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Collected, modified and translated by Dr. Kwing Hung




Absolute or universal: Moral norm that allows no exceptions (although some say an absolute is binding unless it is overridden by a higher duty in a particular situation); sometimes absolute means a moral norm that applies to the conduct of all human beings.


Absolutism: The belief that there is one and only one truth; those who espouse absolutism usually also believe that they know what this absolute truth is [contrast with relativism].


Academic honesty and integrity: Behaviour such as cheating on examinations and lab reports, or plagiarism of course papers and homework assignments are the most often cited violations of academic integrity or academic honesty. Other matters of academic integrity include honesty in writing letters of recommendation and in reporting institutional statistics.


Act utilitarianism: The belief that each ethical act should be judged by its results [contrast with rule-utilitarianism].


Act-orientation: Approach to ethics that emphasizes the uniqueness of particular ethical decisions [contrast with rule-orientation].


Active euthanasia: The act of directly taking the life of a patient. This could be performed by the suffering person (i.e., suicide—with or without a physician’s assistance) or administered by a physician or friend who causes death for merciful reasons; also called positive euthanasia [contrast with passive euthanasia].


Activism: (1) Active involvement in changing the laws and viewpoints of the society, such as through social action; (2) The belief that war is always right if engaged in by one’s government.


Actuality principle: A kind of functionalism affirming that a human organism has a right to life if and only if it has actually developed a minimal ability to express self-conscious and personal life [contrast with potentiality principle].

實際性原則:一種機能主義,認為一個人必須在實際上達最小的能力表達自我意識(自覺)和個人生活,才能有生命權。[對比潛力性原則 ]

Adultery: Voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and someone other than his or her marriage partner; may also include voluntary thoughts of such activities.


Affirmative action: Policies designed to promote employment among different races by aggressively recruiting, training, and promoting qualified minority persons.


Agapic love: Unselfish love (agape); love with no demand for return. Contrasted with philic love, which is a mutual friendship love (philia); and erotic love, which is a selfish, sensual type of love (eros).


Altruism: A selfless concern for other people purely for their own sake [contrast with selfishness or egoism].


Amniocentesis: A test for a fetus’s genetic health; involves examining the genetic structure of cells found in amniotic fluid drawn by needle from the amniotic sac.


Anarchy: A state of lawlessness where there is no government.


Annulment: An official cancellation of a marriage; a declaration that the attempted marriage never really came into being; in contrast to a divorce, which acknowledges the legitimacy of the marriage which it ends.


Antinomianism: Ethical viewpoint that there are no ethical norms or rules; literally, “against law.”


Applied research: The investigation of some phenomena to discover whether its properties are appropriate to a particular need or want [contrast with basic research].


Artificial insemination (AI): Injection of sperm cells either into a woman’s vagina or uterus, with the hope that one will fertilize the woman’s ovum (egg) and lead to pregnancy. The sperm may be from the woman’s husband (AIH) or from a donor (AID). Quite often in AID, the donor is unknown to the prospective mother; the sperm is obtained from a sperm bank.


Autonomy: The right to choose one’s own actions or course of life so long as doing so does not interfere unduly with the lives and actions of others.


Axiology: The study of values, whether in ethics, aesthetics, or religion.


Basic research: The investigation of the natural phenomena without reference to particular human needs and wants [contrast with applied research].


Beneficence: (1) The duty to do good, not harm to others; (2) Principle asserting that doctors are obligated to do good for their patients.


Bestiality: Sexual intercourse with animals.


Best-interest judgment: Judgment made on behalf of an irrational or comatose patient to preserve the person’s life but not to allow other procedures the patient has not preauthorized [contrast with substituted judgment].


Biblical feminism: Feminism of those who combine evangelical commitments with their defense of egalitarianism.


Bioethics: The study of ethics that result from technological scientific advances in the areas of biology and medicine.


Biotechnology: Any technique that uses living organisms (or parts of organisms) to make or modify products, to improve plants and animals, or to develop microorganisms for specific use. Biotechnology focuses on the practical applications of science (as opposed to doing “science for science sake”). Historically, biotechnology has had an impact in three main areas: health, food/agriculture, and environmental protection—solving problems such as to cure or prevent illness, to clean water, and to preserve food.


Brain death: Total cessation of brain activity both in the neocortical brain (upper brain) and in the brain stem.


Capital punishment: Legal execution by the government of a person convicted of a serious crime.


Capitalism: Economic system that connects with political democracy to form a social system that emphasizes individual freedom, limited government, and free enterprise.


Cardinal virtues: Prudence, courage, temperance, justice. See also theological virtues, virtue, virtues.


Carrying capacity: The number of organisms an ecosystem can support without degrading.


Categorical imperative: An unconditional command. For Immanuel Kant, all of morality depended on a single categorical imperative. One version of that imperative was, “Always act in such a way that the maxim of your action can be willed as a universal law.”


Celibacy: State of being unmarried and sexually abstinent, sometimes understood as a gift from God.


Character: The combination of natural and acquired features and traits that constitute a person’s nature or fundamental disposition, from which specific moral responses issue.


Chastity: Sexual purity and responsibility in actions and thoughts, either within or outside of marriage.


Citizenship view of ecology: Theory of environmentalism stressing that humans are part of the biosphere just like all other species.


Civil disobedience: Nonviolent, public violation of some law or policy, as an act of conscience, to protest the injustice of the law or policy, and to effect or prevent change in the law or policy.


Cloning: Making carbon-copy organisms by gene reduplication.


Communism: Economic system that emphasizes collective or state ownership of property in which central planners (not market forces) make economic decisions so that all citizens share wealth equally.


Compatibilism: The belief that both determinism and freedom of the will are true.


Conflict of duties: Another term for a moral dilemma.


Conflict of interest: A person has a conflict of interest when the person is in a position of trust which requires her to exercise judgment on behalf of others (people, institutions, etc.) and also has interests or obligations of the sort that might interfere with the exercise of her judgment, and which the person is morally required to either avoid or openly acknowledge.


Conflict of norms: When two or more conflicting norms are in effect in a certain ethical decision, at least one of the norms will be broken in any decision. The common ways to solve the conflict include: Antinomianism, Generalism, Situationism, Graded absolutism, Conflicting absolutism, Non-conflicting absolutism (or unqualified absolutism).


Conjugal rights: The rights to engage in sexual intercourse within marriage.


