Faith Without Ethics Leaves Christians and Church Adrift, Ethicist Says – Baptist News Global


A faith not informed by Christian ethics can leave individuals and churches spiritually and morally adrift and susceptible to extreme ideologies, David Gushee said during a Baptist News Global webinar Feb. 17.

“I see a fundamentalist religion with so many holes, and with so much absolutist talk, that when it blows up for people, they’re left in a tailspin,” Gushee said during the hour-long chat about her next. forthcoming book, Introducing Christian Ethics: Fundamental Beliefs for Christians Today.

He spoke with BNG Executive Director Mark Wingfield about the importance of fundamental ethical beliefs which he sees as better options than the far left’s ‘anything goes’ attitude and the narrow fundamentalism of the extreme right.

When anchored in “central standards” discernible in the history of Christian ethical thought – truth, sanctity, justice, love, forgiveness – Christians can avoid the “ideological captivity” of evangelical loyalty to Donald Trump’s Make America Great Again movement, Gushee said, professor of Christian ethics at Mercer University and author of numerous books, including After Evangelicalism: The Path to a New Christianity.

“One way to access MAGA-Trumpist Christianity is to be totally ignorant of the dominant Christian tradition in the world,” he said.

While shying away from the Trumpist-evangelical coalition, Gushee said it was not his desire to reject all belief. He noted that a typographical error in the original title of the webinar – it was listed as a “change-making preservationinstead of a “process of change conversation” – would have been a good description of the book. He hopes to retain historic Christian ethical values ​​— which are largely not the values ​​of Trumpism.

“I believe that people cannot float free. They need beliefs around which they can build their lives,” he said.

Teaching and preaching beliefs such as the sanctity of life and the importance of justice, love, truth and covenant could create a counterweight to the “pretty thin porridge” that some churches offer in response to left-right arguments that divide congregations, Gushee said. “I don’t understand Christianity without beliefs, but sometimes it just involves deconstructing beliefs that we’ve been taught are essential,” including the inerrancy of scripture and the subordination of women.

Since writing After evangelismGushee said he has heard many people undergo a deconstruction of their faith as they emerge “on the other side of disillusion”.

“We no longer know what the church is and we no longer know what theology is.”

“We don’t know which church is no more and we no longer know what theology is. We no longer know who the Baptists are and we no longer know what it means to be a Christian.

It is crucial that those disillusioned with the politicization of faith seek meaning and comfort in values ​​inspired by Christian ethics and tradition, he added.

To facilitate this conversation, Introduction to Christian Ethics was written to help scholars, seminarians, clergy, and laity meet the challenges of a “post-evangelical, post-Southern Baptist, post-everything else space.”

The book covers methods, the traditions, themes, standards, and scriptures that define Christian ethics and apply them to contemporary issues such as abortion, patriarchy, politics, white supremacy, and marriage.

The text also shows how moral reasoning can be located not only in Scripture, but also in tradition and human thought. “I think it can be made accessible to people and it needs to be integrated into everything we do,” Gushee said.

One of the dangers he cited is when Christians appeal to a single scriptural text devoid of context. He cited the common use of Romans 13 to preach and teach obedience to authority, including when war or criminal justice is contemplated.

Taken alone, the passage often is interpreted as supporting authoritarianism and violence, conclusions that can be avoided with a closer study of the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, he explained. It also means acknowledging that biblical texts often conflict with each other.

But the scriptures may not be the only source of information needed when examining an issue, Gushee said, because the scriptures don’t address all modern issues. Rather, Christians should seek to integrate tradition and moral reasoning with biblical teaching.

Wingfield asked Gushee to comment on her perspective as someone who worships regularly with Baptist and Catholic congregations. Gushee noted the well-established social and ethical teachings of the Catholic Church as a positive influence.

Catholic ethicists, he said, rely heavily on social justice and ethical traditions that date back centuries.

“Baptists also have a great ethical tradition, but it is much less explicit,” he said, noting that Baptists and other Protestants generally rely much more on their own interpretation of the Bible. The result is a message that is “more likely to be unruly” and “carried away by emotionality”.

“The anti-democratic authoritarian religion is on the march in many parts of the world, and demagogue politicians who know how to play those notes are also successful.”

That, in turn, makes churches and denominations far more susceptible to “a breakdown of theology in politics” and to being “swept away by ideology,” Gushee said.

While it can happen in liberal and conservative churches, the modern influence on the right has been the politicization of evangelicalism, he said. “The Trumpification of white evangelicalism has cost them credibility and adherents.

But it also fits into a larger pattern, added Gushee, who also teaches at the International Baptist Theological Seminary in Amsterdam.

“The anti-democratic authoritarian religion is on the march in many parts of the world, and demagogue politicians who know how to play those notes are also successful.”

Watch the full webinar here.

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Read David Gushee’s BNG articles here


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