It can be argued, that when referring to the Bible, teachings within it are too rigid for moral decision making. There are many reasons for this, some which are very evident, particularly when looking at certain teachings. On the other hand, some argue that most religious ethics are the right way to approach moral decision making as these contain the teachings and word of God so must be correct. Some of St. Paul’s teachings are heavily criticised for being too rigid.
For example if a Christian were to be offered a promotion in a career, but it meant that they were to take someone else’s job and leave them without one, such teachings as, “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you. ‘” (Heb. 13:5). See also: 1 Tim. 6:9-11, would not help in this situation. This is discouraging an individual for taking that particular thing away from another even if it were to mean that they were happier as a result.
Therefore there is no flexibility about this, and the decision would be made to reject the offer of the career as one should not be jealous or want what another has. On the other hand, many argue that St. Paul’s teachings are rigid and can be seen from many different angles. For example the teaching, “But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased” (Heb. 13:16) can be applied to many situations when making moral decisions, as it is very broad and not specific. Therefore the teaching is flexible enough to be applied to almost every situation.
However it could be argued that teachings such as this are not specific enough to give strong guidance in a moral decision, particularly those which are life changing. Fundamentalist Christians would agree that St. Paul’s teachings are not too rigid as they believe that we should abide by the exact word of the Bible, as this is God’s word and not try to attempt to alter them in any way. When studying the Ten Commandments, many believe that these cannot be applied literally to every situation as there are different approaches that can be taken.
For example commandment number four, ‘Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy’ cannot be applied to the modern day as many people now work on a Sunday but still worship the Lord. Even Jesus Christ worked on a Sunday and was told not to when he was healing others. Even though he was acting out of love, this was still seen as work and was therefore against the word of God. Liberal Christians would agree that the Ten Commandments are too rigid to be used for moral decision making as different situations. For instance commandment six, ‘You shall not murder’ could be arguable.
This is because if a girl was being raped and in self-defence killed the rapist, could it not be argued that this is justifying right? Due the fact that the murder was only a result of the sin that the rapist committed to begin with. Fundamentalist Christians would not agree with this, as they believe that the Ten Commandments are rules to be abided by, from God. However it can then be argued that if a person is only being obedient to the rules of God and doing what they are told, are they actually making a moral decision?
This then also questions whether that person also then has any moral autonomy if they are just obeying the word of God. This is a strong criticism against religious ethics when used for moral decision making. Another criticism is that many religious ethics are very hard to be applied to modern day situations. This is because the teachings within the Bible were written thousands of years ago, and with advances with technology and society generally, situations occur today which would not have back then.
Therefore these ethics can be seen as too rigid to apply to modern day moral decisions. In particular many of St. Paul’s teachings are arguably sexist. For instance St. Paul preached that women should not be able to work, and yet today work between men and women is very equal with certain acts making this possible. Therefore as previously mentioned, it can be argued that St. Paul’s teachings are too rigid for moral decisions, as they do not take account for the modern day. Despite this, many argue that some Christian ethics are not too rigid for moral decision making e. . situation ethics. It is seen that situation ethics offers moral maturity and particularly conscience and prayer allows the Christian to have autonomy. Many Christians today take a liberal approach to moral decision making, as they are able to adapt the scripture for the particular situation that they are in and believe that this will achieve the best outcome. However Fundamentalist Christians will argue that if Christian ethics are too flexible then this could result with no ethics or guidance in what to do, and Christians will make the wrong moral decisions.
In conclusion, Fundamentalist and Liberal Christians take different approaches to moral decision making using religious ethics. Fundamentalist Christians will take a strict legalism approach and abide by rules from God such as the Ten Commandments, and only act by the teachings within the Bible, and how they believe that God would have wanted them to. On the other hand, Liberal Christians take a more copious approach and use Christian teachings such as situation ethics to help them make moral decisions.
This is because they allow them to be flexible and are able to apply the rule of ‘love’ to every situation. I would agree with Liberal Christians, as I believe that this approach allows us to adapt Christian ethics for the modern day situation and I believe that this will achieve the best outcome whilst still following the word of God and acting lovingly. Therefore I believe that Christian ethics such as religious ethics saves Christianity from being too rigid.
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