Conscientious objection: Refusal to submit to some governmental requirement, such as mandated military service, out of personal, moral, or religious beliefs, as a means of bearing witness to the perceived wrong in the law or policy.


Consequentialism: Another term for “utilitarianism”, where right or wrong actions are determined by their consequences (result-centered ethic) [contrast with deontological ethics].


Consequentialist ethics: Another name for teleological ethics.


Constitutional homosexuals: A person whose sexual attraction to those of the same gender is so deeply rooted that it is part of his or her essential being. A constitutional homosexual is not necessarily a practicing homosexual.


Contextualism: Act-oriented view of ethics that stresses the role of unique contexts or situations in determining ethical decision; sometimes equated with situationism. However, not all contextualists agree with situation ethics specifically because of its antinomian tendencies.


Counter-example: An example which undermines or refutes the principle or theory against which it is advanced.


Creation ethic: Theological approach to justifying ethics that stresses the similarities between Christian thought and the generic modes of thinking that God created in all persons [contrast with kingdom ethic].


Crusade: A war waged to remedy past or ongoing atrocities, especially one for religious reasons.


Cryonics: Popularly known as deep-freeze death, the process of freezing the dead with the hope of later reviving them.


De jure government: The alleged legal or rightful government as opposed to an actual or existing government, known as de facto government.


Death: Theologically, the separation of the spirit from the body; traditionally, the irreversible cessation of circulatory and respiratory functions; according to law, the irreversible cessation of the whole brain (brain death).


Deductive argument: An argument whose conclusion follows necessarily from its premises [contrast with inductive arguments].


Deep ecology: A deeply spiritual approach to ecology based on nature mysticism or pantheism.


Deontological ethics: (1) Duty-centered ethics, stressing obedience to rules, not by looking to results only; (2) an ethic that sees ethical principles as matters of duty [contrast with teleological ethics].


Deontology: A position in ethics which claims that the rightness or wrongness of actions depends on whether they correspond to our duty or not.


Descriptive ethics: The first level of ethical analysis; a statement of what people actually believe and practice that makes no claim about ethical normativeness; describing how people DO behave, rather than how they SHOULD behave [contrast with prescriptive ethics].


Descriptive relativism: Belief emphasizing the fact that different people and cultures have different moral values and practices.


Deterrence: (1) In the area of capital punishment, the idea that enforcement of the death penalty in a society will prevent would-be criminals from committing crimes they might otherwise have committed; (2) In the area of war, the idea that relies on the possession and threatened use of weapons—especially nuclear—to discourage or prevent attack.


Dilemma: A forced choice between courses of action (usually two) which are equally unacceptable. Sometimes people will call any challenging “moral problem” a dilemma, but this is a misleading use of the term.


Discrimination: When based on race, treating someone differently because of his racial identity, not because of his merit. It usually connotes treating a person badly just because she is a minority, but could include giving a white person an advantage because of his colour. See also reverse discrimination.


Distributive justice: The fair allocation of societal goods and benefits (such as natural resources) and societal burdens (such as taxation) among individuals and social groups.


Divine command theory: Any position in ethics which claims that the rightness or wrongness of actions depends on whether they correspond to God’s commands or not; the same as voluntarism.


Divorce: A legal dissolution of a duly consummated marriage.


Divorce (sacramental view): Catholic view that considers marriage a sacred covenant before God that is unbreakable except by death; in this view, annulment is possible under certain circumstances, but divorce never is.


Dominion view of ecology: Christian theory of environmentalism emphasizing the right of humans to use creation for their own needs; destruction of nature is prevented by individuals who own property rights over nature.


Double effect principle: Principle that asserts: if an inherently good act has two effects, one good and one bad, a person can act morally in doing that act provided (1) only the good effect is intended, (2) the bad effect is not the means to the good effect, and (3) the good effect is at least equal to the bad effect.


Durable power of attorney: Legal means by which a patient designates another to make decisions on his behalf should the patient become physically or mentally unable to do so. See substituted judgment.


Duty: the special responsibility associated with a particular profession or occupation or societal role. Physicians, journalists, students, or parents all have special duties. This is also a key term in Kantian ethics: We have a duty to abide by the moral law built into our minds. Compromises and little white lies are not permissible.


Egalitarianism: View that in home, church, and society, qualified men and women equally may exercise leadership; does not imply that women and men are identical in personal qualities, interests, skills, or gifts.


Embryo transfer (ET): Transfer of an embryo conceived in one womb to the womb of another woman.


Embryo: Early stage in a human’s development after the zygote stage and before it takes its distinctive form; roughly the first seven weeks of gestation.


Emotivism: The belief that ethical statements are an expression of our positive or negative feelings or emotion but are not really objectively binding.


Enlightenment: An intellectual movement in Europe from the 16th to the 18th centuries that believed in the power of human reason to understand the world and to guide human conduct.

啟蒙運動:歐洲從 1618世紀的思潮,相信人類理性力量可以認識世界和引導人的行為。

Epistemology: Investigation of the sources, methods, and status of human knowledge claims.


Erotic: Having to do with sexual arousal and desire.


Erotic love: Selfish or sensual love [contrast with agapic love].


Essentialism: (1) The view that a human person has a right to life by virtue of being a member of the human race, rather than by virtue of being able to perform certain functions [contrast with functionalism]. (2) The view that God wills something because it is right; it is not right simply because God wills it (voluntarism). There are two basic forms of essentialism. (a) According to Platonic essentialism, God wills it in accord with some objective standard (the Eternal Forms) outside Himself. (b) According to the Christian essentialism, God wills it in accord with the absolute standard of His own unchangeable nature. [contrast with voluntarism to divine command ethics].


Ethical egoism: Any teleological ethic that says one ought to act in self-interest.


Ethical relativism: (1) The view that sees all ethical beliefs, norms, or methods depending on individual persons or cultures; a denial of absolutes. (2) The view that the truth of some ethical judgment as applied to a person’s behaviour depends on whether the person believes the actions to be right or wrong, also called “ethical subjectivism [contrast with ethical absolutism].


Ethics: (1) The study of morality; includes 3 levels: descriptive, normative, and metaethical. (2) That branch of philosophy concerned with the nature of morals and moral evaluation, e.g., what is right and wrong, virtuous or vicious, and beneficial or harmful (to others).


