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the field of moral philosophy the establishment of a certain norm (or norms) of conduct, as the measure of moral responsibility, is fraught with problems.
true as it is that –
"...the colourings of culture, and shadows of spiritual darkness, have confused..."
Christ as creator is the light that "lighteth every man" (Jn.1:9) – so true is it also that the colourings of culture, and shadows of spiritual darkness, have confused public moral thinking to a virtually hopeless degree.

CHRISTIAN ethics however is necessarily theistic. 
and His commandments are seen as the determinative factor. Many have sought to found this factor specifically in the sovereign will of God, that is – that the choice or volition of God is the root of human duty. They see the divine choice as determining the norms of human conduct. However this idea neglects the (logically-prior) motive behind the act of divine will. One South African exponent of this understandably mistaken view writes –
Error/Misleading Half-truth:
"The most basic thing in the world of morality is not an intrinsic standard of right and wrong but the will of a righteous God."
Baptist 1980:2.
the expression "righteous God" implies conformity to a norm of righteousness on the part of God Himself!. To describe this norm then as being the will or volition of God is to beg the question, or avoid the issue. Surely, to regard moral obligation simply as a product of the will of God is to mistake the instrument for the source. The willing of God or divine choice must have an end or purpose in which the choice itself is fulfilled. The will of God apart from this purpose can have no meaning, no value, and hence no normative power. Rather then, the moral nature of God, or His intrinsic character, should be seen as the norm, for it is to this that His will conforms and is thus "righteous". His righteousness is therefore not merely the absence of sin or moral imperfection but the positive conformity of His will to the divine nature.
SOMEONE may say, "but, God can only will that which conforms to His nature. God cannot go against Himself". This question exposes a lack of understanding of the nature of morality. Force or coercion, whether by pressure of animal instinct or life-threatening loss, mitigates or even cancels moral responsibility, for choice must always be available or responsibility cannot be ascribed. This principle of freedom to choose is fundamental to moral responsibility and therefore to moral character and "righteousness". If conformity to the divine nature by God's choice or will is by coercive necessity it is no longer moral or righteous. He would have no choice but to do as his nature demands. (see The Cognition Condition below). But God is to be praised for His moral choices in the face of great provocation.

Universal Absolute
Bible represents the nature of God as "love" (1 Jn.4:8). Both Hebrew and Christian Scriptures present His motivation as love (Deut.4:37 and Jn.3:16), and the fulfillment of all His requirements of humanity (the Law) is summed up in the one word "love" (Rom.13:8).
evangelist-theologian Charles Finney accurately writes:
"disinterested benevolence is all that the spirit of moral law requires; that is, that the love which is required to God and our neighbour is goodwilling, willing the highest good or well-being of God, and of being in general, as an end, or for its own sake; that this willing is a consecration of all the powers, so far as they are under the control of the will, to this end." (Finney 1878:96).
love-norm of "disinterested benevolence" is clearly not love as our world has experienced it. The various terms for love in the Greek of the New Testament times reflect the range of confusion on this issue.
THE philia-love of brotherly affection and the empathy of like-minds is not this love. Neither the storge-love in the 'belongingness' of the family, nor the yearning-to-have of the eros-love are this love.
Nothing but self-less beneficence is this love! 
It is a giving-love, a serving-love, a dying-to-self and living-for-others love! 
The love-poem of 1 Corinthians 13 is its song, and its enactment is the Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ.
founding of humanity's moral obligation in the nature of God gives the ethic of human conduct an absolute and universal norm.
It is as immutable as God, for it is the essential moral character of His nature and as extensive as His own being – universal.
This norm applies equally in all ages and under all economies of Redemption, regardless of the expediency of divine command to given situations. The commands of His holy will should rather be seen as interpretations of this love-norm by the divine wisdom for specific circumstances or as general guides.
instance, what seemed good to the Holy Spirit in regulating the conduct of early Gentile converts (Acts 15:28-29; 16:4) was later abrogated when circumstances changed (1 Cor.8:4; 10:25), but within the limits of love (1 Cor.8:13).
Thus Paul writes:
"All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.
Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbour"
1 Cor.10:23-24.
IN other words love is the primary determinative factor for human conduct. Agape-love has as its goal the good of God and His creatures, whereas sin holds self-gratification as its end. Moral quality lies essentially in ultimate intention.
SELFISHNESS is sin and is the antithesis of love, that is, agape-love. The fact that selfishness is a universal as far as sin is concerned serves to prove its opposite; that love is the universal norm.
The Scripture groups all sin under the description:
"All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way"
Isaiah 53:6
righteousness is nothing less than the benevolence (good-willing) of God fulfilled in human experience. But it must be emphasized, in view of Situationism's claim to uphold the love-norm, that it is the benevolence that is of God. It is not, and could never be, simply a humanly conceived principle of goodness, for the depraved state of humanity precludes human cognition from providing a basis for ethics that could in any sense be seen as universal, even though the human mind may agree with, or reflect in some form, the essence of God's requirement (Rom.2:14-15). God's own moral nature which requires of Him (yet not by necessity) a certain course of behaviour is the complete and only basis of ethical duty among His creatures that have the privilege of sharing His freedom to choose.

