Take the 2-minute tour ×
Christianity Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for committed Christians, experts in Christianity and those interested in learning more. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Or does the bible leave room for interpretation on the matter of what is moral and what is immoral? Perhaps it depends on the tradition?

share|improve this question
    
Is the ten commandments not Christian Morality 101? –  Neil Meyer May 30 at 13:12
1  
I thought I understood your question until I read the comment to Caleb. Anyway in brief the simple definition by Christ is this: "Mat 22:37-40 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” –  Mike May 30 at 15:05
    
Morality: "principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior." In this light, the Bible is full of distinctions between right and wrong. It gives us the proper and improper examples of living, in history and statements, to help us grasp them. –  Steve May 31 at 13:51

2 Answers 2

All language, whether written or spoken, whether miraculously inscribed on stone tablets, breathed in fire letters on the sky, inspired by God through a human vessel or scribbled to your friend on Facebook—due to the fundamental nature of language as a means of communication—requires interpretation. Interpretation is an inseparable part of communication.

Most branches of Christianity (as in the vast majority) believe God has provided in the Bible a clear basis—fundamental guidelines as you will—for morality. It defines what makes something moral vs. immoral and provides concrete examples.

The doctrine in question here that I assume is what you actually mean to question is officially known as the Perspicuity of Scripture. The degree to which different doctrinal traditions believe the Scripture to be clear (as in plain to the ordinary reader) varies some with some traditions believing it to need more contextualization. However on the issue of basic morality the weight of extant teachings is clearly towards the end of believing it to be spelled out clearly.

You will find this issue covered specifically in the statement of faith of most groups.

What follows is one example of that. While the Westminster Confession of Faith as a whole is only officially representative of a limited subset of Protestants, you will find at least on these two points it is generally representative of many groups. At the very least this point (whether doctrinally the same or different) turns up in similar statements for most groups.

For example on the general nature of Scripture being clear (not needing scholarly interpretation beyond the ordinary understanding of language) it has this to say:

WCF, Chapter 1

VI. The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture […]

VII. All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all: yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.

On the issue of morality, it notes that the fundamental rules governing morality are outlined in the Ten commandments (this idea is expressed in various ways but generally held across most theological traditions).

(Emphasis mine to note the thread relevant to this question in a longer excerpt.)

WCF, Chapter 19

I. God gave to Adam a law, as a covenant of works, by which He bound him and all his posterity, to personal, entire, exact, and perpetual obedience, promised life upon the fulfilling, and threatened death upon the breach of it, and endued him with power and ability to keep it.

II. This law, after his fall, continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness; and, as such, was delivered by God upon Mount Sinai, in ten commandments, and written in two tables: the first four commandments containing our duty towards God; and the other six, our duty to man.

III. Besides this law, commonly called moral, God was pleased to give to the people of Israel, as a church under age, ceremonial laws, […]

[…]

V. The moral law does forever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof; and that, not only in regard of the matter contained in it, but also in respect of the authority of God the Creator, who gave it. Neither does Christ, in the Gospel, any way dissolve, but much strengthen this obligation.

VI. Although true believers be not under the law, as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified, or condemned; yet is it of great use to them, as well as to others; in that, as a rule of life informing them of the will of God, and their duty, it directs and binds them to walk accordingly; discovering also the sinful pollutions of their nature, hearts and lives; so as, examining themselves thereby, they may come to further conviction of, humiliation for, and hatred against sin, together with a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ, and the perfection of His obedience. It is likewise of use to the regenerate, to restrain their corruptions, in that it forbids sin: and the threatenings of it serve to show what even their sins deserve; and what afflictions, in this life, they may expect for them, although freed from the curse thereof threatened in the law. The promises of it, in like manner, show them God's approbation of obedience, and what blessings they may expect upon the performance thereof: although not as due to them by the law as a covenant of works. So as, a man's doing good, and refraining from evil, because the law encourages to the one and deters from the other, is no evidence of his being under the law: and not under grace.