Ethnicity: An individual’s affiliation with a particular cultural tradition that may be national (French) or regional (Sicilian) in character. Ethnicity differs from race in that ethnicity is a sociological concept whereas race is a biological phenomenon.


Euthanasia: Literally, a happy death; taking the life of a terminally ill or elderly human being before natural death occurs. It is intended for the humane purpose of ending the agony of someone who suffers from incurable disease or injury.


Exception clause: Jesus’ phrase “except for adultery” (Mt 5:32; 19:9) allows an exception to the prohibition of divorce.

例外之條款:「除了為淫亂的緣故」(5:32; 19:9這句話,就是禁止離婚的例外。

Exceptionism: A view that a moral judgment is universal, but not absolute; as there are justified exceptions to universal moral rules.


Existentialism, ethical: The ethical view that stresses the subjective, individual, personal, and volitional aspects of ethical decisions.


Fabrication: In research ethics, it means making up data, experiments or other significant information in proposing, conducting or reporting research.


False dilemma: The presentation of alternatives in a dichotomous way. For example: “either print this story or don’t” is a false dilemma; there are many other choices: print later, print some, print differently, etc. In logic, this form of reasoning is called the either-or fallacy or excluded middle.


Falsification: In research ethics, it means changing or misrepresenting data or experiments, or misrepresenting the credentials of an investigator in a research proposal. Unlike fabrication, distinguishing falsification of data takes judgment and an understanding of statistical methods.


Feminism: Movement advocating laws and social policies that promote social, political, and economic equality between the genders.


Fetology: The scientific study of the unborn from conception to birth.


Fetus: The individual unborn human in the later stages of development; roughly from the end of the second month of pregnancy until birth.


Fidelity: The duty to be true and loyal to others.


Formalism: The strict adherence to customs, such as religious tenets.


Fornication: (1) Voluntary sexual intercourse between an unmarried man and an unmarried woman. (2) In the Bible, the word can refer to all kinds of sexual immorality (including adultery, homosexuality, incest, etc.).


Fraud: An intentional deception perpetrated to secure an unfair gain, in most cases involving money. The term “research fraud” or “scientific fraud” is also used to mean an intentional deception about scientific results.


Free market: Economic environment in which individuals make economic decisions about production and consumption independently, with a minimum of state interference.


Freedom: The belief that everyone is entitled to make choices, and holds that the person is responsible for the consequences of their actions.


Functionalism: The view that a human organism is a human person by virtue of its ability to function personally, that is, as a moral, intellectual, spiritual abilities [contrast with essentialism].


Gay: Homosexual; homosexual women prefer to speak of themselves as lesbians, while homosexual men refer to themselves as gay men.

同性戀在英文中,男同性戀者和人女同性戀者有不同的名詞男的稱為gay men女的稱為lesbians)。

Gender: Maleness or femaleness. A person’s gender refers to that individual’s affiliation with either male or female social roles. Gender differs from sex in the same way that ethnicity differs from race: gender is a sociological concept, while sex is a biological one.


Generalism: The belief that there are no universal ethical norms, only general ones that are binding in most situations but also admit of exceptions.


Gene-splicing: Grafting characteristics from one animal onto another, sometimes producing new kinds of organisms.


Genetic engineering: (1) Term most commonly used to refer to the use of genetics to design human descendants, and the manipulation of the entire living world for the benefit of humanity. (2) More precisely, the term denotes any technical intervention in the structure of genes, for such purposes as the removal of a harmful gene, the enhancement of a specific genetic capacity, or the changing of an organism’s genetic structure. (3) Sometimes the term is used to refer to reproductive technologies in general.


Genetics: Study of genes (the chromosome units that determine one’s hereditary characteristics) and the application of that knowledge to experimental and clinical uses.


Genocide: Attempt to kill those of a particular race; logical extension of racism.


Golden mean: The ethical view held by Aristotle and others that affirms the right action is the mean between two extremes.


Graded absolutism (also called hierarchicalism or contextual absolutism): Theory maintaining that when two or more absolute universal ethical norms come into unavoidable conflict, the right and nonculpable duty is to follow the higher norm.


Guided market: Economic environment in which central planners seek to guide an economy toward certain desirable goals using a variety of strategies (taxes, tariffs, subsidies, monetary policies, etc).


Harm: What all rational people want to avoid for themselves or for those close to them, unless they have a reason for wanting it. The harms include death, pain, disability, being deprived of freedom or pleasure. The connection with morality is: To irrationally cause harm to oneself is immoral.


Harvesting organs: Keeping human organisms alive for the purpose of utilizing their organs for research or transplantation.


Head: Key Greek word (kephale) for understanding 1 Corinthians 11:13-16 and Ephesians 5:21-33; often interpreted by biblical traditionalists to mean “authority over”, while some biblical feminists interpret it to mean “source”.


Hedon: An abstract term that utilitarians use to designate a unit of pleasure (Greek word for pleasure). Its opposite is a dolor, which is a unit of pain or displeasure.


Hedonism: The belief that pleasure is the essence of life and should be sought for its own sake.


Heterosexual: Person attracted sexually to those of the opposite gender.


Hierarchicalism: (1) Another name for graded absolutism. (2) View that it is God’s design that males must fill leadership roles in certain social relationships, and that women must follow the leadership and authority of men.

等級主義:(1)等等級絕對主義。 (2一個觀點,認為神的設計是男人必須在社會人際關係占領導的角色,女人必須跟隨男人的領導和管治

Homophobia: Irrational fear of homosexuals, sometimes leading to an attitude of hostility toward them.


Homosexual: Person (male or female) with a homosexual orientation; may refer only to those who practice homosexual acts, or may include those who have same-sex desires.


Homosexual orientation: Disposition or persistent preference of a person for same-gender sexual relationships; also known as constitutional homosexuality.


Homosexuality: Persistent or predominant sexual disposition of an individual toward persons of the same sex.


Human rights: A concept with many possible meanings, but most commonly those basic prerogatives, powers, and expectations of all people by virtue of their being human beings.


Hypothetical imperative: A conditional command, such as, “If you want to lose weight, stop eating cookies.” Some philosophers have claimed that morality is only a system of hypothetical imperatives, while others—such as Kant—have maintained that morality is a matter of categorical imperatives [contrast with categorical imperative].


Hysterectomy: A medical procedure that removes the womb (uterus), thus making childbearing impossible; a form of female sterilization; not to be confused with a hysterotomy, which is an incision in the womb, especially for a caesarean birth.


