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About the Conception of this Text

“What am I allowed to do?” and “What should I do?” are, according to Emmanuel Kant, the two most important questions in the life of most humans. In this Ethics course, the primary focus will be the second question – that of correct action. 

Since for Christians both of Kant’s questions can be answered only through the Bible, Ethics in this course is specifically addressed from a biblical foundation. However, this is not a simple task. Because there is – fortunately – not the Christian etiquette as a systematic doctrinal edifice. But from the first to the last book of the Bible there are numerous etic norms and instructions. The variety of different answers has to do with the different times and situations in which they were given. At first glance this variety is bewildering yet it reveals the richness of the document. Though two declarations from the text may, on first reading, seem to be discordant or even contradictory, in reality, they represent the diversity of the Bible. These seemingly divergent statements must then be responsibly integrated into our actions. 

In the integration of Biblical statements into everyday life, there are two common ways to go astray. The first is to regard the Bible as hopelessly outdated and to do whatever one holds to be right. The second is to rip a single Biblical statement out of its context and to build an entire school of thought out of it. 

Biblical Ethics in this course will be divided up into three stages. 

  1. The Creation Ethics applies to all of mankind.
  2. The Ethics of the Decalogue, or the Ten Commandments, are the laws between God and his people. 
  3. The Ethics of the New Covenant, as the final ethic, has two aspects. First, the simultaneous intensification and fulfillment of the Commandments in Jesus. Second, Paul’s application of these in conflict situations in the early Church.

Before jumping into Biblical Ethics, however, a brief introduction must be given to the foundations of Ethics in general as well as several broad ethical schools of thought in the history of the Middle East. For most of the ethical principles discussed in this course, an example will be given. These could (and should) be changed to include current world events or topics of interest and current discussion in your course.