VIII. Perspectives in Christian Ethics Examined
With the Scriptures we have considered as our guide, we will now examine a wide spectrum of views on Christian ethics. While we cannot fully critique the positions that follow, we will focus particularly on critical premises that either flow out of or detract from the centrality of Christ in Christian obedience.
As we delve into this historical material, it will become even more apparent that traditional "Christian" ethics has focused more on the Old Covenant and Moses than on the New Covenant and Christ. Further, traditional views have shown almost no sensitivity to redemptive-historical progression. This has resulted in what might be called a "flat Bible" approach to Christian ethics.
Why has Traditional "Christian" Ethics Been Old Covenant Oriented?
The concept of "Christian obedience," as we have already observed, has been based primarily on the Old Covenant ever since the fourth century. When Constantine became Emperor of the Roman Empire, he inaugurated the concept of a "Christian society" by forcefully imposing Christianity as the religion of the Empire.123 From that time on, a theocratic mind-set has characterized much of the visible church.
Lacking any kind of model in the New Testament, the necessary biblical support for this "Christian State" was drawn almost exclusively from the Old Testament.124 Since it was a societal system based on Old Testament theocratic paradigms, it is no surprise that the general approach to ethics was informed primarily by the Old Covenant.
123. Martin E. Marty, "The Idea of a Christian Society," A Short History of Christianity, New York: Meridian Books, 1959, pp. 97-119.
124. W.B. Selbie, "The Influence of the Old Testament on Puritanism," Searching Together, 8:3, 1979, pp. 13-21; Leonard Verduin, The Reformers and Their Stepchildren, Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1980, pp. 23, 210-213.
This is My Beloved Son, Hear Him. Jon Zens. Searching Together. Summer-Winter 1997, Vol. 25:1,2,3. Page 38.