Ideal: How we would like people to act; people are praiseworthy if they act in accordance with the moral ideal (green-light ethics); an ideal action is one that is morally encouraged, not morally required. For example, to people who allow abortion, bearing the fetus to term is ideal, but terminating the pregnancy for a variety of reasons is not necessarily blameworthy.


Ideal absolutism (also called conflicting absolutism, or lesser-evil absolutism): Theory stating that when moral dilemmas occur, one’s duty is to choose the unavoidable lesser evil and then seek forgiveness for sinning.


Idealism: The perhaps unrealistic assumption that desirable outcomes can be obtained without causing harms. The belief that we can help all nations of the world to achieve the same level of wealth and conveniences, without causing anyone to give up anything whatsoever is idealistic—and probably very naive. This is different from epistemological “idealism,” which refers to the fact that we all hold our world in our heads and that there may or may not be a corresponding external reality.


Impaired child: One born with an impairment that does not necessarily entail immediate death if left untreated.


Impartial: Treating everyone as equal. A person is acting impartially when he is acting like an umpire in sports. The person tries to make similar judgments in similar circumstances using rules that are known to all involved. For many philosophers, impartiality is an essential component of the moral point of view.


Imperative: A command. Philosophers often distinguish between hypothetical imperatives and categorical imperatives.


Imperiled child: One born with an impairment that will cause death if not immediately treated. Not to repair it is a form of infanticide [contrast with impaired child].


In vitro fertilization (IVF): Artificially induced fertilization outside the human womb (in a petri dish), followed by the insertion of the fertilized egg into the womb, popularly known as test-tube babies.


Incest: Sexual relations between close blood relatives, most commonly between a father or stepfather and daughter or stepdaughter.


Inclination: Our sensuous feelings, emotions, and desires (as used by Kant, German Neigung), in contrast to reason. Whereas inclination was seen as physical, causally-determined, and irrational, reason was portrayed as non-physical, free, and obviously rational.


Income: Economic power or money that one receives periodically in exchange for labour or the use of capital; a person with a high income may not be wealthy.


Induced abortion: Intentional termination of a pregnancy using some medical interventions [contrast with spontaneous abortion].


Inductive argument: An argument which offers only a degree of probability to support the conclusion [contrast with deductive argument].


Infanticide: The act of intentionally taking an innocent human life after birth.


Informed consent: (1) Principle that a patient understand medical treatment options before choosing treatment or the withholding of treatment. (2) A term used to describe the obligation of researchers to allow research subjects to be active participants in decision regarding their participation in research.

知情的贊同:1一個原則,就是病人首先了解醫藥治療方案,然後再選擇治療或拒絕治療。 (2一個術語,來描述研究人員的義務,就是讓研究對象成為積極的參與者,讓他們決定是否參與研究。

Integrationist: Any position which attempts to reconcile apparently conflicting values into a single framework. Integrationist positions are contrasted with separatist positions, which advocate keeping groups separate from one another.


Intentionalism: The belief that the intent is the essence of an act, so that it is right if it is done with good intentions and wrong if it is done with bad intentions.


Intercourse (sexual): Intimate sexual activity involving penile penetration; also known as coitus.


Interventionism: Disapproving word that some advocates of the free-market view use to describe the guided-market approach.


Intrinsic good: Good in and of itself, as opposed to good only as a means to something else.


Inversion: Same as homosexual orientation.


Irrationality: The key to a system of morality. It is irrational to want harm without reason. It is immoral to cause what is irrational to want.


Is-ought fallacy: An invalid inference from what is to what ought to be; arguing from the descriptive to the prescriptive.


Jim Crow: A set of laws, policies, and practices that enforced segregation of African-Americans prior to the civil rights era.


Jubilee, law of: An Old Testament law (Lev 25, 27) stipulating that the land would return to its original owner after fifty years.


Judgment: A proposition that states what is morally required, prohibited, permitted, or encouraged.


Just war: A war that satisfies both jus ad bellum and jus in bello criteria. Jus ad bellum means the “right to wage war” referring to the conditions of just cause, just intention, declaration by lawful authority, and as a last resort. Jus in bello means “right conduct in war” referring to the conditions of noncombatant immunity and proportionate means.


Justice: (1) The duty to treat all fairly, distributing the risks and benefits equably. (2) A trait of individuals or societies that seeks to achieve and enforce impartially those conditions that foster human flourishing, by rendering to each person what is due to him or her.


Justification: How one explains or excuses questionable behaviour. A questionable act—lying, for example—is strongly justified if most rational, impartial persons could advocate lying in specific situations. A questionable act is not justified if no rational, impartial persons could advocate lying in those situations. It is weakly justified if a rational, impartial person could go either way.


Kingdom ethic: Theological approach to justifying ethical claims that emphasizes the distinctiveness of Christian ethics and the centrality of biblical teaching [contrast with creation ethic].


Law: A system of rules different from ethics. Something can be legal but not ethical—lying to one’s employer, for example—as well as ethical but not legal—refusing to obey laws that discriminate against minorities, for example. The most easily justified actions are those that are ethical and legal. Note that one cannot justify a moral rule by suggesting that it’s not illegal; however, one can challenge a legal rule by analyzing it as immoral. Morality is the bedrock on which we build laws.


Legalism: Ethical systems, condemned in the Bible, that overemphasizes law and develop detailed rules for many specific matters without regard for justice or mercy; legalism tends to universalize norms that are relevant in particular cultures only [contrast with antinomianism].


Lesbian: A homosexual woman.


Lesser-evil view: The belief that there are real moral conflicts and that in such cases one is morally obliged to choose the lesser of the two evils.


Letting die: Withholding life-prolonging and life-sustaining technologies to enhance the well-being of the terminally ill by avoiding useless prolonging of the dying process. Letting die is like passive euthanasia in that it prohibits direct killing (the underlying disease or injury is the actual cause of death); but unlike passive euthanasia, letting die does not intend or choose death [contrast with euthanasia].


Lex rex: Literally “the law is king” as opposed to “the king is law”; taken from Samuel Rutherford’s famous book by that title (1644).

律是王:相對於國王是」;取自盧瑟福(Samuel Rutherford1644年的書名。

Lex talionis: The law of retribution (eye for eye, tooth for tooth, life for life) found in Leviticus 24:17-20 and relevant to Exodus 21:22-25.


