Editorial: Hot Topics #2 – Dr Paul Mercer

The second of two editions


from Luke’s Journal 2019 | Hot Topics #2 | Vol. 24 No. 1

Blue Flame on the cover of Luke's Journal Hot Topics #2.

This 2nd section of Hot Topics in Ethics addresses recent changes in legislation and increased coverage in the media of these ethical issues. In our post-modern, post-Christendom world the challenge of ethics, both personal and corporate, requires consistent, thoughtful effort. Truth, morality, justice and compassion are often important considerations as we enter the ethical playing field.

How and where to start can be a difficult first step. New information, new options, funding pressures and shifting social forces all squeeze any ethical position we may take. For some, science now sets the pace in ethics. Oxytocin has been identified as a significant molecule that carries the basis for a neurobiology of ethics.1 It is clear ethics is about people and communities working together and yet we commit to ethical decision-making as individuals.

Through the force of argument, quality research, conscience, social instincts and (for Christians) a suite of spiritual resources, a path is negotiated towards an ethical position. We often yearn for a simple, straightforward approach to ethics, yet ethics is more like the creation of a tapestry or a consensus of good ideas with different origin points.

We have chosen a “hot topics” approach. This allows current challenges to be addressed. We recognise there is no set ethical model that we have chosen to guide the authors. Rather we accept that, beyond the preference for a bioethical approach in most health-based professions, there is indeed a plurality of ethics we must encounter and work with.

A good example of this approach is contained in Steve Wilkens’ punchy text, “Beyond bumper sticker ethics”.2 Here the author identifies nine ethical approaches, all of which claim Biblical merit. The chapter headings capture complexity in ethics with a pinch of humour:

“When in Rome, do as Romans do” or “Cultural relativism”;
“Be good” or “Virtue ethics”; and
“God said it, I believe it, that settles it” or “Divine command theory.”

Ethics is never a one trick pony

In the wider community, determinism tends to hold sway in the debate with free will. This poses significant challenges for Christians thinking ethically. When it is coupled with
a consequentialist, utilitarian perspective, the ground on which ethics stands appears to be heading for major change.

By offering a variety of materials we hope to stimulate conversations and responses which contribute positively to the integration of work and faith of Christian health professionals. I have deliberately chosen to write into the difficult space of “discernment of ethics”. In the swirling and changing environment of ethics, this will help us all to journey further with integrity. If we consider Jesus as our model for ethics, two things stand out – Humility and Love. Jesus calls us to follow in his steps of changing love from a noun to a verb. May the fire that refines gold catch hold for you in this material.

Dr Paul Mercer – Editor
Dr Paul Mercer – Editor
Dr Paul Mercer is a GP principal at Manly in Queensland. He is the editor of Luke’s Journal and among other things is part of the “Theology on Tap” team in Brisbane and has been a member of the CMDFA ethics working group.

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  1. Churchland, P. (n.d.).
  2. Steve, W. (1995). Beyond bumper sticker ethics. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press.