[27]   Conclusion: Discernment & Tolerance

Background:

·       A 1994 survey of 3800 church kids aged 11-18 reports that 22% thought that the best philosophy of life is to do whatever feels or seems right, so long as it doesn’t harm anyone else and another 16% were not sure. This means that more than one-third of church kids do not submit under ethical absolutism of God’s commands. Some of them may be reacting like this out of ignorance but certainty some do not believe in the moral standard set by God.

122.     When there is no explicit guidance from the Bible, how do Christians decide on questions of morality?

a.   Some actions and behaviours are clearly described as sins in the Bible (in the sin lists). However, many things are not inherently immoral; they are often described as “disputable matters” or “grey areas.” Biblical examples include eating meat offered to idols, and observing one day as special above another (Ro 14). Modern examples are drinking liquor, and card playing. However, there are different shades of grey and Christians need to put obedience to God above personal liberty.

b.   Different levels of ethical actions: [colours from the US scale of alertness to terrorist attack]

 

Colour

Grey Scale

Description

Characteristics

Examples

red

black

immoral act

described as sin in the Bible

theft, greed, lie, slander

orange

dark grey

improper act

can lead to sin for you or others OR objected by most Christians

smoking, wearing sexy clothes

yellow

light grey

inappropriate act

will not lead to sin but objected by more than a few Christians

using foul language, showing off

blue

colourless

morally neutral act

may be objected by a few Christians

wearing jewelry, MOST ACTIONS

green

white

good and virtuous deeds

commendable by God and man

generosity, apathy

 

c.   Most daily actions are not specifically dealt with in the Bible. However, when making a decision whether an action is right or wrong, there are general Biblical principles to consider:

(1)  In relation to the Lord:

o        Can I do this as unto God? (Ro 14:8)

o        Does this bring glory to God? (1Co 10:31)

o        How do I feel about this, in the light of my coming appearance at God’s judgment seat? (Ro 14:10,12)  We are to account for our stewardship (of time and wealth) before God. If money is involved, the question will be: is this a proper use of wealth?

(2)  In relation to self:

o        Do I have a clear conscience to do this? (Ro 14:5)  If the behaviour does not result a fully settled mind, then it violates our conscience and becomes a sin. However, beware of self-deception and hardened heart. (Ro 14:22-23)

o        Is it profitable (1Co 6:12) or is it harmful to me? We must keep the temple of God (our bodies) in good health (1Co 3:16-17).

o        Does it enslave (1Co 6:12) and lead to addiction?

(3)  In relation to others:

o        Does it edify my brothers and sisters in Christ? (Ro 14:19)

o        Will this cause others to stumble and lead others astray in faith or morals? (1Co 8:13; Ro 14:20-21) Notice, however, that the “stumbling” refers not to mere dislike but to actual commission of sin or loss of faith.

d.   The overriding principle is to seek God’s guidance.

123.    How do Christians present their viewpoints to non-believers?

a.   For nominal Christians or seekers, they may accept or at least respect the authority of the Bible so the Bible can be used and quoted in discussion.

b.   For atheists or people hostile to Christianity, a Christian may need to limit the use of the Bible at the beginning. When discussing with these people, it is important to establish a common ground where discussion can continue.

c.   The method is to turn the debate from an issue of morality into an issue that the atheist can subscribe to. For example:

·         In the issue of abortion, we can concentrate our opposition to abortions on the adverse effects of abortion on health, such as the higher likelihood of breast cancer and the severity of post-abortion trauma. We can also raise the issue of defending the defenceless.

·         In the issue of homosexuality, we can talk about “traditional family values” and emphasize that objection to homosexuality is based on the fact that it is an unhealthy lifestyle.

·         In the issue of euthanasia, we can use the example of the Netherlands and discuss the problem of “violating the sacred trust” based on the Hippocratic Oath and the doubt about the integrity of the medical profession.

124.    What are the proper attitudes towards ethical issues of today?

a.   Understand the Biblical principles on the issues:

·         put an effort to understand the issues, read the arguments, search in the Bible, ask for God’s wisdom, make your own judgment, and adopt a proper position

b.   Discern the errors of secular culture based on Biblical evidence:

·         use wisdom to avoid traps of secular culture: beware of wolves in sheep’s skin (Mt 7:15).

(1)  understand that secular humanism, the dominating philosophy in western society today, is a religion by itself, a religion against God

(2)  be skeptical about what secular humanists say

o        Beware of words used by secular humanists: social justice, progress, fairness, equality, rights, tolerance, diversity, political correctness. They misuse the terms in their arguments. They sound good and benign, but Christians must not buy into them. We can ask them to clarify their terms and contradict them if they use the words incorrectly.

o        Beware of how something good is turned into something bad; examples: political correctness into exclusion of religion from public life, acceptance of diversity into suppression of the majority view (Christianity), seeking of freedom into creation of rights

o        Many secular humanists started with honourable intentions but they abuse human rights gained (from prohibiting discrimination against homosexuals pushing to same-sex marriage) and they use lies to achieve their objectives (such as the global warming hypothesis).

c.   Practice on what we believe:

·         act and behave according to Biblical principles

·         defend Biblical standards through persuasion (resist peer pressure, stand up and be counted)

·         pass on the Biblical principles to people around us (your family, your children, your church, your friends)

·         as salt and light of the world, exert influence on the society through social action (social activism)

d.   Tolerance of different positions on disputable or non-essential matters within the church:

·         We need to be more tolerant and not legalistic. We should learn to discuss and share on ethical topics but refrain from fierce argument. Differences in opinion should not disrupt our unity and fellowship in Christ. If there is no consensus, we should agree to disagree agreeably.

In essentials, unity.

In non-essentials, liberty.

In all things, charity.