Liberation theology: Third-World (especially Latin American) movement that defines sin as economic oppression and salvation as personal, economic, and political liberation of the poor.


Likely to Lead [to the suffering of unjustifiable harms]: Some behaviours are morally prohibited because they are likely to lead to the suffering of unjustifiable harms. These actions include deceiving, cheating, breaking promises, breaking the law, and failing to meet one’s role-related responsibilities. This is consequentialist ethics.


Living will: Legal document in which a person indicates his wishes regarding treatment in order to guide medical personnel in situations where he is unable to choose treatment.


Love: The supreme virtue, rational, emotional, and volitional, that seeks the highest good of others through self-giving relationships.


Lust (sexual): Strong desire for illegitimate sexual involvement.


Mammon: Wealth and money seen as a power or deity.


Marriage: A union of one man and one woman as husband and wife through an official ceremony of vows by which the man and woman promise faithfulness to each other; marriage is recognized by society as well as by the church and is consummated in a full sexual union.


Masturbation: Stimulating oneself sexually, usually to orgasm.


Maxim: According to Kant, a maxim is the subjective rule that an individual uses in making a decision.


Means: Philosophers often contrast means and ends. The ends we seek are the goals we try to achieve, while the means are the actions or things which we use in order to accomplish those ends. Some philosophers, such as Immanuel Kant, have argued that we should never treat human beings merely as means to an end.


Mercy killing: A synonym for euthanasia.


Metaethical relativism: Theory that moral norms and rules of justification are not universal, but relative to specific persons, cultures, or religions.


Metaethics: Third level of ethical analysis that looks at the meaning of ethical terms and the rules of ethical justification.


Middle axioms: Universal ethical principles derived from other universal principles.


Misogyny: Latent or explicit hatred of women.


Modernism: Western cultural mentality, associated with the Enlightenment but now gradually declining, that stresses the supremacy and objectivity of human reason, the possibility of absolute knowledge, and the inevitability of progress [contrast with postmodernism].


Money: Any medium of economic exchange; a common unit of material value used to assign values to all other objects.


Monogamy: A relationship between one husband and one wife, as opposed to polygamy, in which one husband has multiple wives.


Moral commitment: The individual must give priority to moral values above other personal values such that an intended decision is to do what is morally right.


Moral development: A set of theories that describe moral maturity or sophistication, and the steps that one follows in reaching moral maturity or sophistication. Typically, fear of punishment and hope for reward as moral motivator ranks much lower than the wish to do right.


Moral dilemma or conflict of duties: Situation in which there is a conflict between two or more ethical absolutes.


Moral isolationism: The view that we ought not to be morally concerned with people outside of our own immediate group. It is often a consequence of moral relativism.


Moral reasoning: The process of making a judgment about what course of action is morally right, thus prescribing a course of action that ought to be done.


Moral sensitivity: The individual faced with a situation makes analyses concerning what actions are possible, who would be affected by these actions, and how these actions would be regarded by the affected parties.


Moral sphere: The area of problems that require moral reflection.


Moral system: The structure that both describes and prescribes how people should act in regards to one another. An adequate moral system will clearly differentiate among behaviours that are morally prohibited, those that are morally permitted, those that are morally required, and those that are morally encouraged.


Morality: (1) Dimension of life related to right behaviour or conduct, including virtuous character, honorable intentions, and right actions. (2) The first-order beliefs and practices about good and evil by means of which we guide our behaviour. Contrast with Ethics, which is the second-order, reflective consideration of our moral beliefs and practices.


Mores: Customs or practices of a culture, whether morally right or not.


Motive: That which moves a person to action. Typically these are emotions, desires or concerns.


Narcissism: An excessive preoccupation with oneself. In mythology, Narcissus was a beautiful young man who fell in love with his own image reflected in a pool of water.


Narrative ethics: An approach to the moral life that focuses on an individual’s life story, the story or tradition of one’s community or group, and the stories of others; and how these shape one’s character and influence one’s life patterns.


Natural law theory: The view that there is a basic moral law known to all rationally and morally responsible human beings by nature and apart from any supernatural revelation. It provides a foundation for establishing and understanding moral values and obligations. For Christians, God created human life for certain purposes such that identifying these helps develop and justify a Christian ethic. Believers in natural law hold (a) that there is a natural order to the human world, (b) that this natural order is good, and (c) that people therefore ought not to violate that order.


Natural passive euthanasia: Allowing terminally ill persons to die naturally without withdrawing food, air, or water from them.


Naturalism: Philosophical view of ethics asserting that moral values can be derived from facts about the world and human nature, and that ethical terms and propositions are translatable into factual words and statements. “Is” can imply “ought” [contrast with nonnaturalism]. Note that ethical naturalism differs from philosophical naturalism or atheism.


Naturalistic fallacy: Inferring normative (prescriptive) conclusions from factual (descriptive) premises alone; deriving the ought entirely from the is.


Negligence: Failure to be sufficiently careful in a matter in which one has a moral responsibility to exercise care.


Nihilism: The negation of all moral values, as in “relativism”. Literally, a belief in nothing (nihil). Most philosophical discussions of nihilism arise out of Fredrich Nietzsche’s remarks on nihilism in The Will to Power.


Nominalism: The view that there is no real basis for an essence, nature, or universal concept; in ethics, the belief that there are no universal ethical laws.


Noncognitivism: Any theory that sees ethical principles as cognitively meaningless; an implication of positivism.


Nonconflicting absolutism: Theory that holds that ethical absolutes do not actually conflict; God’s absolutes, properly understood, allow no exceptions.


Nonmaleficence: (1) The duty to cause no harm. (2) Principle asserting that doctors are minimally obligated to avoid harming their patients. This principle is more fundamental than beneficence.


Nonnative ethics: Same as prescriptive ethics.


Nonnaturalism: Philosophical view of ethics claiming that ethical terms and propositions are not translatable into factual words and statements [contrast with naturalism].


Nonviolent resistance: View that Christians should not only avoid participation in war, but also actively resist war using nonviolent means.


Norm: A moral rule, a guide to character and action.


Normative ethics: Second level of ethical analysis; analyzing about how people SHOULD behave, as differentiated from how they DO behave [contrast with descriptive ethics].


Normative relativism: View that what is right in one culture or for one person might not be right for another.


Nuclear pacifism: View that while warfare with conventional weapons may at times be justified, nuclear warfare can never be, due to the uniquely destructive nature of nuclear weapons.


