Open Letter to Graham Power regarding the Unashamedly Ethical Campaign
Dear Mr Power
CLARITY REGARDING YOUR VISION AND UNASHAMEDLY ETHICAL CAMPAIGN
I have read your “3 wave vision” to deal with “our common crisis” (i.e., “moral decay”) and desire to “stem the filthy river of corruption across the earth” by forming “Unashamedly Ethical communities all over the world,” with great interest – as stipulated on www.unashamedlyethical.com. A person does not have to be a rocket scientist to recognise that the world, including our own society, is in a state of moral chaos. Corruption amongst Government officials and talk shows of the kind of Jerry Springer send shivers down the spine of anyone with an ounce of moral sensibility. But moral chaos never comes as a surprise to Christians for they know there is a deep connection between a secular worldview and ethical/moral beliefs and conduct.
Although your vision and the activities ensuing from it seem inspired and pursued with unshakeable confidence in its truth, I find it difficult to share in it. I would therefore be grateful if you could correct my understanding of your vision. As I see it, the commitment to being Unashamedly Ethical is:
(1) entirely voluntary; it “begins with a simple choice,” and
(2) the “10 commitments (not to be confused with the 10 Commandments)” is not meant to “exclude anyone on the basis of religion.”
Points (1) and (2) seem to be connected to two core assumptions:
(3) “relationships are at the heart of transformation,” and
(4) “leaders taking hands” is a sign of the “unifying of the body of Christ.”
If my understanding is correct – the words in quotation marks are taken from the articles posted on your website – then I, and other Christians, see reasons to be concerned. I will elaborate briefly on each of the points listed above.
1#. Many scholars have drawn a distinction between “ethical” and “moral,” because a person can be ethical (i.e., comply with a certain set of rules) and yet be immoral. In our society, for example, it is required of prostitutes and homosexuals to give truthful evidence in a Court of Law, yet their lifestyles are not deemed immoral. But looking at ethics and morality from a biblical point of view leads to two conclusions:
(a) What is ethical is moral, and vice versa. In other words, the inner (moral) orientation is as important as the outer conduct.
(b) Ethical and moral conduct is a matter of obedience (cf. 1 Pet 1:14-16).
The problem is that I found nowhere in Scripture a single instance of Christians volunteering to be ethical/moral/obedient. Thus, to suggest that a Christian has a choice in such matters is contradictory to Scripture, and a distortion of what the concept “Christian” implies and entails.
2#. Not being committed to being Unashamedly Ethical is the only ground on which a person can be excluded from community membership. Yet your call seems to be inclusive of all religions. That means that the truth of Christian beliefs is not the unifying factor. Or, to put it in the reverse, false beliefs does not disqualify one from being part of an ethical community. This means that your vision creates a dilemma for Christians.
3#. The fact of the matter is that Scripture explicitly prohibits Christians from entering into certain partnerships, fellowships and agreements: “What agreement has the temple of God [body of Christ] with idols [false religion]?” (2 Cor 6:16). So what is the dilemma that your vision creates for Christians? On the one hand Christians cannot choose to be Unashamedly Ethical – they ought to be, since it is a matter of obedience to the Father, and on the other hand, they are to refrain from forming certain relationships. Yet your vision and campaign require compliance with both sides of the dilemma. It follows that your vision is contradictory to Scripture.
Further, it seems that your Unashamedly Ethical approach to “stem the filthy river of corruption across the earth” has the New Testament approach to salvation in reverse order. Nowhere in the New Testament, not even once, is it intimated or remotely suggested that ethical/moral campaigns are to be used by Christians in order to lead sinners to salvation. I assume that your ultimate goal is the salvation of sinners, and if it is, then we already have a mandate from Jesus Himself in Matthew 28:18-20 (read together with John 8:31-32). This means that no additional “visions” are required to fulfill that command. Further, we have to keep in mind that a Christian is always and everywhere part of a holy community; the body of Christ (1 Cor 3:16-17; 1 Pet 2:4-12ff.), first and foremost. Therefore, to call Christians into oneness with other religions and partnerships other than with the body of Christ is seriously at variance with Scripture (see 2 Cor 6:14-18).
But there is another problem lurking ahead: from religious inclusivism/pluralism is a short step to moral relativism. On what basis would conduct be declared wrong? If you, as a Christian, would base your answer on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ (cf. John 8:31; 14:6), then you are no longer religiously inclusive, for you thereby have excluded opposing religions. But, then, your “vision” does not permit you to be religiously exclusive. It seems, in other words, that your vision set Christians on a path where their answers to the world would be as true and good as any other.
4#. If “leaders taking hands” is construed as a sign of the “unifying of the body of Christ,” then we are in trouble. I have recently spoken to a theologian who does not believe that Jesus is who He said who He was. Another refers to himself as a “dead-again Christian” and teaches theology at a well-known South African university. Another professor – the CEO of an institute of higher education – believes that the Creator gave us all the intellect to conceptualise Him in different ways. Yet they all “take hands” and are “Unashamedly Ethical.” The problem, however, is that two opposing beliefs about any proposition in or about Scripture cannot both be true at the same time in the same sense. It is therefore reasonable to conclude that falsehood in the body of Christ, and/or any attempt to compromise biblical truth, is a sure sign that the Spirit of truth is not at work and, therefore, not the cause of disunity.
All this leads to an important question. Is a focus on people’s beliefs not a better approach to changing their conduct than an ethical approach? I see at least three reasons to think it is. Firstly, beliefs are true or false; there is no middle way. Secondly, all ethical/moral conduct emanates from beliefs about what is right or wrong and good or bad. If, for example, someone believes that a human being is not a human person during the first three months of pregnancy, then that person will see nothing wrong with “aborting” (killing) a human being. And thirdly, there is only one way a person can change his or her own beliefs, and that is to THINK about the TRUTH of its content. It follows that Christians need to confront thoughts and beliefs of people with an eye on bringing them into obedience to Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Cor 10:1-6).
Please consider this letter as a disregard of your internet invitation to “Let us know what you are thinking!,” as I wish to allow you an opportunity to correct my understanding of your vision and to respond to my concerns first, rather than making them public on the facebook address provided by you.
Thank you in anticipation.
Dr Callie Joubert
Note: This letter was emailed to Graham Power in April 2011. We are still waiting for a response.