DOWNLOAD  (MS-Word document)




All the Ethical Options



該思拉著(Norman L. Geisler孔祥烱譯



Ethics deals with what is morally right and wrong. Christian ethics deals with what is morally right and wrong for a Christian. This is a book on Christian ethics. Since Christians base their beliefs on God’s revelation in Scripture, the Bible will be cited as an authority for conclusions drawn here (see chap. 8).


God has not limited himself to revelation in Scripture; he also has a general revelation in nature (Rom. 1:19-20; 2:12-14). Since God’s moral character does not change, it should be expected that there will be similarities and overlaps between God’s natural and supernatural revelations. However, the focus of this book is not God’s natural law for all people, but his divine law for believers.

神並沒有限制自己的啟示只出現在聖經,祂在大自然中也有普遍啟示(羅1:19-20; 2:12-14)。由於神的道德品格不會改變,自然和超自然的啟示也應該有相似和重疊然而,這本書的重點不是神給所有人的自然法律,而是信徒的神聖法律

Definitions of Ethics


Ethics deals with what is right and wrong morally. Numerous theories have been proposed concerning what is meant by a morally good action (see chap. 8). But it is sufficient here to note the distinguishing characteristics of Christian ethics, each of which will be briefly discussed here.


Christian Ethics Is Based on God’s Will


Christian ethics is a form of the divine-command position. An ethical duty is something we ought to do. It is a divine prescription. Of course, the ethical imperatives that God gives are in accord with his unchangeable moral character. That is, God wills what is right in accordance with his own moral attributes. “Be holy, because I am holy,” the Lord commanded Israel (Lev. 11:45). “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect,” Jesus said to his disciples (Matt. 5:48). “It is impossible for God to lie” (Heb. 6:18). So we should not lie either. “God is love” (1 John 4:16), and so Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:39). In brief, Christian ethics is based on God’s will, but God never wills anything contrary to his unchanging moral character.


Christian Ethics Is Absolute


Since God’s moral character does not change (Mal. 3:6; James 1:17), it follows that moral obligations flowing from his nature are absolute. That is, they are always binding everywhere on everyone. Of course, not everything God wills flows necessarily from his unchanging nature. Some things are merely in accord with his nature but flow freely from his will. For example, God chose to test Adam and Eve’s moral obedience by forbidding them to eat a specific fruit on a tree (Gen. 2:16-17). Although it was morally wrong for Adam and Eve to disobey that command, we are no longer bound by that command today. That command was based on God’s will and did not flow necessarily from his nature.

由於神的道德品格永不改變(瑪3:6; 1:17),因此,從祂而出的道德義務也是絕對的也就是說,它們在所有時間和對所有人都具有約束力。當然,並非所有的意願都必定出於祂不變的本性有些事符合的本性出自祂的意志。例如,試驗亞當與夏娃道德服從性,禁止他們吃特定樹上水果(創2:16-17雖然亞當與夏娃違背該命令道德錯誤我們今天不再受該命令限制該命令是基於神的意志,並非出於祂的本性

On the other hand, God’s command not to murder (Gen. 9:6) applied before the law was given to Moses, under the law of Moses (Exod. 20:13), and also since the time of Moses (Rom. 13:9). In brief, murder is wrong at all times and all places and for all people. This is true because humans are created in the “image of God” (Gen. 1:27; 9:6). This includes a moral likeness to God (Col. 3:10; James 3:9). And whatever is traceable to God’s unchanging moral character is a moral absolute. This includes such moral obligations as holiness, justice, love, truthfulness, and mercy. Other commands flowing from God’s will, but not necessarily from his nature, are equally binding on a believer, but they are not absolute. That is, they must be obeyed because God prescribed them, but he did not prescribe them for all people, times, and places. Absolute moral duties, on the contrary, are binding on all people at all times and in all places.