share|improve this answer
    
According to the WCF 'true believers' have the choice whether they follow the Ten Commandments (and most Christians do not follow the Ten Commandments) or not. The question is about a 'definitive explanation' so there can be no option of choosing. The way most Christians approach the Ten Commandments it is not the basis for a 'definitive explanation'. Your answer is therefore nonsensical if it is based on the morality of the Ten Commandments. –  gideon marx May 30 at 14:05
    
Think this is an excellent answer but I am afraid I do not comprehend what is really being asked by the question. The only other answer that would supplement this one is how love for God and man is the simple definitive essential spirit of this law. This simple definition was also detailed in many examples as spelled out in the life of Jesus recorded in the gospels. –  Mike May 30 at 15:03
    
@gideon I'm sorry but you are just wrong on that point. In fact 19.V above blatently cotradicts your objection by spelling out that all men (Christians and not alike) are bound by the ten commandments. You aopear to be completely missing the distinction in 19.VI that it is not our obedience that saves us. We are none the less obligated to obey. And most Christian traditions do officially hold the Ten Commandments as a basis for morality, however much we may fail to be moral the standard is set. Jesus even reitterates this point blank. –  Caleb May 30 at 18:36
    
@caleb. I am sorry but you have missed the question. 'Definitive morality' means in as much detail as possible, or as extensive as can be so that a person can live a moral life by it. The Ten Commandments gives little detail. The detail is in the mass of other laws in the Bible and especially all the Oral Laws. The Bible is therefore not a definitive book of ethics or morality as you having to quote from another source proves. Most Christians choose not to keep the Laws of God that they do not like in any case - abstain from 'things strangled and from blood' reflects one of the Commandments. –  gideon marx May 31 at 9:36

From the fifth law to the tenth, The Ten Commandments gave us moral laws such as disrespecting parents, murder, adultery, stealing, lying and coveting. There are many other moral laws given in the Old Testament such as, lending money to others without profit, showing mercy to the poor etc.

However, Jesus made it much simpler to understand by summing up the whole Old Testament Laws into only TWO.

Matthew 22:35-40 (NIV)

One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

"Love your neighbor as yourself". This truly sums up all the moral laws in a single statement. If you love someone, you will never do anything to harm him/her. There are many ways to harm a person. At the worst, you can kill him and at the least, you can say negative things about that person to others. By cheating your wife, you are hurting her. By stealing from others, you create problem for others. By telling lies, you create injustice. By lending money with interest to those who need it, you are robing them. There can be many examples.

We all have the knowledge of Good and Evil: Because Adam and Eve ate the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:17), the law is in our hearts. We can decide what is morally right and what is not. However, we are inclined to follow the evil side because sin is inherent in us.

Romans 2:14-15 (NIV) Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.

share|improve this answer
    
Why would you not consider keeping the Sabbath as a moral law? (Think carefully - a day of rest once a week for workers.) And do you think that loving God means kicking Him in the face by not keeping His Holy Day? Would you say sacrifice to Moloch is moral? Prove that sin is inherent in me or in anyone else (that is an insult to God) or change your answer. Again, the question is about 'definitive' - does the Bible provide exact guidelines? Your answers rests too strongly on individual choice and worse, laws made by people with big egos based on the law written on their hearts. –  gideon marx May 30 at 15:43
    
Can you not see the contradiction between 'we are inclined to follow the evil side' and Romans 2: 14 - 15 that implies a natural goodness in humans outside of the Bible. (An inherent morality.) You cannot have it both ways. –  gideon marx May 30 at 15:48
    
@gideon Romans does not indicate a natural goodness in humans! Quite the opposite it has some of the most direct expressions of total depravity in Scripture. It does say we have some inherent knowlege of good/God but its very clear on our inclinations being to do evil in spite of knowing good. –  Caleb May 30 at 18:41
    
@gideonmarx "Why would you not consider keeping the Sabbath as a moral law?" No one answer could include everything. Why not make an answer that includes the Sabbath and let us vote accordingly? Your language used here is harsh. –  Steve May 31 at 5:15
    
@gideonmarx The first four laws in Ten Commandments are for showing our love to God and the remaining are for other human. Respecting Sabbath is a way of showing our respect to God. The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. (Mark 2:27) Since the question is about Moral laws, I thought the first four laws are irrelevant here. –  Mawia May 31 at 6:49

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.