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Deontological Ethics of Christianity

Deontology is derived from two Greek words, “Deon,” which means duty, and “logos,” meaning science. It is an ethical term that applies the laid down rules to determine whether a thing is right or wrong. The theory argues that rules should be followed without establishing the consequences of the actions taken. Particular emphasis is laid on how duty and morality relate during the day to day interactions of human beings. Essentially, deontology gives us the answers to the actions we are about to perform. According to this theory, some of the choices we make produce dire consequences that are morally forbidden and cannot be justified. The choices made by Christians should conform to the moral norms highlighted in the bible. Deontologists believe that ‘the right’ is more important than ‘the wrong’ and this ought to be observed by every person universally. Most Christians have embraced the deontological system because they like getting answers to their life’s most demanding and relevant questions. Generally, individuals expect the answers given to concur with their views and expectations. In this regard, this paper will argue that Christianity is mainly deontological.

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Examples of Deontology in Christianity

The first way to show that Christianity is deontological is the Ten Commandments given to Moses in the mountain by God himself. Although other commandments addressed almost every aspect of life, these laws in the first five books of the Bible (The Torah) give a perfect example of a “pluralistic deontology,” a set of laws that are all binding at the same time (Eskenazi & Weiss 2017). The chronology of the theory of creation, the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, the sinful nature of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, the floods and the saving of Noah’s family in the ark, the call of Moses and the journey of Israelites from the land of bondage to the promised land give perfect reasons that provoked God to issue the Ten Commandments that virtually covered every aspect of life. These moral principles are required by all Christians, not because they make sense, but because they are Heaven and Earth’s creator who has commanded them. Notably, these laws were meant for the Israelites only, God’s chosen people.

The Ten Commandments were designed to help the Israelites live in righteousness and injustice. Christians believe that by keeping the law, one would please God and be righteous before His eyes. Additionally, a Jew who keeps these commandments exercises justice to fellow human beings regardless of their race or religious affiliation. The Israelites believed that other gods belonged to the gentiles and had their requirements. Unlike the gods of the gentiles, the God of Israel expressed a lot of concern to His chosen people; giving them the Ten Commandments was a sign of divine love and immense grace. Human beings are slaves of sin and do not know how to live appropriately. Therefore, God gave these laws to chat the right way of life for His people to relate well with Him and their fellow humans.

Jesus differed with the Pharisees because they had read and understood the Law of Moses, and any deviation from the norm meant to sin. The Pharisees believed that the law was supposed to be followed flawlessly in every detail. They differed with Jesus because he violated the laws they earnestly taught the Jews; there is no doubt they were right. Jesus did not have any problem with the law; in fact, the bible records that He did not come to remove one jot or title but instead came to strengthen the law. Jesus violated the Law of Moses deliberately and purposefully to teach the spiritual motivation behind it (Chambers, 2017). The Pharisees focused on the practicality of the law and ensured that every person kept it religiously with a lot of precision. Jesus’ teaching of the law was based on compassion, whose primary motivation was love because love covers many sins. According to Jesus, if the action involves love, it is right that it is wrong if it does not involve love.

Jesus reduced the Law of Moses to a single guiding principle commonly referred to as Monistic deontology, which is obligatory. Jesus summarized the law by saying that one should love their God with all their heart and mind and soul and strength and love their neighbor as they love themselves. Here, Jesus was affirming and agreeing with the teachers of the law because loving God brings the gift of righteousness to an individual, and loving a neighbor gives one the gift of justice. This is a real demonstration that Christianity is mainly deontological because the guiding rule, which is love, determines whether one is right or wrong. The principle of love and compassion, as affirmed by Jesus, is universally acceptable and intrinsic to God’s nature because God is love. Exercising love for fellow human beings means keeping the law; perhaps, obeying the law means to love, and love is the absolute truth. According to the teachings of Jesus, it is easier to keep one guiding principle than keeping the Ten Commandments.

Today’s robust growth in modern technology is not addressed in the bible only because it never existed during biblical times. The deontological Christians may enter into a conflict, particularly when establishing the right to do something and the book of law’s expectations. For instance, the Law of Moses clearly says that one should not kill. Those who kill are viewed as the worst criminals who should face the same wrath. If a killer is found in a society, one would be hated and given all manner of insults because of killing. On the contrary, one may have killed the other while exercising self-defense. Advancement in technology and medicine may bring unique difficulties to deontological Christians. For example, when a child’s birth goes wrong, doing one thing will cause the child’s death, and failure to do it leads to the mother’s death. What should a deontological Christian do in light of the high technology today? All these decisions are tough to employ, and any particular choice may be heartbreaking. However, a tragic decision has to be made to save one life and lose the other.

In his theory of ethics or deontology, Immanuel Kant argues that people can only exercise morality if an act of duty guides them. Kant believes that our ability to do ‘good’ should be intrinsically motivated. A good thing should be good in itself, either with or without any qualification. Kantian ethics are characterized by goodwill precisely because of duty. Kant (2017) argues that ‘will’ moves individuals to attend to their ‘duty’ to be ‘right’ within the ethical system. According to Kant, there is only one thing in the world and even beyond that can be considered acceptable without qualification; the ‘goodwill’ itself. Deontology may be classified into two; ‘act’ and ‘rule’ deontology. Act- deontology relies on intuitive thinking to determine what is right, while rule- deontology argues that some absolute truths and morals should be followed by every person regardless of the perceived outcome. Christians should not embrace Act-deontology because it relies on intuition on the heart’s decisions, which the bible says is deceitful and desperately wicked. According to this theory, an act is generally right if it agrees with God’s commandments and is motivated by love.

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Conclusion

Most of the world’s challenges today are the same for all Christians—for example, poor economy, technological and economic problems, and biomedical and individual issues. To solve these issues, Christian ethics are put into perspective with deontology being the guiding principle. In the contemporary world, socio-economic inequalities and human rights violations among the Christians have taken center stage. However, in light of these hardships, deontology alone is not enough to address these pertinent issues facing the Christian family. Several other options should be explored, such as consequentialism or utilitarianism, to make sound decisions. Additionally, when Christians are faced with a dilemma, they should embrace love and continue seeking guidance from the Holy Spirit. It is better to be firm on moral decisions and carry out actions that will shape the character and help make more ‘right’ decisions. Finally, virtue ethics should also be incorporated into the aspect of deontology or consequentialism to give the most valuable theory of morality.

References

Chambers, A. (2017). Eats with sinners: Loving like Jesus. NavPress.

Eskenazi, T. C., & Weiss, R. A. (2017). The Torah: A women’s commentary. CCAR Press.

Kant, I. (2017). Kant: The metaphysics of morals. Cambridge University Press.

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