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Christian Ethical Decision Making

From Dr. Branch Power Point
This past week I started Christian Ethics at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. I have decided to take a break from formal study during the summer to spend time with my wife; therefore, Christian Ethics will be my last class until the fall semester kicks off.

Last week I learned a great deal; in a lecture given by Dr. J. Alan Branch, professor of Christian Ethics. Dr. Branch gave us a seven-step process for making ethical decisions. It is a great process; therefore, I want to share it with you today. How do you currently make decisions? There are two ways in which people make decisions. They either make decisions from above or decisions from below. Decision making from above means that God is in charge and what He says on the matter is binding. Decision making from below puts man in charge; human desire and human reason combine to make decisions from below. Christian ethical decision making comes from above.

Consistently Practice the Spiritual Disciplines

This step is something that we should be doing all the time whether or not we are facing an ethical problem. Read the Scriptures daily and memorize Scripture, pray, journal and fast. Over the past several years I have combined praying and journaling into one.

Pray

We should always be praying without ceasing (cf. 1 Thes.5:17); however, we should pray specifically when facing an ethical dilemma. First of all, pray for God’s will. Secondly pray to overcome temptation: temptation from the world, temptation from our flesh, and temptation from Satan. Lastly pray for wisdom, that you may be guided by the Word of God and the Holy Spirit.

Clearly Define the Problem

Is it really an ethical problem or a misunderstanding between parties? Once you determine that it is a problem gather as much information as you can. Finally summarize the problem into a single thought or sentence.

What does the Bible Say?

The Bible is filled with specific mandates for certain problems, but most of the time there is a general principle or set of principles to guide us. Search to find out what the Bible has to say.

Church History

What do other Christians down through the ages have to say? Have others already come up with a Biblical solution? Search within your own denomination, but also expand outwardly to other denominations throughout time. However, a word of caution, make sure that they are Bible believing Christians who hold to the essentials of the faith.

Pray

Now that we have defined the problem, searched for an answer from Scripture and other Christian’s advice. If the answer is clear, present to God what the Bible says. If the answer is unclear, then present to God the options that you have found in your research.

Make a decision that Honors God

To honor God, you must be willing to suffer. A decision done according to the will and commands of God may cause suffering in your life, you may even lose your job. Are you willing to suffer? In order to honor God, you must be willing to stick to the will of God no matter the consequence in your life. Trust God and leave the results up to Him.

This is the process that I plan to use going forward in my own decision making. When someone ask me for advice on making an ethical decision; I would first pray with them, ask them to define the problem as they understand it, tell them what the Bible says, and what other Christians through the ages have said on the matter, pray with them again, and advise them to make a decision that honors God. If I do not know what the Bible or other Christians have said I will lead them to sources. I hope that this seven-step process will help you in making ethical decisions that honor God.