.

    • Travis Biglow says:

      Ha ha ha Travis Biglow for president! Yea I feel I am waking up too through our program to a lot of unexplained issues and topics that are not discussed enough. And ethics is one that really needs to be discussed more in churches and in society. And our political official could really go for a rebooting of ethics! lol

    • mm Brian Yost says:

      Travis & Phil,
      Will a reboot suffice or do we need a clean install. Certainly some defragmenting and debugging.
      Blessings : )

  4. mm Dave Young says:

    Travis, What I take away from your post is a sense of urgency that we often loose. “Ethics” could easily become something for our scholarly ivory towers and not a real, relevant discussion in our churches – but that’s where it needs to be. I also like how you and Jon discussed the gap between orthodoxy and orthopraxy. It’s easy to hold to the scripture and ‘believe it’ but if we’re not living it out then for all practical purposes our ethics are in the toilet. Dude thought provoking post.

    • Travis Biglow says:

      Right on Dave, and we don’t want toilet ethics. Its really hard for me to stomach many of the concepts that leaders I have discussed things with hold. I am not the type of person who will put a person on spot in front of people but i will let them know in private i totally dont agree with that concept!

    • mm Jon Spellman says:

      If our thoughts don’t translate into good (moral) behavior, what good is all the thinking about ethics in the world?

  5. mm Mary Pandiani says:

    I like your use of “reboot,” Travis. I think of how our computers need to reboot on a regular basis to get the bad stuff out with the good stuff remaining. Kind of like our lives – how are we rebooting on a regular basis in our lives lived out in Christ’s name?
    To use computer language in another analogy – I heard the other day the value of “Defragmenting the Soul” – slowing down long enough to reframe, refresh, and renew without all the other junk.
    Thanks for your post.

    • Travis Biglow says:

      You got what I was trying to convey i just did not bring it out life that but that is perfect Mary. We need to reboot that good stuff and get a fresh start love that!

  6. mm Brian Yost says:

    “Christian ethics is a discipline that occurs a posteriori to our confession of faith.”

    I think this is where we get hung-up. Many Christians assume we are a Christian nation established on Christian ideals. Our society has by-and-large rejected God. Without acknowledging God’s authority, we become a society that develops ethics based on preferences, tolerance, desired outcomes, or anything else that is trendy. We then sit back and wonder what is going on and why things are happening the way they do. If Christian ethics comes after a confession of faith, the church needs to get serious about bringing people to Christ; only then will we see true Christian ethics.

    • Travis Biglow says:

      Thats right Brian ethics should not be trendy they should be rooted in the holy scriptures we read and they should be predicated on moral value not whats in for the moment!

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