另一方面,命令人不可謀殺(創9:6,這命令應用於摩西律法之前,在摩西律法之內(出20:13),也摩西時代之後(羅13:9)。簡言之謀殺在所有時間、所有地方和所有人都是錯的;這是因為人類是照著「神的形像」而創造(創1:27; 9:6這包括在道德上與神相似(西3:10; 3:9)。任何出於不變的道德品格的,就是絕對的包括道德義務,如聖潔、公義、愛、誠實和憐憫其他出於神意願的命令但不一定出於的本性者,對信徒具有同樣約束力但卻不是絕對的也就是說,信徒必須服從因為是神的規定,並沒有規定為所有的人、所有時間和所有地方。相反地,絕對的道德責任則對所有人在所有時間所有地方都具有約束力

Christian Ethics Is Based on God’s Revelation


Christian ethics is based on God’s commands, the revelation of which is both general (Rom. 1:19-20; 2:12-15) and special (2:18; 3:2). God has revealed himself both in nature (Ps. 19:1-6) and in Scripture (19:7-14). General revelation contains God’s commands for all people. Special revelation declares his will for believers. But in either case, the basis of human ethical responsibility is divine revelation.

基督教倫理是基於的命令,神的啟示是普遍性的(羅1:19-20; 2:12-15,也是特殊性的(羅2:18; 3:2)。神將自己啟示在大自然中(詩19:1-6)和聖經中(詩19:7-14)。普遍啟示包含對所有的人的命令特殊啟示則向信徒宣佈。但在兩種情況下,人類倫理責任基礎都是神聖的啟示。

Failure to recognize God as the source of moral duty does not exonerate anyone, even an atheist, from their moral duty. For “when Gentiles, who do not have the law [of Moses], do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts” (Rom. 2:14-15). That is, even if unbelievers do not have the moral law in their minds, they still have it written on their hearts. Even if they do not know it by way of cognition, they show it by way of inclination.

不承認神為道德的來源並不免除任何人的道德責任,包括無神論者。因為「沒有律法的外邦人,若順着本性行 [摩西] 律法上的事,他們雖然沒有律法,自己就是自己的律法.這是顯出律法的功用刻在他們心裏。」(羅2:14-15)也就是說,即使不信的人沒有道德律在他們的思想內道德律已寫在他們心中即使他們不透過認識而知道它他們亦在傾向上表現出來

Christian Ethics Is Prescriptive


Since moral rightness is prescribed by a moral God, it is prescriptive. For there is no moral law without a moral Lawgiver; there is no moral legislation without a moral Legislator. So Christian ethics by its very nature is prescriptive, not descriptive. Ethics deals with what ought to be, not with what is. Christians do not find their ethical duties in the standard of Christians but in the standard for Christians—the Bible.


From a Christian point of view, a purely descriptive ethic is no ethic at all. Describing human behavior is the task of sociology. But prescribing human behavior is the province of morality. The attempt to derive morals from mores is, as we have already noted, the “is-ought” fallacy. What people actually do is not the basis for what they ought to do. If it were, then people ought to lie, cheat, steal, and murder, since these things are done all the time.


Christian Ethics Is Deontological


Ethical systems can be broadly divided into two categories, deontological (duty-centered) and teleological (end-centered). This is sometimes called consequentialism since the value of an act is determined by its consequence. Christian ethics is deontological. Utilitarianism is an example of a teleological ethic. The nature of a deontological ethic can be seen more clearly by contrast with a teleological view (see table 1.1 on the next page).


A couple of illustrations will clarify this point. Someone tries to rescue a drowning person but fails. According to one form of teleological ethic, this was not a good act because it did not have good results. Since the results determine the goodness of the act, and the results were not good, then it follows that the attempted rescue was not a good act.


Yet a more sophisticated form of teleological (utilitarian) ethic might argue that the attempt was good, even though it failed, because it had a good effect on society. People heard about it and were encouraged to help rescue others in the future. But even here the attempted act of rescue that failed was not good in itself. Rather, it would have been good if and only if it had brought some good results, either for the drowning person or for someone else.