Objective: Having reality or truth-value that relies on criteria that are external to the speaker. Objective statement in morality are statements where there is remarkable universal agreement.


Ontology: Study of the nature of being, of what exists.


Ordinary/extraordinary: In medical treatments, the distinction related to the degree of pain, expense, invasiveness, or inconvenience in proportion to possible benefits of that treatment. Ordinary means are medical options that both offer reasonable hope of benefit and require only moderate costs. Extraordinary means are medical options that either offer little reasonable hope of recovery or require excessive costs in pain, expense, or inconvenience.


Organ transplants: Replacing defective organs in one person with healthy ones from another person.


Pacifism: The view that war is always wrong under all circumstances.


Particularity: Recently, ethicists have contrasted particularity with universality and impartiality and asked how, if morality is necessarily universal and impartial, it can give adequate recognition to particularity. Particularity refers to specific attachments (friendships, loyalties, etc.) and desires (fundamental projects, personal hopes in life) that are usually seen as irrelevant to the rational moral self.


Passive euthanasia: Allowing someone to die without technical or medical intervention to stop it, intending death as a means to ending the agony of a suffering person. Rather than directly taking the life, one acts to avoid prolonging the dying process, allowing the underlying disease or injury to cause death; also called negative euthanasia [contrast with active euthanasia].


Patriarchy: Systems of social life that preserve male privilege; feminists argue that patriarchy oppresses women.


Patriolatry: Radical patriotism that treats one’s country as ultimate or on a level with God.


Pauline privilege: The idea that an innocent Christian deserted by an unbelieving spouse is not bound to the marriage vow and is therefore free to choose remarriage; based on one interpretation of the phrase by Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:15.


People of colour: Recently coined phrase incorporating all nonwhite ethnic and racial groups bound together by their common experience of oppression and discrimination due to the racism of whites.


Permitted: Behaviour that is within the bounds of the moral system. It is morally permitted to act in ways that do not cause others unjustified harm.


Personalism: The belief that persons are the essence of moral values, an end in themselves, the only thing with “intrinsic good”.


Petting: Fondling another person’s sexually excitable body parts.


Phronesis: According to Aristotle, Phronesis is practical wisdom, the ability to make the right decision in difficult circumstances.


Plagiarism: To duplicate the writings, graphic representations or ideas of another person and represent them as one’s own, that is, without proper attribution. Plagiarism is a form of intellectual property violation.


Pleasure calculus: Jeremy Bentham’s method for identifying a right act by calculating the amount of pleasure the act will produce.


Pluralism: The belief that there are multiple perspectives on an issue, each of which contains part of the truth but none of which contain the whole truth. In ethics, moral pluralism is the belief that different moral theories each capture part of truth of the moral life, but none of those theories has the entire answer.


Pornography: Sexually explicit pictures, writing, or other materials designed to arouse sexual desires.


Positivism: (1) View that knowledge is limited to empirically observable facts and definitional statements; positivism judges ethical claims as being meaningless. (2) The belief that values are chosen (not discovered) voluntarily by people, as opposed to being derived from nature or God.


Postmodernism: Western cultural mentality that emphasizes the perspectival and limited character of human knowing; it justifies truth claims holistically (rather than individually) and pragmatically (rather than through correspondence) [contrast with modernism].


Potentiality principle: A kind of functionalism affirming that a human organism possesses a right to life if it has developed or has the natural capacity for developing self-conscious, personal life [contrast with actuality principle].


Practical ethics: Using a moral system, knowledge of conventions, role-related responsibilities and individuals’ needs to an ethical analysis. Agreement in this area relies on adherences to common moral theories, a condition that is uncommon.


Practicing homosexual: One who prefers and regularly engages in same-sex genital activities.


Pragmatism, ethical: The view that actions are good if they work (have cash value) or bring good results (utilitarianism and consequentialism).


Preemptive strike: An attempt by one country to attack its enemy first, to disable it.


Prescriptive ethics (normative ethics): The view that ethical laws are imperative, not descriptive [contrast with descriptive ethics]; they are a matter of “ought,” not of “is” [contrast with mores].


Preventive war: A war begun not in response to an act of aggression, but in anticipation of such, to prevent the other side from striking first.


Prima facie absolute (Latin meaning “at first glance”): A norm viewed as being exceptionless in the abstract, when considered outside of any real-life context or separate from any situational factors.


Principalism: Ethical approach that applies broad, abstract moral principles to general classes of cases.


Principles: Broad moral guidelines and precepts that are more foundational and more general than rules.


Privacy right: Personal rights of noninterference from others; the rights of persons as private individuals.


Problem of the commons: The problem of how to protect resources that belong to no one in particular but are necessary to the well-being of everyone.


Pro-choice: An adjective describing views that regard the value of reproductive freedom more highly than the value of fetal life [contrast pro-life].


Prohibited: Behaviour that is not within the bounds of the moral sphere. It is morally prohibited to act in ways that cause others to suffer or likely to suffer unjustified harms.


Pro-life: An adjective describing views that regard the value of fetal life more highly than the value of reproductive freedom [contrast pro-choice].


Promiscuity: Sexual behaviour characterized by casual, superficial relationships and frequent changes of partners.


Prosperity gospel: View that a Christian has a spiritual birthright that includes material wealth (also called the health and wealth gospel).


Psychologism egoism. The doctrine that all human motivation is ultimately selfish or egoistic.


Qualitative utilitarianism: The utilitarian view that measures the greatest good in terms of what kind or quality of pleasure over pain is likely to result.


Quality-of-life principle: The belief that decisions should be made in view of the quality of human life that will result [contrast with sanctity of human life].


Quantitative utilitarianism: The utilitarian view that defines the greatest good in a quantitative way, measuring how much pleasure over how much pain is likely to result.


Race: Ambiguous term for categorizing people by appearance; possibly grouping people from very different cultural backgrounds into one race, for example, describing both Pakistanis and Koreans as “Asians.”


Racial prejudice: Negative attitudes about certain persons based on racial or ethnic identity.


Racism: (1) Traditionally, the belief that one racial group is inherently superior to or more virtuous or deserving than another due to inherited characteristics, that civilization has developed due to the virtues of that race, and that the future of civilized society depends on preserving the purity of that race. (2) Recently, some describe racism as racial prejudice with power and attribute racism as the cause of cultural dislocation experienced by minority peoples.


