Worldview and Ethical Reasoning

John Frame on persuasive ethical argumentation:

Cogent and persuasive ethical reasoning presupposes a worldview and standards of judgment. It is not easy to argue these from nature alone. For Christians, these standards come from Scripture. So apart from Scripture, ethical argument loses its cogency and often it’s persuasiveness. Nonbelievers, of course, won’t usually accept Scripture as authoritative. But they may at least respect an argument that is self-conscious about its epistemological and metaphysical presuppositions.

In public discussion, it may sometimes be desirable to argue a position without directly referring to Scripture. We may, for example, point to the cultural consequences of China’s one-child policy, or to the general indifference to human life encouraged by legalized abortion, or to the societal consequences of secularized education. Arguments like these will be persuasive to some non-Christians. They appeal to that knowledge of natural revelation that they are unable fully to suppress. But when someone presses us to ask, for example, why we think that indifference to human life is a bad thing, we must in the end refer to Scripture, for that is the ultimate source of our values.

-John M. Frame, Doctrine of the Christian Life, 954 (This is taken from appendix F, “Is Nature Revelation Sufficient To Govern Culture?”, also published in Frame’s latest work The Escondido Theology)

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Posted on July 27, 2012, in Ethics, John Frame, John Frame Stuff and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I am just beginning a period of personal study of christian ethics (versus secular ethics). A friend on fb referred to Frame’s writings in general and from there I came across your post. I appreciate your focus on this quote from Frame’s writings and find it to be extremely foundational to a study of ethics. It explains why the attempt to study ethics from a secular standpoint would surely leave one with a devastating sense of futility. Though I doubt that a secular ethicist would admit to this. [There is no possibility of cogent thought and argumentation]. On the other hand, for the Christian who understands ‘the cornerstone’ of the Word of God (both written and Living), the intellectual peace and satisfaction of cogency becomes no issue. When I read Frame’s relatively short statement about this key presupposition for the christian ethicist (as to God’s written revelation of His own moral standard), I am led to contrast this thought with the arrogant and devastating work of Thomas Paine in writing ‘The Age of Reason’. I see that particular work (piece of garbage) as an early presentation of secular man’s ‘progressive’ worldview — and that has now wrought our current cultural and moral crisis.

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