A Handbook of Christian Ethics


Archibald B. D. Alexander

[Originally published in 1914; revised and edited by William Mackis. Copyright as such.]

The object of this volume is to present a brief but comprehensive view of the Christian conception of the moral life.  In order to conform with the requirements of the series to which the volume belongs, the writer has found the task of compression one of almost insurmountable difficulty; and some topics, only less important than those dealt with, have been necessarily omitted.  The book claims to be, as its title indicates, simply a handbook or introduction to Christian Ethics.  It deals with principles rather than details, and suggests lines of thought instead of attempting an exhaustive treatment of the subject.  At the same time, in the author’s opinion, no really vital question has been overlooked.  The treatise is intended primarily for students, but it is hoped that it may prove serviceable to those who desire a succinct account of the moral and social problems of the present day.

 

CONTENTS

 

INTRODUCTION

A Plea for the Study of Christian Ethics

 

 SECTION A—POSTULATES

CHAPTER I

The Nature and Scope of Christian Ethics

I.    General Definition.

II.   Distinctive Features--1. Ideal; 2. Norm; 3. Will.

III. Is Ethics a Science?

IV. Relation to--1. Logic; 2. Aesthetics; 3. Politics.

V.  Dependence upon--1. Metaphysics; 2. Psychology.

 

CHAPTER II

THE POSTULATES OF CHRISTIAN ETHICS

I.    Philosophical Ethics.

II.   Dogmatics.

III. Theological Presuppositions— 1. Christian Idea of God.  2.  Christian Doctrine of Sin.  3. Human Responsibility.

IV. Authority and Method.

 

 CHAPTER III

ETHICAL THOUGHT BEFORE CHRIST

I.    In Greece and Rome—Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Stoics. Stoicism and St. Paul.

II.   In Israel--1. Law; 2. Prophecy; 3. Poetry.

Preparatory Character of pre-Christian Morality.

 

SECTION B—PERSONALITY

CHAPTER IV

THE ESTIMATE OF MAN

I.    Conflicting Views of Human Nature— 1. Man by nature Morally Good.  2. Man by nature Totally Depraved.  3. The Christian View.

II.   Examination of Man’s Psychical Nature— 1. The Unity of the Soul.  2. The Divine in Man.  3. The Physical and Mental Life.

III. Appeal of Christianity to the Mind.

 

 CHAPTER V

THE WITNESS OF CONSCIENCE

I.    Treatment of Conscience— 1. In Greek Poetry and Philosophy.  2. In Old Testament.  3. In New Testament.

II.   Nature and Origin of Conscience— 1. Intuitionalism.  2. Evolutionalism.

III. Validity of Conscience— 1. The Christian View.  2. The Moral Imperatives.  3. The Permanence of Conscience

 

CHAPTER VI

‘THE MIRACLE OF THE WILL'

Is Man free to choose the Good?  Creative Power of Volition.  Aspects of Problem raised.

I.    Scientific— Man and Physical Necessity.

II.   Psychological— Determinism and Indeterminism.  Criticism of James and Bergson.  Spontaneity and Necessity.

III. Theological—  Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom.  Jesus and Paul—Challenge to the Will.  Freedom—a Gift and a Task.

 

 SECTION C—CHARACTER

CHAPTER VII

MODERN THEORIES OF LIFE

I.    Naturalistic Tendency—  Materialistic— Idyllic or Poetic—Rousseau.  Philosophic—Feuerbach.  Scientific—Haeckel.

II.   Utilitarian—Hobbes, Bentham, Mill.  Evolutionary—Spencer.  Socialistic—Marx, Engels.

III.   Individualistic—  Aestheticism— Goethe, Schiller.  Subjectivism— Pessimism—Schopenhauer.  Optimism—Nietzsche. 

IV.   Idealistic Tendency— Kant—Categorical Imperative.  Fichte and Hegel—Idea of Personality.  James—Pragmatism.  Bergson—Vitalism.  Eucken—Activism.

 

 CHAPTER VIII

THE CHRISTIAN IDEAL

Life, as the highest Good.