Rape: Sexual intercourse without the consent of one of the partners.


Rationality. (1) The reverse of irrationality; (2) The ability to know that oneself and others can be harmed, the ability to recognize harms as such, and the ability to understand that questionable action requires justification.


Reconstructionism: The view that the Old Testament Mosaic law is still binding on all individuals and nations and should be the basic moral law of all countries. It is sometimes called theonomy (law of God) or biblionomy (biblical law). One question whether the OT demands for capital punishment are still in effect for adultery, fornication, homosexuality, and other crimes. It is a movement within conservative Christianity since the 1960s, whose proponents are mostly Reformed and postmillenialist.

重建主義一個倫理學觀點,認為舊約摩西律法所有個人和所有國家具有約束力,應該是所有國家的基本道德律。它有時被稱為神律主義聖經律主義。其中一個問題是死刑是否對通姦、淫亂、同性戀和其他罪行仍然有效。這是一個保守基督20世紀 60年代以來的運動,支持者大多是改革宗和後千禧年派。

Redistribution: Strategy by which government takes money from the wealthy and gives it to the poor.


Relativism: The belief that there are no moral absolutes. In ethics, there are two main type of relativism. (1) Descriptive ethical relativism claims that different people have different moral beliefs, but it takes no stand on whether those beliefs are valid or not. (2) Normative ethical relativism claims that each culture’s (or group’s) beliefs are right within that culture, and that it is impossible to validly judge another culture’s values from the outside.


Remedial view of justice: The view that the purpose of justice is to reform criminals, not to punish them.


Required: Behaviour that an agent MUST do. In moral theories, people are morally required to meet their role-related responsibilities, to avoid causing unjustifiable harm to others, and to avoid acting in ways that are likely to cause people to suffer unjustifiable harm.


Respect for persons: The duty to honor others, their rights, and their responsibilities.


Retribution: Something given or demanded in return for and in proportion to a wrong done.


Retributive justice: The lawful and fair punishment of criminals by society.


Reverse discrimination: Disadvantage which white males experience when those who hire workers pass them over in favour of a member of some disadvantaged group.


Rhythm method: A means of preventing conception by refraining from sexual intercourse during the period of a woman’s fertility in the menstrual cycle.


Rights: Entitlements to do something without interference from other people (freedom, negative rights); or entitlements that obligate others to do something positive to assist you (positive rights). Some rights (natural rights, human rights) belong to everyone simply by virtue of being human; some rights (legal rights) belong to people by virtue of their membership in a particular political state; other rights (moral rights) are based in acceptance of a particular moral theory.


Rule utilitarianism: The view that ethical rules should be chosen in view of the anticipated results flowing from keeping those rules [contrast with act utilitarianism].


Rule-orientation: View of ethics that classes similar acts into groups and develops general norms to cover all instances in the category [contrast with act-orientation].


Rules: Concrete and specific directives for conduct that derive from principles; people are blameworthy if they violate a moral rule.


Sadism: Inflicting pain on others for the pleasure of it.


Sanctity of human life: The belief that human life is sacred, of great value, and should be protected and preserved.


Satisficing: A term utilitarians borrowed from economics to indicate how much utility we should try to create. Whereas maximizing utilitarians claim that we should strive to maximize utility, satisficing utilitarians claim that we need only try to produce enough utility to satisfy everyone.


Screening: Medical testing of a large number of individuals designed to identify those with a particular genetic trait or biological condition.


Secular humanism: The belief that there is no God or God-given moral law; decisions are made situationally, in view of humanistic values, such as freedom and toleration.


Selectivism: The view that only some wars are just; unjust ones should be resisted, even those instituted by one’s own government.


Self-deception: Hiding, even to oneself, some truth about oneself (often one’s behaviour). It may take the form of making up some rationalization for a behaviour that is inconsistent with one’s sense of self, or it may take the form of failing to take notice of some of the features of the situation (this phenomenon is one that psychologists call “denial”).


Sex: Either the reality of being male or female (gender), or the erotic attraction, or genital activity between persons.


Sexism: Gender-based prejudice.


Sexual harassment: Unwelcome sexual advances, whether verbal, non-verbal, or physical, that (a) create a hostile work or learning environment, or (b) force submission to the abuse in employment process or performance evaluation, or (c) cause stress, anxiety, or embarrassment for the person harassed.


Sexuality: Quality of being male or female, or the awareness of and responsiveness to this aspect of human existence.


Simplicity gospel: View that Christians ought to live plain, simple lives in order to challenge the materialistic philosophy of secular society and to free up resources for Christian work.


Situationism: Act-oriented view of ethics; the view that there is only one absolute moral norm—love, and no other absolute ethical laws; all decisions are based on changing situations; stressing personal responsibility of applying love for concrete moral decisions; sometimes mixed up with contextualism although the two are different.


Skepticism: (1) In ancient Greece, the skeptics were inquirers who were dedicated to the investigation of concrete experience and wary of theories that might cloud or confuse that experience. (2) In modern times, skeptics have been wary of the trustworthiness of sense experience. Thus classical skepticism was skeptical primarily about theories, while modern skepticism is skeptical primarily about experience.


Socialism: A social system in which the public owns the means of production and the government actively redistributes income with the aim that all citizens receive an equitable share of goods and services.


Sodomy: Another term for homosexuality, taken from the ancient city of Sodom, which was destroyed by God for sexual perversion (Gen. 19); in the strictest sense, sexual union by anal penetration, whether homosexual or heterosexual.


Sperm bank: Storage of human sperm with a view to later impregnation of human ova to produce a human embryo.


Spontaneous abortion: Commonly called a miscarriage; a natural or nonartificially induced discharge of a human embryo that cannot survive outside the womb [contrast with induced abortion].


Standard of care: The degree of care that a reasonably prudent person would exercise. In negligence law, if a person’s conduct falls below such standards, he may be liable for injuries or damages resulting from his conduct. In professional malpractice cases, a standard of care is applied to measure the competence as well of the degree of care shown by the professional’s actions.


Stem cell research: Medical research on human stem cells for the purpose of finding cures for diseases. Embryo stem cell research is opposed by pro-lifers because it involves the destruction of human embryos. Adult stem cell research is considered acceptable by pro-lifers because it is taken from living cells of adults or umbilical cords.


Stereotype: Negative, composite image of persons in a certain class; a fixed, communally recognized impression of a group of people.


