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Part 1

Chapter 1: All the Options


In Chapter 1 Geisler introduces the philosophical topic of ethics. He quickly summarizes ten different
proposed foundations for ethics (including power, pleasure, human survival, and God's will). He then
examines five unique attributes of Christian ethics and concludes by providing examples (using lying) of
the different views of ethics.

Chapter 2: Antinomianism
Chapter 2 begins Geisler's more detailed examination of the different views of ethics. He provides a
history of the antinomian view; he covers the time from the ancient beginnings to contemporary
influences. In the process he looks at twelve different ethical philosophies that fall under the broad
umbrella of antinomianism. He points out what they have in common and provides what he believes are
the good influences of antinomianism, including the fact that it stresses individual responsibility. He
then offers a critique of each individual system, then provides the issues with antinomianism in general -
- the major ones would be that it is self-defeating, and it is too subjective to be of value to the whole of
humanity.

Chapter 3: Situationism
Chapter 3 deals with Joseph Fletcher's Situationism. Geisler begins this examination by explaining that
the purpose of this ethical model was to avoid the pitfalls of legalism and antinomianism. He describes
the "single-norm" ethic that is put forth by Fletcher. Basically the ethical thing to do in any situation is
determined by the single absolute norm: love. Geisler states that Situationism does have its advantages
over legalism (it is sensitive to circumstances, it stresses love over other possible norms, and others) and
antinomianism (it does have an absolute and is a normative position). However, he does point out that
the "love" does not really have a foundation -- it is determined by the situation. The fact that the
"absolute" is actually relative makes it a form of the antinomian view. He also points out that the end
result of a decision is that the most love be accomplished -- a form of utilitarianism (the subject of
Chapter 4).

Chapter 4: Generalism
In Chapter 4 Geisler discusses what is more commonly called utilitarianism. The general idea of this
ethical model is that any behavior may be justified if it will achieve the most good for the most people.
Popularly, it is summed up as "the ends justify the means". Geisler points out that there are a few
different positions within this view that distinguishes what "good" means (if it is based on quality or
quantity) and how exceptions are handled. He mentions that in general utilitarianism does affirm the
need for a norm or standard and provides a way to deal with conflicting norms. However, he does state
that its weakness falls in the need for "good" to have an objective standard (a norm of its own) and the
fact that the "end" is ambiguous (due to lack of omniscience of humans). The responsibility to determine
both of these then falls back on the individual making the decision. The individual would then need to
appeal to another ethical system of his choice, which ultimately defeats the need for this one and leads
back to the first system described: antinomianism.

Chapter 5: Unqualified Absolutism


Chapter 5 begins looking at the alternatives to the relativistic systems discussed in the previous
chapters. The first (unqualified absolutism) holds that all ethical rules are absolute and should not be
broken for any reason (hence "unqualified"). According to this view, there is no true ethical dilemmas --
there is either a third way out or the dilemma was caused by some sin in the person's life, and they must
live with the consequences of either sin committed. Geisler describes three forms of unqualified
absolutism from St. Augustine, Immanuel Kant, and John Murray. Like with the other systems, he offers
pros and cons. Pros would be that it offers an absolute ethic and relies on God's nature and providence
for identifying morals and dealing with dilemmas. Geisler then looks at how many adherents must
appeal to God's providence to resolve dilemmas and points out that that appeal is in fact a qualification.
He ends the chapter noting that we do live in a world full of sin, and that moral dilemmas are real, and
people are faced with them all the time.

Chapter 6: Conflicting Absolutism


In Chapter 6 Geisler looks at the second option for the absolutist. Conflicting Absolutism, like
Unqualified Absolutism, affirms that there are absolute moral duties. However, it recognizes that
genuine conflicts do exist, and that they cannot be avoided. He explains that when such a conflict arises,
the duty is to choose the "less evil". Unfortunately, even though there was really was no option to not
commit a sin, the person will still be held accountable for sinning. Geisler points out that many of the
good things about Unqualified Absolutism follow into Conflicting Absolutism. However, he did mention a
couple negatives. Geisler points out that the duty to do the "lesser sin" is actually a duty to sin. He
shows how an ethical dilemma would turn the duty "to do the right thing" into the duty to do "the
wrong thing" (since there is no alternative). But, Geisler's main argument against Conflicting Absolutism
is that if this is true then it follows that any time Jesus had an ethic dilemma, He sinned. However
Scripture states that Jesus never sinned. Because of this, Geisler holds that Conflicting Absolutism is not
a viable option for the Christian.

Chapter 7: Graded Absolutism


After providing several ethical options and critiquing them, GeislerGeisler spends several pages
responding to challenges that this system is actually one of the others already described. He concludes
by giving some of the values of Graded Absolutism, including that he believes that it is the only system
that can make sense of the Cross.

