Christian Cyclopedia

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1. Term for a. discipline concerned with such concepts as good, bad, duty, obligation; b. set of moral principles or values; c. philos., study of behavior and principles of conduct. J. M. Reu* defined ethics as “the science of the moral as it is to be realized first of all in the life of the individual and then also within the community of other personal beings.”

2. Ethics has been variously classified, e.g., naturalistic ethics bases moral principles on empirically verifiable factors; theistic ethics claims approval of deity for moral principles; Christian ethics emphasizes voluntary acceptance of the divine will as norm by free human personalities and application of that will in individual and soc. life. These designations are not mutually exclusive. See also Theology.

3. Early Gk. thinkers often compared physical and moral health. Socrates* stressed close relationship bet. proper behavior and proper thought. Plato* built ethics on a metaphysical basis but conceived of it largely as citizenship in a free state in which individuals are guided by wisdom, courage, temperance, and justice. Aristotle* gives a list of virtues that form a golden mean bet. vices (see also Eudaemonism). Epicureans advocated a life of simple, refined pleasures. Early Stoics (see Stoicism) favored a life of virtue and inner equilibrium affected by neither pleasure nor pain. Later Stoics (e.g., Epictetus* and Marcus* Aurelius) considered each man a part of the whole world and condemned class distinctions as irrational. Skeptics (see Skepticism) questioned all knowledge and actions. Neoplatonists regarded mystic union with the ultimate One, the Absolute, as the highest good. See also Neoplatonism; Plotinus.

4. J. J. Rousseau* held that man should obey his impulses in a strictly natural environment. L. A. Feuerbach* also developed a principle of egoism, holding that ethics consists in obeying the natural impulse. E. H. Haeckel* added altruism (duty to society) to egoism. Utilitarianism* (T. Hobbes,* J. Bentham*) holds that whatever is useful is good and that the highest good for the individual or the greatest happiness of the greatest number must be selected by reason. See also Mill, John Stuart.

5. The ethics of evolutionism* is in a continual state of flux. That which is considered ethical today is the result of acts with favorable results in past evolutionary stages, and both past and present are parts of development toward an ideal (H. Spencer*). Elements of naturalism,* utilitarianism,* and evolutionism are present in empiricism.* See also Aesthetics.

6. I. Kant* sought a universal principle for behavior and found it in superindividual reason and the categorical* imperative. Later theologians (e.g., F. D. E. Schleiermacher*) took cognizance of his philos. ethics in their presentations. Am. representatives of idealistic ethics include B. P. Bowne,* W. E. Hocking,* and J. Royce.*

7. RC morality is a matter of works; the higher form of morality culminates in vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience; the lower form allows unrestricted use of all things natural. Ref. theol. makes salvation depend on an absolute divine decree and considers God's will as revealed in Scripture to be the unconditional law for moral development. Modernism was nomistic in its emphasis on the Sermon on the Mount.

8. Luth. theol. emphasizes that man does not become good by doing good, but must be good before he can do good (see also Justification). Love created in the heart by the Holy Spirit motivates Christian life. Christian ethics is not submission to God's will but harmony with it.

9. RC ethics in the 1960s stressed personal freedom, sought a middle way bet. unrestrained capitalism and totalitarian socialism, and continued to emphasize natural law. Angl. ethics stressed the doctrine of incarnation, emphasized that the incarnate Christ incorporates us in a new society, and sought synthesis bet. faith and reason. Luth. ethics usually distinguishes bet. society under law and the Christian believer under grace. Prots. in gen. emphasize freedom and justice. Reinhold Niebuhr and others stress relevance of sin and grace to politics.

10. Situation(al)* ethics emphasizes importance of love in determining proper action in given situations.

See also Decalog; Grace, Means of, II 2; Moral Philosophy; Moral Theology; Social Ethics. EL

L. S. Keyser, A System of General Ethics, 3d ed., rev. (Burlington, Iowa, 1926); N. Hartmann, Ethics, tr. S. Colt, 3 vols. (London and New York, 1932); O. A. W. Piper, Die Grundlagen der evangelischen Ethik, 2 vols. (Gütersloh, 1928–30); A. Nygren, Filosofisk och kristen etik (Lund, 1923); H. E. Brunnet, Das Gebot und die Ordnungen (Tübingen, 1932), tr. O. Wyon, The Divine Imperative (London, 1937); J. M. Reu and P. H. Buehring, Christian Ethics (Columbus, Ohio, 1935); H. Thielicke, Theologische Ethik (Tübingen, 1951– ), abridged and tr., Theological Ethics, ed. W. H. Lazareth (Philadelphia, 1966– ); N. H. Söe, Kristelig etik, 4th ed. (Copenhagen, 1957), tr. Christliche Ethik, ed. W. Thiemann, 2d ed. (Munich, 1957); D. Bonhoeffer, Ethics, ed. E. Bethge, tr. N. H. Smith (New York, 1955); W. Elert, The Christian Ethos, tr. C. J. Schindler (Philadelphia, 1957); G. Hillerdal, Teologisk och filosofisk etik (Stockholm, 1958); R. Niebuhr, Essays in Applied Christianity, sel. and ed. D. B. Robertson (New York, 1959); A. Gyllenkrok, Systematisk teologi och vetenskaplig metod, reed särskild hänsyn till etiken, with Eng. summary, Systematic Theology and Scientific Method with Particular Reference to Ethics (Uppsala, 1959); M. Warnock, Ethics since 1900 (London, 1960); H. R. Niebuhr, The Responsible Self (New York, 1963); R. M. Hare, The Language of Morals (New York, 1964).

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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