I have been reading in community with some Christian friends. We try and meet once a week to discuss a chapter from Wayne Grudem’s book on ethics called Christian Ethics: An Introduction to Biblical Moral Reasoning. This book is chock full of helpful information and analysis. Of particular interest to me today was his chapter called “How to Know God’s Will: Factors to Consider in Making Ethical Decisions.”
In this chapter, Grudem notes that “Human actions have at least four dimensions that need to be considered when decisions need to be made.” These four dimensions are as follows:
1) The action itself
2) The person’s attitude about the action
3) The person’s motives for doing the action
4) The results of the action
In regards to 1), Grudem indicates the primary question is whether or not an action is morally good and clarifies that to answer this question we need to search Scripture. Further, when we consider 2) most believers understand that we are responsible for more than doing morally right actions, “God also wants the attitudes of our hearts to be right before him.” Dimension 3) is important because Christ-followers must not only do morally right actions with righteous attitudes, they must also have pure motives. Finally, Grudem emphasizes that Scripture also calls us to take thought for the results of our actions as he deals with 4) above.
Grudem continues the chapter by looking into sources of information for decisions. Some decisions do not allow us to research or ponder, but when they do we can consider the following 9 sources of information and guidance:
- Information from the Bible
- Information from studying the situation
- Information about oneself
- Advice from others
- Changed circumstances
- A Person’s Human Spirit
- Holy Spirit
Grudem next deals with a couple of objections in regards to his sources of information and guidance; simply put, some of the above sources not all Christians would agree on. He follows the sources of information and guidance with a section called “The Danger of Making This Process too Complicated” which seems appropriate considering all the ground he is covering. Nevertheless, the last section of this chapter is excellent. Grudem indicates that wisdom is the one personal skill that is absolutely crucial if we are to live ethical lives.
Wisdom is here defined as “the skill of understanding and applying the Bible rightly to each situation.” Grudem’s finale for this chapter is an exposition of the source of wisdom and the personal character traits which accompany wisdom which are listed below:
I. Wisdom comes from God.
II. Wisdom comes from Scripture.
III. Wisdom comes with a fear of God.
IV. Wisdom comes with faith.
V. Wisdom comes with knowledge.
VI. Wisdom comes with obedience to God
VII. Wisdom comes with accepting counsel from others.
VII. Wisdom comes with humility.
IX. Wisdom brings us joy.
This is an excellent chapter in an excellent book. I hope this brief outline gives you fodder for considering this important topic.