I.    Life, in its Individual Aspect— Its Intensity - Its Expansion -   ‘Eternal Life.’

II.   Life, in its Social Aspect— ‘The Kingdom of God’— Eschatological Interpretation - Untenableness of Interimsethik - Christ’s View of Kingdom— A Present Reality—a Gift - A Gradual Development—a Task - A Future Consummation—a Hope.

III. Life, in its Godward Aspect— Holiness - Righteousness - Love.

 

 CHAPTER IX

STANDARD AND MOTIVE

I.    Christ as Example— 1.   Portrayal by Synoptists— Artlessness of Disciples - Naturalness of Jesus - Impression of Power— Power of Loyalty to Calling - Power of Holiness - Power of Sympathy - Value of Jesus’ Example for Present Life— Misconception of Phrase ‘Imitation of Christ.’

II.   The Christian Motive— Analysis of Springs of Conduct— Divine Forgiveness - Fatherhood of God - Sense of Vocation - Brevity of Life - Idea of Immortality - Question as to Purity of Motive— Charge of Asceticism - Charge of Hedonism - Doctrine of Rewards— In Philosophy - In Christianity-- Jesus - Paul.

 

 CHAPTER X

THE DYNAMIC OF THE NEW LIFE

I.    Divine Power— Operative through Christ’s Incarnation and Life - Death and Sacrifice - Resurrection and Indwelling Presence

II.   Human Response— Repentance— Contrition—Confession—Resolution - Question of ‘Sudden Conversion’ - ‘Twice Born’ or ‘Once Born’ - Faith— In Ordinary Life - In Teaching of Jesus - The Pauline Doctrine - Obedience— Active Appropriation of Grace - Determination of Whole Personality - Gradual Assimilation

 

 

SECTION D—CONDUCT

CHAPTER XI

VIRTUES AND VIRTUE

Definition of Virtue - The Natural Basis of the Virtues— ‘The Cardinal Virtues’

II.   The Christian Transformation of the Virtues— The New Testament Account - Cardinal Virtues, Elements of Christian Character - Place of Passive Virtues in Life

III. The Unification of the Virtues— Unity in Relation to God - Love, Spring of all Virtues - ‘Theological Virtues,’ Aspects of Love

 

 CHAPTER XII

THE REALM OF DUTY

I.    Aspects of Duty— Duty and Vocation - Conflict of Duties— Competing Obligations - ‘Counsels of Perfection’ - Indifferent Acts - Rights and Duties— Claim of ‘Natural Rights’ - Based on Worth of Individual - Christian Idea of Liberty

II.   Spheres of Duty— Duties in Relation to Self— Self-Respect - Self-Preservation - Self-Development— Self-regarding Duties not prominent in Scripture - Self-Realization through Self-Sacrifice - Duties in Relation to Others— Regard for Man: Brotherly Love— Justice - Veracity - Judgment - Service— Sympathy - Beneficence - Forgiveness - Example and Influence - Duties in Relation to God— Recognition - Obedience—Passive and Active - Worship—Reverence, Prayer, Thanksgiving

 

 CHAPTER XIII

SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS

I.    The Family— Origin and Evolution of Family - Christian view— Christ’s Teaching on Marriage - State Regulation and Eugenics - Tendencies to Disparagement - Family Relationships— Parents and Children - Woman’s Place and Rights - Child Life and Education

II.   The State— Basis of Authority— Tolstoy and Anarchism - ‘Social Contract' - State, in New Testament - Modern Conceptions— Views of Augustine and Hegel - Duty of State to Citizens - Duty of Citizens to State - The Democratic Movement— Reciprocity of Service and Sense of Brotherhood

III. The Church— Relation of Church and State - Purpose and Ideal of Church— Worship and Edification - Witness to Christ - Evangelisation of Mankind - The Church and the Social Problem— Christ’s Teaching as to Industry and Wealth - Attitude of Early Church to Society - Of Roman Catholic and Protestant Churches - Duty of Christianity to the World— The Missionary Imperative and Opportunity

 

CHAPTER XIV

CONCLUSION—THE PERMANENCE OF CHRISTIAN ETHICS

Holy Cross

 



 

 

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