These are confusing times, aren’t they? These are confusing times for those who wish to live according to God’s Word and unto God’s glory. There is a host of questions we need to wrestle with, a host of ethical dilemmas we need to consider.
Is abortion permissible? Is it permissible in cases of rape or incest? Is it permissible when a child has been diagnosed in utero with a developmental disability like Down syndrome? What about with a fatal condition like anencephaly? Or what about in cases when there is an ectopic pregnancy?
Is it okay for Christians to sign advance directives that would decline potentially life-saving medical treatment? Is it ever permissible to decline or to halt life support? Can a Christian who has a terminal condition and is in excruciating pain choose to hasten death through physician-assisted suicide?
Should a couple that becomes pregnant while dating get married? Is birth control ever acceptable for Christians? Can Christians use the birth control pill or does it potentially cause abortions? Is the “morning-after pill” a viable option for those who wish to prevent a pregnancy?
These are just a small number of the ethical issues that Christians may need to grapple with over the course of a lifetime. And while some of the answers may be obvious, others may present significant difficulties. This is especially true when ethical dilemmas arise not in the leisurely context of a college classroom but in the urgency of real life and ministry. “My daughter was sexually assaulted last night and asked me if she can take the morning-after pill. What do I tell her?” “My son has just gotten engaged to another man. Should I celebrate?” “The doctors say my husband is being kept alive only by life support. Is it okay if I end it?”
Such dilemmas are the subject of J. Alan Branch’s new book 50 Ethical Questions: Biblical Wisdom for Confusing Times. Each of the 50 questions receives a brief treatment of about four pages—not enough to answer it thoroughly, but enough to provide an overview of the issues and a reasonably solid answer. In each case he briefly defines the issue, suggests the relevant biblical ethical principles, and then offers a suggested moral stance. “This book is written for the Christian who attends church, loves the Lord, and believes the Bible,” he says. “I hope my discussion of these topics will give sincere followers of Christ a good starting point when thinking through very important issues.” And so this is not a survey of ethics as much as a basic guide to current quandaries.
I can see 50 Ethical Questions being helpful in a number of contexts. It can be read by the likes of you and me and equip us with a biblical perspective on contemporary issues. It might also prove a useful text for youth or young adult groups that want to come to firm convictions on ethical dilemmas. And then it may prove a useful resource for a pastor to keep handy so that in those times he is asked a difficult question, he can turn to the appropriate section and find at least a starting point for his answer. In these cases and others, those who read the book will find answers that are reasonable, helpful, and best of all, biblical.
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