When Christian Ethics Are Not Christian

A great deal of ethical discussion today comes to us from Christian writers and ministries. Much of it  is not really Christian at all. It may be advanced by Christians. And it may be supported by Christians. It may even be given in settings that appear to be Christian (churches, missions, radio and TV broadcasts by Christians, etc.) but in the end these arguments are not distinctly Christian at all.

Look, if an ethical argument can be made without any specific reference to Christ and the gospel then the argument being made is not Christian. It may be a solid moral argument. And it may well be right. But Christian ethics are Christian.

Oliver M. O’Donovan, Regius Professor of Moral and Pastoral Theology at Oxford University, wrote in 1994, that "The foundations of Christain ethics must be evangelical foundations, or, to put it more simply Christian ethics must arise from the gospel of Jesus Christ. Otherwise it could not be Christian ethics."

I think O’Donovan is quite right. I wish popular treatments of ethics by American conservatives would become more distinctly Christian. The ethics Christians should contend for are first and foremost ethics rooted in the gospel of Christ. The motive for obedience is also rooted in the gospel. Only by this kind of argument do we avoid the dangers of both moralism and legalism.

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