Four Thoughts From Research and Ethics

Over the past one week, I was taking a class on Research in Ethics. It is a bit unfortunate that I have to take the class since I have already cleared my research module eons ago. Nevertheless, taking this class allows me to do some reflections on some interesting ideas that were discussed during the class.

They say I have to take the class because I am not ethical...

Apathy and Action

It is easy for Christians to be apathetic to the current affairs that happen around them and one way to show apathy is to avoid having a position, or having too simplistic a position towards these issues. These issues include LGBT lifestyle, abortion and even environment. I realised, even in the course of my work, that many Christians do not have a clear position on these issues. Yet, is that what God really want for us? 

Indeed, we received the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations, but that also includes teaching all that the Scripture teaches us about this world. This means that if there are issues that God is concerned about as depicted in the Scripture, then we, as His disciples, need to be concerned about these issues as well. I have grown up as a Christian primarily concerned about bringing people to know Christ and discipling them to be 'good' Christians but over the years, especially as I sit through the discussion in this class, I am increasingly convinced that I need to stand up and fight for some of these issues as well, not because these are good things to do but out of my identity as a saved disciple of Christ. 

So perhaps the start for me is to engage in more discussions about pertinent issues such as family matters in maybe the cyberspace and other forums? 

Navigating through Complex Ethical Discussion

We are often very prone to simplistic solutions as we pick isolated bible verses or pure hearsay to support our ethical position. 

And we may even quote it wrongly
One example for me is my own position on abortion. I would have thought that because we know that God values life, hence we should not abort a child under any circumstances. Studying ethical situations (and on top of it, facing an impending marriage and formation of my own family unit) forced me to evaluate on my own position. But the situation may not be as simple as I hope it will be. After all, we need to accept that there are some issues that the Scripture does not spell out very clearly. 

Say if my future child is diagnosed to have thalassemia, then am I going to abort the child? If let's say my future wife's life is in danger for carrying the child and abortion is the way to save the mother, am I going to say "no"? These are tough questions I realised that I have to address within myself because honestly speaking, the possibility is really real in my own case. Which lesser evil can I choose? 

Team Learning V.s. Personal Excellence

I learn something new about group work everytime I take a block class and this is no different. During the course of the past week, I was reminded by the instructors of the class to let go of excellence in favour of team learning. This is particularly when the group assignment is not focused on content but the process. I think I have learned to appreciate group work over the past one year. My time doing Greek class and working with my group in those group exams have shown that working in groups does produce better result. As the proverb (modified) goes: if you want to fly far, you have to fly together. But this is a pretty hard lesson to learn especially in a situation where I know I probably have more experience than the rest of the group. It takes humility and trust for me to let go of personal excellence and to aim for team learning - that at the end of the day, the team learned something together and not just one person fronting for the entire group. 

Leaning on Grace, Trusting on God

My last thought here is in the issue of grace and trusting on God. In the course of the module, we learned that Knowledge x Power x (Received - Deserved) = Ethics. The (Received - Deserved) is what we know as grace. 

Understanding the grace of God in our lives and knowing that we have grace in our ethical decision making is the key to moving forward. Especially when we are Christian leaders, we make 1001 bad decisions which may cause us sleepless nights. But what I learned over the years and reinforced in this class is that God is in control and we get the grace from God every morning to start anew even though we have made boo-boo in our decision making. No doubt there will be consequences but I know that I can trust God and His grace to bring me through the difficult times even when I have made bad ethical decisions. 

Ok, I think I should stop here for now.


  1. Matthias has pointed out correctly. The challenge of the church is how are we going to stand up in the midst of all the noise and able to state our views lovingly and humbly for others to consider our point of view in any contentious issues. How can we be the salt and light of the world without giving or shaping opinion for the good of any issues the society and the world faced. Here we needed the wisdom of God to grant us favor so that the Truth can set us free from our own prejudice and in turn influence the world around us positively.

  2. One thing you mentioned is right - that we need to fine-tune our decision making along the way as more information becomes available. One of the things I learned in all my years of learning Christian ethics is that we need to understand the information before making the decision and even so, we need to live with the fact that we may not have all the facts and we are only making decisions to the best of our ability with reliance on God's wisdom along the way.

  3. Personally I love the course and learn so much especially the formula that you pointed out give us some great guide as to how to live a Holy life :) While I agree that with the knowledge we have, sometimes we want to defend the faith through the knowledge we gain and it is very tempting to do so in the process. I personally also felt the same when I first step into Bible school as well but one has to be reminded that we got to remember the actions we take seems Holy in God's point on view. Sometimes even myself I done things that seems Holy to me but honestly after looking back it seems more of a I want to serve justice to the community than showing glory for God :P

    1. I think one gauge for holiness is whether we are doing it as part of the "being set apart for God" process. If we know that we are being set apart for God and hence make effort to be holy by the grace of the Holy Spirit, then I think that is showing glory for God. That being said, the actual outworking is another issue altogether.

  4. Yikes, I'm a carrier of thalassemia so the possibility of having a child with that is quite real! That is something I got to think about if I ever decide to have a family. Thanks for going along with the group project and encouraging participation from everyone :) I don't think that you displayed superiority/non-humility. Glad that you learned something from this course anyway despite having gone through research already previously.

    1. one way is go for a blood test with your future spouse and if the other one is also a thalassemia carrier, then perhaps can consider adoption...

  5. I agree that many a times, we jump at "simplistic solutions as we pick isolated bible verses or pure hearsay to support our ethical position". In this class, I learnt that it is more complex than this and I need to run through the 7-step process to make wise and ethical decisions. =)

  6. Yes, i agree. True maturity is being able to hold back and to give others the chance to grow and contribute at their own space. Thanks for giving us the time and space!

    I guess the ultimate ethical checker is whether we can stand before God and say, "God, i've tried my best to honour you given the options and the knowledge".

  7. Hi Huanyan, so sorry that I only managed to read and respond to your blogpost only now as I had been swarmed with several work commitments and studies matters since the class. In any case, glad to have you in the class to support the class learning, especially that you have already taken then research part of the course. And you have pointed out something very true: working in teams/groups always challenges our priorities: should we pursue personal excellence at all cost, or should we seek for the interest of the community even in an academic setting? Hence, thanks for upholding the interest of the community throughout the course!


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