Stewardship view of ecology: Christian theory of environmentalism focusing on the responsibility toward God for protecting the environment.


Straight: Heterosexual.


Subjective: Having a reality or truth-value only in regard to criteria of the speaker. My believing that something is wrong does not necessarily entail that something is REALLY and objectively wrong; I might merely think that way.


Subjectivism: An extreme version of relativism, which maintains that each person’s beliefs are relative to that person alone and cannot be judged from the outside by any other person.


Substituted judgment: A decision regarding treatment or medical procedures made for another person unable to make it [contrast with best-interest judgment].


Supererogatory: Literally, “above the call of duty.” A supererogatory act is one that is morally good and that goes beyond what is required by duty.


Surrogacy: Most often the process in which a couple chooses another woman (the surrogate) to be artificially inseminated with the man’s sperm. Also refers to the process in which the parent couple’s sperm and ovum are combined in vitro, and the embryo placed in the womb of the surrogate. The surrogate gives up the baby at birth.


Sustainable growth: Economic development that meets the needs of various groups while conserving the resources and carrying capacity of the environment.


Teleological ethics: (1) The moral view that ethical decisions should be made in view of the end (telos) or results [contrast with deontological ethics]. (2) Any views that warrants ethical norms by looking to the nonmoral values the norms bring; a pragmatic ethic.


Teleology: Moral theory that justifies questionable actions by appeal to an ultimate outcome; the ultimate outcome could be anticipated as good consequences or for some of self-actualization.


Test-tube babies: Babies conceived outside the womb by in vitro fertilization.


Theocracy: Literally, “the rule of God,” government directly by God without human authorities.


Theological virtues: Faith, hope, love. See also cardinal virtues, virtue, virtues.


Theonomy (reconstructionism): Literally, “God’s law,” a belief that civil government is obligated to abide by God’s law as revealed in the Old Testament; defends free market economics as a biblical means to that end.


Theory: The foundations of the reasoning that supports a moral system. Moral theory is comparable to grammar, which is a system that you use intuitively to create language expressions, a system that tells you how language works when you do language analysis, and how language ought to work.


Therapeutic abortion: An abortion performed to save the mother’s life.


Therapeutic illusion: A condition under which research subjects falsely believe that taking part in a particular study will likely result in some direct therapeutic benefit for themselves.


Trade Secret: A device, method or formula that gives one an advantage over the competition and which must therefore be kept secret if it is to be of special value. It is legal to use reverse engineering to learn a competitor’s trade secret.


Trademark: An officially registered and legally restricted name, symbol or representation, the use of which is restricted to its owner.


Transcendental argument: A type of argument (from Kant) which seeks to establish the necessary conditions of the possibility of something’s being the case. For example, we have to believe that we are free when we perform an action; thus belief in freedom is a necessary condition of the possibility of action.


Tyranny: The rule of a tyrant or dictator who disregards the rights of human beings.


Universal: An ethical norm that applies to all persons; sometimes called an absolute.


Unqualified absolutism: The ethical view that there are many moral absolutes that never actually conflict; all alleged conflicts are only apparent, not real.


Utilitarian calculus: The formula of anticipated pleasure over pain used by utilitarians to determine which actions are right.


Utilitarianism: Teleological ethic based on the principle of utility: one ought to act to maximize the greatest good for the greatest number. Some seek the greatest overall amount of pleasure (hedonistic utilitarianism); while others seek happiness (eudaimonistic utilitarianism). Some utilitarians (act utilitarians) claim that we should weigh the consequences of each individual action, while others (rule utilitarians) maintain that we should look at the consequences of adopting particular rules of conduct.


Value: In the moral sense, a quality (such as loyalty, truthfulness, or justice) that human beings esteem and toward which they direct their moral behaviour.


Values: Those things that express what people desire or want to avoid. Primary values are highly likely to be universally shared, for example, people want to avoid death—unless they are terrorists on a self-sacrifice mission; pain—unless they are masochists or act under psychological compulsions; disabilities—unless they want to be dismissed from active duty in the trenches; deprivations of freedoms or pleasures—unless they have some other reason or psychological compulsion. But, rankings of values differ among people. There are also aesthetic and religious values that have no necessary connection with ethics.


Virtue: The moral stance or constitution of an individual, consisting not merely of a collection of individual virtues, but the strength of character to coordinate and exercise the virtues in a way that makes them morally praiseworthy. See also cardinal virtues, theological virtues, virtues.


Virtue ethics: The set of moral theories that justify exceptions to rules by appeal to what one’s moral hero might do. One might ask, for example: What would an extremely competent journalist who has great integrity do in this situation? There is also the popular slogan “What would Jesus do? (WWJD)” which takes Jesus as the moral hero.


Virtues: Specific dispositions, skills, or qualities of excellence that together make up a person’s character, and that influence his way of life. See also character, virtue.


Virtues and vices: Positive and negative traits of moral character, such as honesty, kindness, or being a courageous or responsible person. Notice that these terms of moral evaluation are applied to people, rather than to their actions (like rights, obligations, and moral rules) or to the outcomes they seek to achieve (like responsibilities).


Vitalism: View that physical life is in itself of highest value.


Voluntarism: The position that claims something is right because God wills it; God does not will it because it is right [contrast with essentialism].


Voluntary euthanasia: The taking of a human life for some alleged good purpose and with the person’s consent.


Voluntary sterilization: Medical procedure to render conception impossible, performed on either the male or the female organs with the person’s consent.


Voluntary/involuntary/nonvoluntary: Distinctions related to the way the desires of a patient are incorporated in treatment decisions. Voluntary treatment options follow the patient’s wishes. Nonvoluntary treatment decisions are made when the patient is incapacitated and cannot decide. Involuntary treatment decisions go against patient desires.


War: Armed conflict between or among nations or other groups of people.


Wealth: Stored economic power; money that is already accumulated and can be used as capital for investment.


Whistle blower. A person who takes a concern (such as a concern about safety or financial fraud) outside of the organization in which the abuse or suspected abuse is occurring.


Zygote: The product of the union of a sperm and an ovum in its first days of life.






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The entries of this glossary are collected from various books and websites. They were subsequently simplified and modified. The main references include:

David K. Clark & Robert V. Rakestraw, eds. (1994): Readings in Christian ethics, 2 volumes (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).

Norman L. Geisler (2010): Christian ethics: contemporary issues and options (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).