"Evangelicals should think more about ethics, because it is fundamental to Scripture and relatively neglected among us compared to, for example, our interest in church growth, evangelism, missions, and doctrine," says David Gushee, professor of ethics at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee.
"This neglect relates directly to our moral sloppiness," he continues, "both in our attitudes and our behaviors, resulting in a disastrous indistinctness from the world. Every evangelical seminary has biblical scholars, theologians, preaching professors, and church historians. Every seminary should have ethicists."
David comes by his passion for ethics honestly. His father was a public policy analyst at the Congressional Research Service in Washington D.C., and many a dinner conversation was spent on ethical issues. After David's conversion at age 16, he found himself divorcing biblical teachings for "the real world around me," but at Southern Seminary, "the combination of moral/political awareness plus Christian faith found a synthesis in the discipline of Christian ethics."
Today, many years later, he finds himself consistently drawn to issues "at the intersection of faith, values, and public policy, to marriage and family issues, and to human-rights issues such as genocide. But I am also an ethics generalist who cares about any morally significant issue."
And what are the greatest ethical challenges for evangelicals today? "To develop a much more rigorous and thoughtful morality to go with our rigorous and thoughtful doctrinal and exegetical work. I dream of evangelical churches offering serious and sustained reflection on both personal and social ethics and then consistently emphasizing this non-negotiable dimension of the Christian faith. Particularly, I think that U.S. evangelicals need a much more sophisticated and careful engagement with American politics."
And thus we invited David to write our cover essay, "Five Reasons Why Torture Is Always Wrong," page 32.
Lest you think David is only a global thinker: "I am also deeply burdened by the collapse of marriages and the splintering of families in many evangelical churches. I minister to children of divorce each day as a college professor."
The ethics generalist again. We thought David would be ideal to write an ethics column for ct. Do Likewise was inaugurated in November and will be featured every other issue.
David has been married to Jeanie for 21 years, and they have three kids at home and a grown adopted daughter. He and his family attend Northbrook Church, a seeker-oriented church just outside of Jackson.
Copyright © 2006 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
Gushee's "Five Reasons Why Torture Is Always Wrong" appears today at Christianity Today Online.
Gushee's "Do Likewise" columns include:
Bill's Big Career Move | How do we make important family decisions? By David P. Gushee (Jan. 10, 2006)
Our Missing Moral Compass | Christianity is more than an event, an experience, or a set of beliefs. (Nov. 14, 2005)
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.