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Christians required to join moral, ethical debate, author writes

Many have pointed to the erosion of American morality, but few have offered a workable — and biblical — solution.
Walter Kaiser’s latest book, “What Does the Lord Require? A Guide for Preaching and Teaching Biblical Ethics,” is a good resource for addressing such issues. He not only surfaces the ethical concerns, but he also provides a biblical basis to address them.
Kaiser fleshes out 35 subjects in 18 chapters, ranging from the often-discussed and debated topics of poverty and racism to recent, contemporary challenges of genetic engineering and stem cell research.
Given the range of topics, the book acts as a primer for addressing moral and ethical concerns.
Adhering to a consistent formula for all 18 chapters provides an easy flow while reading the book.
The formula unfolds as follows: He begins with an introduction of the specific issue and its cultural relevance, sometimes even interacting with peripheral biblical verses. Next, he sheds light on the problem based on a biblical passage. Then, he outlines a teaching lesson by arguing his point deductively (stating a premise that is supported by a number of propositions). Finally, he offers readers a selected bibliography and a handful of discussion questions for groups.
I found most chapters challenging and insightful. Chapter 4 on media, entertainment and pornography shows how the visual and sound-bite industry affects America’s processing of information.
In his chapter on divorce, he debunks the statistic that 50 percent of all marriages end in divorce.
The treatment of civil disobedience finds three general reasons for this form of political activity in Acts 4: civil disobedience is justified when proclaiming the resurrection (verses 1-4), when one is accused of kindness (verses 5-12), and when told not to speak the name of Jesus (verses 13-22).
However, some chapters lack cohesion. For instance, in the chapter discussing war and peace, Kaiser concisely introduces the historical debate surrounding Christians fighting in war, even raising questions about the term “just war.” To address the Christian’s involvement in war he turns to Romans 13:1-7, a text talking about submission to the government and paying taxes. I found it difficult to link a discussion of war with this passage.
Kaiser’s work is both thorough and simple. He does a good job of surfacing problems that the pulpit has ignored or forgotten. In a call for believers to engage culture, he says, “The church must shift away from claiming that we are only responsible for what goes on inside our walls and our fellowship.”
The task of addressing the lack of moral and ethical behavior of society can no longer be left to schools, politicians or the government. Instead, Kaiser argues, the responsibility rests squarely on the church, whose members must be biblically informed of the issues facing society.
Kaiser’s work does not disappoint because he responsibly addresses complicated subjects with biblical theology. Readers from Churches of Christ may find his treatment of cohabitation, adultery and homosexuality refreshingly sound because he takes a traditional position on the issues.
After reading chapters on the care of the environment, stem cell research and genetic engineering, some may want their preacher to give further instruction.
However, the possibility exists that some readers may complain that his approach is too narrow. He limits discussion of an alternative view (he is anti-abortion, anti-gambling and pro-capital punishment).
Other readers may criticize his sermons and wish they were more creative and less repetitive in his use of deduction. However, Kaiser’s style will not distract from reading and feeling challenged by the material.
Given the moral and ethical decline in America, no Christian should ignore the biblical teaching on these matters. “What Does the Lord Require?” offers a means for preachers and teachers to address biblical ethics in their churches, while providing readers a further opportunity to explore Christian morality.
Indeed, Kaiser supplies a great resource for individual Christians trying to understand ethical issues for themselves.
Jonathan A. Partlow is preaching minister for the Pennyrile Church of Christ in Madisonville, Ky. He can be reached at [email protected].

  • Feedback
    Billy Ray Harper, above, evidently would consider any decision by the government of any nation to wage war on any other nation for any reason to be legitimate grounds for summoning its citizens, including Christians, to participate in any such warfare. This hardly squares wirh the principle articulated by Peter, to wit, “We ought to obey God rather then men.”(Acts 5:29, KJV.) By Harper’s reasoning, this standard would not be applicable to decisions concerning carnal warfare; the Christian could not honorably decline to suppore ANY war waged by his/her nation. I find no justification for carving out this kind of special exception for something as serious as war.
    John Crowder
    Chisholm Hills
    Florence, , AL
    November, 8 2009

    Brother Partlow,
    You do not see the link between submission to government and war. One of the main things that a national government does is to wage war. When your government calls upon you to serve in war if you are submissive to the government you go to war. Those who do not serve their government by participating in warfare are ungrateful and should not be allowed to live in that country. Be thankful that in the USA our government allows those who are fearful of war to become consciencious objectors and to be placed in positions where they do not have to carry firearms and fight.
    Billy Ray Harper
    Bishop, Texas
    San antonio, Texas
    October, 23 2009

Filed under: Reviews Staff Reports

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