Sunday, May 20, 2007

Relational Ethics Part 8

The Task of New Testament Ethics
How do we arrive at a faithful communal reading of Scripture with relational, ethical truth in mind? Richard B. Hays suggests that the task of New Testament ethics is fourfold. He states, “…New Testament ethics is multiplex; it requires us to engage in four overlapping critical operations that we may designate as the descriptive, the synthetic, the hermeneutical, and the pragmatic tasks.” Following these guidelines of interpretation will better equip us to christologically “pattern our lives in Jesus Christ.” Of course, the prerequisite for all of this is that it be done in a communal setting with like minded individuals seeking to follow the will of God.

The Descriptive Task
As Hays describes, this task is “fundamentally exegetical in character.” We must take the witnesses as separate books, first individually recognizing their themes and patterns without “prematurely harmonizing them.” The descriptive task also requires “attention to the developmental history of moral teaching traditions within the canon.” We must not stop there. It is also necessary to reconstruct a description of the “symbolic world” of the New Testament communities. Hays sites the Gospel of John as a good example. He states, “The Gospel of John…may have relatively little explicit ethical teaching, but its story of a “man from heaven” who comes to reveal God’s truth to an unbelieving world is fraught with ethical implications for the community that accepts the message and finds itself rejected by the world.”

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