Cognition Condition
H. Clark writes in Baker's Dictionary of Christian Ethics that, "responsibility is both established and limited by knowledge" (page 581). This conditioning factor of moral agency may be treated from two directions; the subjective and the objective; and we shall consider it in that order.
THE apostle Paul describes the effect of God's law as "knowledge of sin" (Rom.3:20) and argues that "where no law is, there is no transgression" (Rom.4:15), but considers all humanity guilty because they "hold the truth in unrighteousness" (Rom.1:18).
THIS New Testament view of knowledge qualifying responsibility seems supported by the Hebrew Scriptures. To Jonah, God gives the reasons in mitigation of His merciful attitude toward Nineveh as –
"six-score thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle"
Jonah 4:11.
THE implication is that the lack of cognitive ability on the part of the persons cited is to be equated with the moral accountability of animals.
ISAIAH also notes a state of non-responsibility with the words –
"before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good"
Isaiah 7:16.
Lord Jesus echoed this principle when He said to the Jewish Pharisees –
"If you were blind, you would have no guilt;
but now that you say, 'We see,' your guilt remains"
John 9:41.
illustrates this same principle in his own experience. He writes that sin "apart from the law" is "dead" (Rom.7:8), that is, impotent to condemn. He himself was "once alive" (spiritually) "apart from the law", but that "when the commandment" ("you shall not covet") "came", he "died" spiritually (Rom.7:9, compare v.5). Some have sought to identify this "commandment" with Paul-hearing-the-gospel-message and its ensuing conviction of sin, and that "died" simply means his realization of his sinful condition. The context however makes this claim ridiculous, for the subject in this passage (Rom.7:7-12) is the effect of the law, not the gospel.
HIS childhood innocence is what he is describing. That is, his non-accountability without a subjective awareness of responsibility, which the law/commandment later awakened as his human understanding developed to grasp it.
THE dawning of moral consciousness nevertheless condemns rather than helps humanity. (Paul's point.) The redemption plan of God provided that an objective revelation, the holy Scripture, should serve as a light (Ps.119:9), such as the commandment - 'you shall not covet'. The necessity for this lies directly in the depravity of humanity, both individually and socially.
THE divinely ordained ritual of the Old Covenant is shown in the New Covenant Scriptures to have been fulfilled in Christ, and even specific commands of God to Israel, and the regulation of the conduct of individuals, are represented as simply a teaching instrument to-bring-the-people-to-Christ. Thus, outer regulative elements are never absolute in themselves but only insofar as they interpret the love-law to each given circumstance.
THE acted 'lies' of David to Saul's soldiers and to the distrustful Philistines were not excusable sins (as 'ideal absolutism' sees them), nor was truth dethroned by a higher obligation (as 'hierarchialism' understands); rather the basic obligation of love to preserve life deceived the enemy and by reason of intention these were righteous acts. Factuality is not always 'truth' in the biblical sense.
FOR instance, Christ's statement on Lazarus' death that "he sleeps" was factually/literally untrue, yet it well expressed the truth of the situation, but, when wrongly responded to by His disciples, Christ corrected the impression with "Lazarus is dead" (Jn.11:14).
TO sum up, the perversity of the human heart, which darkens the mind and blunts the subjective awareness of obligation (conscience), necessitates reliance upon the objective revelation of intermediate norms of Scripture and the absolute norm in the historical life of Jesus, as this life is applied to the conduct of the Christian.

