Biblical Ethics are both deontological and teleological

I was going over some writing from when I was taking a course in Ethics while attending Bible College, and I thought the information would be good discussion material.  I do not recall the source material. If anyone recognizes any of this, please let me know, so I can attribute it appropriately.

Before going into why Biblical Ethics are both deontological and teleological, I thought I might want to start by explaining both terms.

Dictionary.com defines Deontological Ethics as,

“the branch of ethics dealing with right action and the nature of duty, without regard to the goodness or value of motives or the desirability of the ends of any act.”

Britannica.com defines Teleological Ethics as,

“(teleological from Greek telos, “end”; logos, “science”),theory of morality that derives duty or moral obligation from what is good or desirable as an end to be achieved. Also known as consequentialist ethics, it is opposed to deontological ethics (from the Greek deon, “duty”), which holds that the basic standards for an action’s being morally right are independent of the good or evil generated.”

It is always right to obey God (deontological).  One should try to act with the best interests of one’s brothers in mind (teleological), while keeping in mind one’s duties (deontological).

God teaches to love your brother.  Paul had a brother thrown out of the Corinthian church for sleeping with his father’s wife. This may not seem like love to some, but evidently the end goal was that this man might be brought back into conformance with God’s law, that his soul might be saved. Paul was more concerned with his character than his feelings. In this case, the end justified the means, but what Paul did was right in and of itself.

God teaches we have freedom in Christ. Paul said we should not cause our brother to stumble and so while we might be able eat something put in front of us, if it should cause someone to stumble, we should not do it. Again, it is always right to obey God, and the end – our brother’s spiritual growth – justifies the means.

God teaches to not divorce. It is right in and itself to not divorce, but it is permissible to divorce if married to an unbeliever who wishes to leave.  However, it would be right to not divorce in this case because through you, your spouse might be sanctified.

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2 Responses

  1. Hi WBMoore,

    I really like your post, but can you explain for me in a little bit simplier terms what those two words mean in a sentence? I just do not understand. I am having some really hard times with this philosophy we are into right now. We have one more week and I still do not understand it.

    Thank you
    Mary Wilson

    • MMary,
      Its been a while since I’ve looked at these terms. But I understand deontological ethics to state that something is right because it is right (your duty), not because it is good or its results would be good. While teleological ethics states that something is right because its results will be good (based upon the consequences).

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