By contrast, the Christian ethic is deontological and insists that even some acts that fail are good. Christians believe, for example, that it is better to have loved and to have lost than not to have loved at all. Christians believe that the cross was not a failure simply because only some will be saved. It was sufficient for all even if it is efficient only for those who believe. The Christian ethic insists that it is good to work against bigotry and racism, even if one fails. This is so because moral actions that reflect God’s nature are good whether they are successful or not. Good for the Christian is not determined in a lottery. In life the winner is not always right.


Two Views of Ethics

Deontological Ethic

Teleological Ethic

Rule determines the result.

Result determines the rule.

Rule is the basis of the act.

Result is the basis of the act.

Rule is good regardless of result.

Rule is good because of result.

Result is always calculated within the rules.

Result is sometimes used to break rules.




Deontological Ethic

Teleological Ethic











However, Christian ethics does not neglect results. Simply because results do not determine what is right does not mean that it is not right to consider results. Indeed, results of actions are important in Christian ethics. For example, a Christian should calculate in which direction a gun is pointing before he pulls the trigger. Drivers need to estimate the possible consequence of their speed in relation to other objects. Speakers are responsible for calculating the possible effects of their words on others. Christians have a duty to anticipate the results of not being immunized to serious diseases, and so on.


In all the foregoing illustrations, however, there is an important difference between the deontological use of results and a teleological use of them. In Christian ethics these results are all calculated within rules or norms. That is, no anticipated result as such can be used as a justification for breaking any God-given moral law. Utilitarians, on the other hand, use anticipated results to break moral rules. In fact, they use results to make the rules. Existing rules can be broken if the expected results call for it. For example, while Christian ethics allows for inoculation for disease, it does not allow for infanticide to purify the genetic stock of the human race; in this case the end result is used to justify the use of an evil means. In brief, the end may justify the use of good means, but it does not justify the use of any means, certainly not evil ones.


Various Views on Ethics


There are only six major ethical systems, each designated by its answer to the question Are there any objective ethical laws? That is, are any moral laws not purely subjective but actually binding on humans in general?


In answer, antinomianism says there are no moral laws. Situationism affirms there is one absolute law. Generalism claims there are some general laws but no absolute ones. Unqualified absolutism believes in many absolute laws that never conflict. Conflicting absolutism contends there are many absolute norms that sometimes conflict, and we are obligated to do the lesser evil. Graded absolutism holds that many absolute laws sometimes conflict, and we are responsible for obeying the higher law.

無規範主義答案,沒有道德律。 處境主義肯定有一個絕對規律。廣泛主義主張有一些一般規律,但沒有絕對的。無條件絕對主義相信很多絕對法律,它們從來沒有衝突。有衝突絕對主義主張有許多絕對法律,它們有時會衝突我們有義務去行較輕的罪惡。等級絕對主義主張有許多絕對法律,它們有時會衝突我們有責任去遵守的最高法律

Differences between Various Views


Of the six basic ethical views, two deny all objectively absolute moral laws. Of them, antinomianism denies all universal and general moral laws. Generalism, on the other hand, denies only universal moral laws but holds to general ones. That is, there are some objective moral laws that are binding most of the time but not necessarily all the time.


Four ethical views claim to be forms of absolutism. Of these, situationism believes in only one absolute, while the others believe in two or more absolutes. Of them, unqualified absolutism contends that these absolute moral principles never conflict, while the other two believe that they sometimes do conflict. Of the two that believe these moral principles sometimes conflict, conflicting absolutism contends that we are responsible to do the lesser evil but guilty for whichever one we break. On the other hand, graded absolutism holds that our responsibility is to obey the greater commandment. Consequently, we are not guilty for not following the lesser commandment in conflict with it.


