Professor Scott Rae is one of the leading Christian ethicists today. As an undergrad, I had the opportunity to take his class on business ethics...and it was one of my favorites. I have used his book Moral Choices for my high school honors Bible class, and I consider it one of the best texts on ethics. Now, he has written a short, concise introduction to ethics called Introducing Christian Ethics: A Short Guide to Making Moral Choices, which officially releases today. If you are looking for a book to use as a text for a class, a small group, or even personal study, this book would be an excellent choice.
Dr. Rae briefly answered a few of my questions regarding ethics today:
SEAN MCDOWELL: What do you think is the most difficult ethical dilemma for Christians to deal with? Why?
SCOTT RAE: I think the most difficult ethical issues are in two areas — first, the issues that believers face in the workplace when they work in ethically challenged environments, being asked to take on projects or do things that violate their ethical standards. This happens more regularly than we think, which is why so many believers tend toward compartmentalized lives — with one set of ethics for private life and another, different one for the workplace. A second area, very tricky, is how to be faithful to biblical teaching on marriage and sexuality and be perceived as loving and caring for gays, lesbians and those wrestling with their sexual orientation.
MCDOWELL: You touch on the issue of "designer children" in your recent book Introducing Christian Ethics. Do you really think "designer children" are coming soon?
RAE: Designer children are not imminent, but the technology to do gene editing in sex cells and embryos is now here. This is considered a key technological advance necessary for designer children. I think we'll see this in the your lifetime.
MCDOWELL: Singleness is sometimes denigrated in the church today. What do Christians need to know about the role and value of singleness?
RAE: In many Christian communities, single adults are seen as not "having arrived," or seen as having something wrong with them. Both those views are insulting to them and contrary to biblical teaching. 11 Corinthians 7:25-35 is clear that singleness is an equally honorable status as marriage and in some circumstances, more expedient for a person committed to following Jesus. Single adults are not second class spiritual citizens, nor have they cornered the market on emotional struggles. The ranks of both singles and married adults have plenty of "irregular people" in them. Marriage is not a destination at which someone arrives, but simply acquiring a traveling partner.
MCDOWELL: What does it mean to have a theology of work and vocation? What is the difference between the instrumental and intrinsic values in work?
RAE: This idea of work and vocation is crucially important. The Bible teaches that since our work was ordained before the entrance of sin, it has intrinsic value, which means that it is good in and of itself. Of course it has instrumental value, in that it is useful for accomplishing other things, such as supporting a family, being able to give to the poor, having a platform for the gospel, etc. But work itself is an arena of service to God. Your work is part of your ministry. This means that the work you do is actually part of your service to God. I often ask people in the workplace to tell me about their ministry there — they almost always mention things that they are doing when they are not doing their jobs! The work itself is part of someone's service to Christ and and most prominent place where they can love their neighbor and be spiritually formed.
MCDOWELL: Introducing Christian Ethics, you touch on some thorny issues such as birth control, war, abortion, assisted suicide, and more. What is the key point you make in the section, "Transgender"?
RAE: The transgender section is a tricky one — I take it that gender dysphoria (the tension between one's biological sex and their gender experience) is a result of the general entrance of sin — not the way God intended it to be. Some of this is a result of being born with ambiguous genatalia. In those cases the parents usually make the decision about biology very early — we have to be open to the possibility that the parents made the wrong choice and allow to be corrected. With other types of gender dysphoria, the goal should be to manage it with the least intrusive means possible.