pyramid of ethical values called Hierarchicalism is a good attempt to avoid the pitfalls of other ethical systems while preserving the good in them. However, it falls immeasurably short of the Christian ethic, for the scale of its value system is fixed by a series of principles which, while philosophically reasonable, cannot be Biblically validated.
NORMAN Geisler, in his promotion of the hierarchical view of ethics, admits to the prime influence of the neo-Platonism of Plotinus in the system (Geisler 1971:115); an influence that has bedeviled Christian thinking throughout the ages. Hierarchicalism operates according to an ascending scale of comparative values inherent in 'things', 'potential persons', 'incomplete persons', 'actual persons', 'majority of persons', 'infinite person', as well as 'acts that promote personhood'.
are presumptions inherent in this system of ethics which are dangerously misleading.
TO illustrate: unborn John the Baptiser's awareness through the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary's entrance and his responsive leap of "joy" in the womb (Lk.1:44) cast serious doubt on Geisler's relegation of the unborn to the status of "potential persons". This most certainly has neither Biblical nor scientific support. On the contrary, the degree of difference between adult and newborn infant is far greater in every sense than between the newborn and the unborn, and this would most certainly not justify the sacrifices of children to save adults in a conflict of interest situation, as Hierarchicalism's principles imply.
ALSO, Geisler's superior "value" of the "complete person" over the "incomplete person", in a conflict of interest, is little more than a dressed-up version of survival-of-the-fittest, for as food and accommodation shortages begin to plague our peoples, a culling of the less valuable persons must result from this ethical system. His overcrowded lifeboat illustration bears this out.
ACCORDING to his sixth principle "many persons are more valuable than few persons". To quote in support from Israel's high priest that it was necessary for one man to die for the people, is not admissible evidence for the Bible says that he prophesied, in view of the fact that, though unknown to him, the Infinite Person was to be sacrificed for the finite, thus contradicting another Geisler principle. (1971:116). To sacrifice the minority for the sake of the majority may seem rational yet its contrary is what enjoys Biblical support. Throughout Scripture preference is given to the weak and the needy. To this the love-norm agrees, though seemingly illogically. The greatest is to be the servant of all and this service involves the pouring out of one's self "unto death". Only when God's person is accepted as the validation of ethics can it be considered truly Christian. Apart from His involvement there is no rationality to its ethic.
SERIOUS flaw in the whole system of Hierarchicalism is that the pre-eminence of God in the scale of values is based simply on His infinity. This could be the infinitude of His wisdom or His power, but is nevertheless a relative attribute and not volitional and thus not moral. Morality is not seen as flowing from Him, but He is simply the most valuable artifact in the universe.
EVEN Geisler's exercise on the revelational basis of Hierarchicalism, while expending much argument on proving degrees of guilt, which one need not deny, by the illustrations used shows the impossibility of constructing a scale of values from the biblical data.
great error is that his method of evaluation is a system. It seeks to carry its relative values in itself. The 'violence' of the Kingdom of Heaven is that the Mosaic Code is superseded by the morality of the Person of Jesus Christ, God in the flesh (Jn.1:17-18), and not a new system.
THE Biblical ethic presents itself as authoritative only because it is His Word. But this is not from the sense of His sovereignty but because of His moral character, His righteousness, or comparatively to us, His holiness. As the Word itself declares –
"Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne"
Psalm 97:2.
Ethics in principle do not change, even though Doctor Wouter Basson (dubbed 'doctor death' by the South African media for his past development of chemical weapons
for the Apartheid regime) used as his defence in 2013 before the SA Medical Council that the 'ethics of the 1980s were different to today'.
(It also later emerged that he was actually a double-agent ferrying American dollars from Libya's Muammar Gaddafi to individual ANC cadres in South Africa, including to Jacob Zuma, now president)
Baptist Theological College 1980    'Notes: Ethics'.   Johannesburg, South Africa.
Finney, Charles G.  1878   'Lectures in Systematic Theology'.   Grand Rapids, USA: Eerdmans.
Geisler, Norman L. 1971    'Ethics, Alternatives and Issues'.   Grand Rapids, USA: Zondervan.
Henry, Carl F.H. (Ed.) 1973    'Bakers Dictionary of Christian Ethics'.   Grand Rapids, USA: Baker.
Lewis, C.S. 1952    'Mere Christianity'.   London, UK: Collins.

 Essential Morality 
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