Examples of the Six Major Ethical Views


Corrie ten Boom tells how she lied to save Jews from the Nazi death camps. During U.S. Senate hearings on the Iran-Contra issue, Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North testified that, in the process of performing his duties, he had lied to save innocent lives. North said, “I had to weigh lying and lives.”

般瑪(Corrie ten Boom)說謊拯救猶太人逃過納粹死亡集中營。在美國參議院聆聽伊朗門事件時,諾夫中校(Oliver North)作証說,在履行職責過程中,他說謊挽救無辜的生命他說:「我不得不衡量說謊及生命

In a number of biblical stories, people lied to save lives. The Hebrew midwives lied to save the baby boys Pharaoh had commanded them to kill (Exod. 1:15-19). Rahab lied to save the lives of the Jewish spies in Jericho (Josh. 2).


Is it ever right to lie to save a life? This issue will serve to focus the differences among the six basic ethical positions.


  1. Lying is neither right nor wrong: there are no laws. Antinomianism asserts that lying to save lives is neither right nor wrong. It affirms that there are no objective moral principles by which the issue can be judged right or wrong. The issue must be decided on subjective, personal, or pragmatic grounds, but not on any objective moral grounds. We are literally without a moral law to decide the issue.

[1] 說謊是既不對也不錯:沒有任何法律。無規範主義斷言,謊拯救生命既不對也不錯這主義肯定沒有任何客觀的道德原則,可以判斷問題的對與錯。這個問題必須決定於主觀、個人或實用的理由但客觀上沒有任何道德理由我們沒有道德律來決定這問題。

  1. Lying is generally wrong: there are no universal laws. Generalism claims that lying is generally wrong. As a rule, lying is wrong, but in specific cases this general rule can be broken. Since there are no universal moral laws, whether a given lie is right will depend on the results. If the results are good, then the lie is right. Most generalists believe that lying to save a life is right because in this case the end justifies the means necessary to attain it. However, lying in general is wrong.

[2] 說謊一般是錯誤:有沒有普遍的法律。廣泛主義認為說一般錯誤的。根據規則的,但在具體情況下,這一般規則可以被違反由於沒有普遍的道德律,一個謊言對與錯將取決於結果。如果結果是好的,那麼謊言是正確的。大多數廣泛主義者相信謊拯救生命對的因為在這種情況下,結果使達到結果的必要手段成為合理。不過,一般是錯誤的。

  1. Lying is sometimes right: there is only one universal law. Situationism claims that there is only one absolute moral law, and telling the truth is not it. Love is the only absolute, and lying may be the loving thing to do. In fact, lying to save a life is the loving thing to do. Hence, lying is sometimes right. Indeed, any moral rule except love can and should be broken for love’s sake. Everything else is relative; only one thing is absolute. Thus the situationist believes that lying to save lives is morally justified.

[3] 說謊有時是對的:只有一個普遍法律。處境主義認為,只有一個絕對的道德律,說實話不是這道德律。愛是唯一的絕對,而說謊可能是愛的行動事實上,說謊是為了挽救一個生命愛的行動因此,說謊有時是正確的。除了愛任何道德規則都可以而且應該因愛的緣故被違反一切都是相對的只有一件事是絕對的。因此,處境主義者認為以說謊拯救生命在道德上是合理

  1. Lying is always wrong: there are many nonconflicting laws. Unqualified absolutism believes that there are many absolute moral laws, and none of them should ever be broken. Truth is such a law. Therefore, one must always tell the truth, even if someone dies as a result of it. Truth is absolute, and absolutes cannot be broken. Therefore, there are no exceptions to telling the truth. Results are never used as a rationale to break rules, even if the results are desirable.

