Ethics and Christian Beliefs.
How do basic beliefs impact a Christian's views on ethics?
When trying to decide what is the right thing to do, Christians look to their basic beliefs to give them guidelines to help them form their decisions. The Bible was written many years ago and topics such as contraception, euthanasia, genetic research etc are not explicitly discussed in there, but the basic beliefs outlined in the Bible can act as guidelines helping Christians to come to moral decisions and to work out what they believe God would want them to do.
Here are a few of the underlying beliefs that Christians have that help them decide what is the right thing to do.
In Genesis chapter 1 – 2, God is described as creating the universe. Creation happened because God wanted it to, because God commanded it to happen. Christians believe that creation was planned and had purpose and did not happen by accident.As the story of creation unfolds, the author regularly comments, “And God saw that it was good.”
The world as God created it, Christians believe, is essentially good.
In the account of the creation in Genesis 1, humans are the final part of the creation. Humans and humans only are described as being made in the “image of God” (verse 27): – “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God He created them, male and female, He created them.”
This does not mean that humans physically look like God, rather that humans as God intended them to be somehow reflect the nature of God. Humans are also given authority over the animals and the rest of creation (with this authority also comes responsibility to look after God’s creation). “Be fruitful and increase in number: fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature…” (verse 28).
Christians also believe that humans were created with freewill. This is the ability to choose between good or evil. Christians believe that humans are free to choose between doing good or doing evil. As part of the perfection of the world God created, God gave humans freewill. God, Christians believe, did not make humans so that they had to worship Him – He gave them the choice as to whether they worship God or not and the choice to do good or evil. Humans have often chosen evil and evil separates humans from God.
In Genesis chapter 3, the account that Christians call “The Fall” is described. Adam and Eve, the first humans, use their God-given freewill to choose not to do God’s will. A serpent, often thought of as the devil, tempted them and they chose to disobey God. The consequence of this was extreme. Suffering came into the previously perfect world. From then on, the Bible states that childbirth would be difficult and the relationship between men and women wouldn’t always be easy. Humans would have to work hard to live and death became part of life. Adam and Eve also had to leave the Garden of Eden. They were separated from God.
This rejection of God in the Garden of Eden is called ORIGINAL SIN. Christians believe that now, after the fall, our human nature has a tendency to turn away from God. This tendency to turn away from God is called SIN. Sin literally means to fall short of the standard that God has set. It is a term that was originally used to refer to when an archer missed the target.
The results of the Fall, in Christian teaching, meant that a gulf developed between God and humans. Human sin, Christians believe, created a distance or separation between God and humans. Christians also believe, however, that God Himself provided the solution to the problems that our sinfulness has created in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus’ death was an atonement for our sin. God, Christians believe, gave His Son, Jesus Christ to be born as a human and then to die on the cross. His death was a sacrifice for all of humanity’s sinfulness. His atonement means that those who believe in Jesus and ask for forgiveness, can be forgiven by God and the relationship between God and humans can be restored. Christians believe you cannot win or earn God’s favour. God’s forgiveness and blessing is a GRACE – a gift that is freely given and not deserved or earned.
How might the Christian doctrine of ‘the fall’ shape the way Christians understand:
– The suffering in the world?
– Problems in relationships?
– The state of the environment?