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Turning the Tide: Turning the Tide

Knowing the Times

1 Chronicles 12:32 tells us about the men of Isaachar who 'understood the times' and 'knew what to do'. This training material is geared at these two ends. But we need first to be aware of what is actually happening in the world of medicine today - so here is...

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Why is ethical decision making more difficult?

Earlier this century there was a broad consensus about ethical decision making in medicine. Ethical codes such as the Hippocratic Oath and its modern restatement The Declaration of Geneva (1948) were broadly accepted by secular bodies and largely consistent with the Bible. This is no longer the case. Both medicine...

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Thinking World-Viewishly

Everyone, whether they care to admit it or not, has a world view; a set of presuppositions about the nature of reality, that has profound effects on the way they think. Behind a rabid 'rights for gay whales' campaigner may be the beliefs that: God doesn't exist Death is the...

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Making Ethical Decisions the World's Way

It's useful to review the ways that non-Christians make ethical decisions, not just so that we can understand others better, but because many Christians fall into exactly the same traps in the ways they come to develop their own opinions. Gut feeling - It just feels right In a society as...

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Making Ethical Decisions God's Way

If we are honest we come to hold many the beliefs we do as a result of a combination of gut-feeling, emotion, conscience, consensus, 'consequentialism' or acceptance of authority. But how can we have our minds 'transformed' (Rom 12:1,2) and make decisions God's way? Commands and Character We are concerned with...

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The Authority of the Bible

Following Christ involves following his commands. The law of Christ referred to in such Scriptures as John 13:34-35, 1 Corinthians 9:21 and Galatians 6:2 involves bearing one another's burdens, loving each other as he has loved us. But whereas these verses summarise beautifully the substance of Jesus' teaching, we cannot...

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Authorities Outside the Bible?

Some Christians hold that Christ speaks to us by his Spirit in ways other than by the written word which has faithfully been passed down to us. There is good support for this thinking in Scripture itself but also much which should lead us to exercise caution. Everything must be...

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Interpreting the Bible

Understanding God's word is a life-long task and we are all on a journey in our understanding. But there are some general principles, which will help us not to make too many errors. 1. Scripture is authoritative as originally given. Translations which distort the original meaning of the text do not...

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Applying the Bible

Some wonder how can a Bible written 2,000 years ago speak to the ethical situations we face in the late 20th century, but because the Bible is God's Word, and God doesn't change (Mal 3:6) he has prepared for situations not envisaged by the original authors. The Bible was written...

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Ethical Principles from the Bible

We should resist the temptation to construct a pharisaical list of do's and don't's but rather look for biblical ethical principles to guide our decision making. These can be summed up in the commandments to 'love God with all our heart, soul and mind' and 'to love our neighbour as...

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When Christians Disagree

Christians often disagree, even leading Christians. Peter and Paul fell out over the circumcision issue (Gal 2:2). Paul and Barnabas divided over Mark (Acts 15:37-40). Syntyche and Euodia's dispute split the church in Philippi (Phil 4:2-3), and throughout Christian history disagreements have continued - over baptism, charismata, eschatology, ecclesiology, worship,...

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Ends and Means

Does the end ever justify the means? Secular ethicists classically divide ways of making ethical decision-making into two categories: deontological and consequentialist. The deontologist judges an action right or wrong on the basis of whether it conforms to a set of rules or principles. Immanuel Kant was one of the...

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Conflicting Commands?

Do God's commands ever conflict in such a way that it is impossible to obey one while not at the same moment disobeying another? If so then how should we act in such situations? Much has been made of moral conflicts by situation ethics writers such as Joseph Fletcher: Is...

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Imposing our morality?

Do we have a right to 'impose our morality'? We live in a pluralist culture where religious belief is seen as a private matter and the supreme virtue is tolerance. It's not surprising that when we submit to God's rule in the way we behave, we will be accused of...

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Handling Conflict

Anticipate conflicts before they happen We should expect conflicts to occur (2 Tim 3:12) and try to anticipate them ahead of time. We should ideally think through the issues involved biblically well ahead of time, so we know exactly where we stand and why. Some conflicts arise completely out of the...

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Tips for ethical debates

It is easy to get steamed up and emotional and lose a discussion by sheer lack of tact. Alternatively, we can win the argument but lose the person. Peter exhorts us to give an account of the hope that we have within us with 'gentleness and respect' (1 Pet 3:15)....

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Euthanasia

1. Aren't you condemning people to a painful, horrible death? Euthanasia is unnecessary because alternative treatments do exist. This is not to deny that there are patients presently dying in homes and hospitals who are not benefiting from advances in palliative care, either because facilities do not exist in the immediate...

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Abortion

1. How can a non-sentient being have value? We do not know that the fetus is 'non-sentient'. We do know that brain function, as measured by EEG is present in the fetus at about 6 weeks after conception and that responses to tactile sensation (skin tightening, bending, fist forming) can be...

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The Status of the Embryo

The status of the embryo is fundamental to discussions on fertility treatments, genetics, contraception and abortion. If the embryo is nothing other than 'human tissue' then clearly it is expendable, but if it is 'a human being with potential' then it should be treated with the utmost respect. The issue...

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Contraception

Some points to make: Extramarital conceptions have increased rather than decreased since the advent of contraception. Many young people don't use contraception or don't use it properly. It doesn't protect you from emotional hurt, or sexually transmitted disease (if hormonal). Some methods act after conception.

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Animal Rights

Some points to make: Animals are important and should be treated humanely. Human beings are more important than animals. God gave us the right to rule over animals and to eat them. Advances in medicine have been dependent on animal research. All people are speciesist in some respect (eg using...

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Sexuality

Some points to make: Premarital sex leads to a higher incidence of marriage breakdown. Most first sex experiences are not consented to fully and are later regretted. The dangers: STDs, emotional hurt, unplanned pregnancy, infertility, abortion. Bible equally condemns all sex outside marriage. Genetic basis for homosexuality not proven. Substantial...

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