[4] 說謊是永遠是錯的:有許多不衝突的法律。無條件絕對主義相信,有許多絕對的道德律,任何一個都不能被違反。誠實是一條法律因此,我們必須常常講真話,即使講真話的結果是有人死了。誠實是絕對的,絕對不能被違反因此,講真話不會有例外永遠不可結果作為違反規則理由即使結果是稱心的。

  1. Lying is forgivable: there are many conflicting laws. Conflicting absolutism recognizes that we live in an evil world, where absolute moral laws sometimes run into inevitable conflict. In such cases it is our moral duty to do the lesser evil. We must break the lesser law and plead mercy. For instance, we should lie to save the life and then ask for forgiveness for breaking God’s absolute moral law. Our moral dilemmas are sometimes unavoidable, but we are culpable anyway. God cannot change his absolute moral prescriptions because of our moral predicaments.

[5] 說謊是可原諒:有許多相互衝突的法律。有衝突絕對主義認識到,我們生活在一個邪惡的世界,絕對的道德律有時會遇到不可避免的衝突。在這種情況下,我們的道德責任兩害取其輕。我們必須違反較小法律,然後求憐憫。例如,我們應該以說謊拯救生命,然後求神饒恕違反絕對道德律的罪。有時我們不可避免道德困境,但我們要承受罪責。神不能因我們的道德困境改變他的絕對的道德指令

  1. Lying is sometimes right: there are higher laws. Graded absolutism holds that there are many moral absolutes, and they sometimes conflict. However, some laws are higher than others, so when there is an unavoidable conflict, it is our duty to follow the higher moral law. God does not blame us for what we could not avoid. Thus he exempts us from responsibility to follow the lower law in view of the overriding obligation to obey the higher law. Many graded absolutists believe that mercy to the innocent is a greater moral duty than telling truth to the guilty. Hence, they are convinced that it is right in such cases to lie in order to save a life.

[6] 說謊有時是正確的:有更高的法律。等級絕對主義認為有許多道德的絕對,而他們有時發生衝突。然而,有些法律高過其他法律,所以有不可避免的衝突時,我們的責任遵循更高的道德法律。不會因不能避免的事責怪我們因此,豁免我們遵守較低法律責任,因為首要義務遵守的較高法律。很多等級絕對主義者相信憐憫無辜者高於向有罪者講真話因此,他們相信,在這種情況下,以說謊拯救生命是正確的

The diagram on the next page is a logical summary of the six major views.


In summary, antinomianism sets forth its view to the exclusion of all objective moral laws. Generalism claims that there are exceptions to moral laws. Situationism holds one moral absolute to the exclusion of all others. Unqualified absolutism insists that there is always an escape from the apparent conflict in absolute moral laws. Conflicting absolutism contends that when moral laws conflict, doing the lesser evil is excusable. And graded absolutism holds that when moral laws conflict, God grants an exemption to the lower law in view of our duty to obey the higher law. Each of these views will be examined in the next several chapters.


Chart 1.1
Six Major Ethical Views

Moral Principles








Sometimes Conflict

Never Conflict
Nonconflicting Absolutism

Not Guilty (greater good)
Graded Absolutism

Guilty (lesser evil)
Conflicting Absolutism


















DOWNLOAD  (MS-Word document)



SOURCE: Norman L. Geisler (2010): Christian ethics: contemporary issues and options (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker), 15-21 (chapter 1).



Definitions of Ethics. 2

A)倫理的定義... 2

Christian Ethics Is Based on God’s Will 2

(一)基督教倫理基於神的旨意... 2

Christian Ethics Is Absolute. 3

(二)基督教倫理是絕對的... 3

Christian Ethics Is Based on God’s Revelation. 4

(三)基督教倫理基於神的啟示... 4

Christian Ethics Is Prescriptive. 5

(四)基督教倫理是指令性... 5

Christian Ethics Is Deontological 5

(五)基督教倫理是義務論... 5

Various Views on Ethics. 8

B)倫理的各種觀點... 8

Differences between Various Views. 9

(一)各種觀點的差異... 9

Examples of the Six Major Ethical Views. 10

(二)六大倫理觀... 10