Part 2
Having established the system of ethics that he will be using, Geisler now moves on to Part 2, where he
looks at specific ethical challenges. The space provided to discuss the different ethical issues is limited,
so his treatment is not thorough or as technical as some may like. However, this section will introduce
the reader to the complexity of the issues, address the issues, and prepare the reader for more in-depth
material. In all the following chapters, Geisler distinguishes among specific positions and lays out the
debate clearly. The following chapter reviews will be shorter than in Part 1.

Chapter 8: Abortion
Geisler begins his investigation of abortion by pointing out that the whole debate centers on the
humanity of the fetus. From this he establishes that there are three different positions on abortion:
Abortion anytime, abortion sometimes, and no abortions at all. He lays out the biblical, scientific,
philosophical, and emotional arguments for each position, then offers critique for the first two options
and answers objections to the third (the one he holds).

Chapter 9: Euthanasia
Geisler's treatment of euthanasia follows the same pattern as his chapter on abortion. He points out
that euthanasia can fall into several categories: active or passive; voluntary or involuntary; and self-
causes or caused by someone else. He provides the arguments for each and critiques the views opposed
to his. He then gives a defense for his own view.

Chapter 10: Biomedical Issues


In chapter 10 Geisler attempts to cover a host of biomedical issues at the same time by looking at the
foundations of the different views. He establishes what the humanistic view entails: man is responsible
for human value, individuals have sovereignty over life, the duty to create a superior race, and the ends
justify the means. He evaluates these foundations then provides the Christian alternatives: God is
responsible for human value, God is sovereign over life, there is no duty to create a "superior" race, and
the ends do not always justify the means.

Chapter 11: Capital Punishment


Chapter 11 covers three different views on the issue of capital punishment: rehabilitationism (no capital
punishment at all), reconstructionism (capital punishment for all crimes originally punished this way in
Scripture), and retributionism (limited capital punishment). He provides the philosophical, social, and
biblical arguments for each position, then provides a critique of each one.

Chapter 12: War


Chapter 12 tackles the ethics of war. Geisler presents the two extremes: Activism and Pacifism. Activism
being the view that one should engage in all wars commanded by his government. Pacifism being the
view that no war should ever be engaged in. Geisler presents the biblical and philosophical arguments
for each view then analyzes them. He puts forth the strengths and weaknesses of each view and show
where each view is right. He then provides a balanced view: Selectivism. This view holds that some wars
are just but not all. He provides the arguments for it then offers the its weaknesses.

Chapter 13: Civil Disobedience


Related to the ethical question of war is the justification of civil disobedience. Geisler begins this chapter
by explaining that the ethical rightness or wrongness of the American Revolution is at stake with this
question. As with the other ethical issues, he provides both sides from the secular and biblical
perspectives. He provides counter-points and shows the strengths and weaknesses of each view. He
takes the reader through the logical struggle and eventually gives his view on the American Revolution.

Chapter 14: Homosexuality


Along side abortion the issue of homosexuality is one of the most heated and debated ethical issues
today. In Chapter 14 Geisler looks at it from both sides. He provides arguments for and against
homosexuality being ethical from both a biblical and secular perspective. He offers counter-arguments
for both sides (sometimes in the context of the argument for the other side; others are more direct and
explicit). He takes the position that homosexuality is ethically wrong. However, he ends the chapter
discussing how Christians should approach the topic and people who are homosexual. He is adamant
that the debate be focused on the behavior rather than the individual.

Chapter 15: Marriage and Divorce


In this chapter Geisler looks at marriage, divorce, and remarriage. He describes the Christian view of
marriage, then goes into the differing views on divorce and remarriage. The three views that he
evaluates are: divorce in never permissible, divorce is permissible only in the case of adultery, and
divorce is permissible for multiple reasons. He looks at the merits of each view and the arguments for
each position. He offers his critique of them and provides a conclusion that takes the biblically sound
portions of each and combines it into one coherent view.

Chapter 16: Ecology


In the final chapter of Christian Ethics Geisler tackles the proper treatment of the environment. Geisler
describes two extreme positions: materialism and pantheism. The former sees man as dominator of
nature and can exploit it however seen fit. The latter sees man as a part of and servant to nature, thus
no benefit may be derived from nature at the cost of nature. Geisler points out the value of each
position, although he is more critical of the materialistic position. He describes the Christian view as
being between the two and having its foundation in the doctrine of creation. He concludes that
Christians are to be good stewards of the environment, while using its resources. Christians must be
careful to not overuse the resources because it is the home that God created for and entrusted to him.

Conclusion
Christian Ethics was quite an interesting and enjoyable read. It helps the reader to think more clearly
about the different ethical systems proposed by Christians. He guides the Christian though a thoughtful
evaluation of several ethical debates and provides conclusions that are soundly based on scripture. This
book is recommended as an introductory book for Christian Ethics; so, those interested in particular
systems or specific debates should not rely solely on this resource. Geisler wrote this book with the
beginner in mind and takes care to clearly articulate difficult concepts. His inclusion of a glossary also
helps with those not as familiar with the more technical terms.