It sounds familiar: relativism and pluralism reign as hundreds of religions and philosophical schools litter the spiritual marketplace. But we're talking about life in the early church, which is precisely why Robert Webber believes the early church's models of worship, evangelism, and teaching can fruitfully guide evangelicals today. Here Webber offers a corrective to how we typically teach biblical material:
Moralism resembles a do-goodism that neglects a more biblical understanding of Christian ethics as it grows out of the redemptive work of Christ. The moralistic teacher tends to find "the moral" in Bible stories and in the lives of biblical heroes. There is a tendency to emphasize how "doing good" and "being responsible" always pay off in the end. On this basis, the teacher urges the students to be helpful, kind, sharing.The problem with this kind of teaching is not with the behavior suggested by moralism, but with the misinterpretation of what Scripture actually says. Moralism fails to emphasize the redemptive nature of the Word. The stories of Scripture are often explained as isolated incidents and not as examples of the way God is working to accomplish redemption. Thus the picture of Christianity as a superficial do-goodism is unconsciously presented.For example, if we treat the story of Abraham merely as an example of obedience without putting Abraham in the context of God's covenant to bring into existence a people through which the world will be blessed, we reduce his story to moralism. True morality is not based on this or that particular story, but on the story of Israel and Jesus and the calling to be a new person within the community of God's people on earth.January 10, 2000, Vol. 44, No. 1, Page 821
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