« Topic #4: Evangelicalism and Morality »

Launch Date for the Conversation: August 1, 2013

American Evangelicalism stresses the centrality of the Bible for guiding Christian morality. The process of moving from the Bible to Christian moral formation is, however, not necessarily straightforward. Difficulties arise from many quarters, but one the Bible itself explores is the changing moral circumstances of Israel from patriarchs to Moses through monarchy, exile, and return, and then in the teaching, death, and resurrection of Jesus. As evangelical Christians seek to live moral lives, both as individuals and communities, important disagreements sometimes arise. One important aspect of this is that the cultures within which Christians live is highly variable across both time and space. The line between applying Christian morality to new situations and compromising our morals can be quite difficult to discern. In light of these issues, some “leading questions” are

  1. What are the roles of the Bible and Christian tradition for guiding American evangelical Christians’ ideas of living a moral life?
  2. To what degree is moral formation a cognitive activity of working out what is  right and wrong, versus a character activity of building habits of moral action?
  3. Is the development of a moral vision an individual Christian activity, or is it a task given to local congregation or some broader group?
  4. How do past changes in Christian moral norms (for example, on slavery or birth control) inform engagement with pressures to re-work Christian perspectives on today’s hot issues (for example, homosexuality or social justice)?
  5. What are the proper ways for challenging the reigning evangelical views on particular moral issues? How should conflicting moral perspectives within Evangelicalism be brought into conversation?
  6. Is it useful for evangelical Christians to be in conversation with non-evangelicals and non-Christians about moral issues?

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Reader Comments (1)

I will be interested to see how these topics are engaged, as the "sola scriptura" approach to the Bible as a source for moral guidance has never made sense to me.

Traditionally Jews and Christians have relied on a largely "extra-biblical" sources for the development of ethical and moral reasoning -- i.e. their own philosophers and sages, with the main current owing much to the appropriation of Aristotle.

It seems to me that the Bible itself, used in a typical "sola scriptura" fashion, is often a terrible guide for moral reasoning without revisionary (and non-historical) interpretation unless one focuses on the teachings of Jesus and/or St. Paul which are quite clear but exceedingly problematic to apply and so widely ignored or selectively appropriated. To make good use of this material it seems inevitable that one ends up recapitulating or referring to the canonical "supplements" that have elaborated moral philosophy, law and ethics in the Abrahamic traditions.

August 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDan

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