Life is not a pudding
by Paul Walker
I was recently invited onto the ethics committee of a university
psychology department. When I went along to my first meeting I was
suddenly aware of how out of touch many Christians are with the secular
world. Here was a committee whose intention was to see that any proposals
for theses or dissertations met with certain ethical guidelines to do with
honesty, physical care of those being tested, care of animals and so on.
Consider the following scenario. For a moment I imagined myself on this
committee arguing over an issue that a particular way of proceeding was
absolutely unethical on the grounds that the Bible said it was. To do so
is unthinkable to me - but even imagining it sent shivers down my spine. I
would never again be taken seriously. And yet there are many who believe
that the answer to the world�s problems is to base our ethics upon the
At least that is what they say. The reality is very different. I
suspect that even the most traditionalist thinker would not use the Bible
to justify their position on a university ethics committee. In fact the
only time the Bible seems to be used on the media in Britain is by
Anglicans arguing that homosexuals should not be ordained. This is a
rather minor issue in world affairs, and an amusing one given that, to my
knowledge, the Anglican priesthood seems to have a higher proportion of
gay men than most other professions. In other words, we may believe that
the Bible is our principle guide, but in fact our reason plays a much
bigger part than even the most conservative Christians suppose.
Traditionally the Ten Commandments are seen as the basis of our ethics.
Yet how many Christians would say that breaking the rule to work on the
Sabbath is a worse moral lapse than killing a pet dog, which is not even
mentioned in the Bible? Even the most homophobic of Christians are likely
to consider adult sex with a young child ethically worse than consensual
sex between two adults of the same gender. Yet the former is not mentioned
in the Bible, while the latter is condemned.
Likewise, the position of women in the Bible is of subservient
possessions of men. Some may wish to return to a past where women stayed
at home and did the housework while men earned money. But few would wish
to give women the status afforded to them even by St Paul.
It is time for Christians to be honest with themselves. We have never
treated the Bible in the way that Muslims treat the Koran and nor should
We might imagine that it would be wonderful to live in a world watched
over by a benevolent God who gives us instructions how to live. We could
face life�s traumas, insecurities and uncertainties safe in the knowledge
that all was well. Living life would be like making a decent pudding,
perfect as long as you follow the recipe. Many people have argued that the
Bible is just that � a set of instructions.
Only it isn�t and nobody lives as if were.