Christianity and Business Ethics

To this point, our discussion has centered on the limitations of modernism on business ethics – namely, moral relativism and a materialistic focus regarding ethical behavior. We next examine how the Christian worldview addresses these issues followed by how it might influence ethics research. Christian ethics founded on Scripture gives moral standards or a common platform that allow us to judge between right and wrong.

In business situations, people must decide what they ought to do and what ethical principles to follow. They must know that these principles are right and that it is reliable. This is not to say that an absolute moral law must be strictly followed given that the boundaries of moral law and its varied applications will always be debated. But the very idea of right and wrong makes sense only if there is a final standard by which we can make moral judgments (Colson and Pearcey, 1999).

Furthermore, much of what researchers and business professionals seek as ethical standards and behavior are found in Scripture. For instance, the Ten Commandments provides the foundation for many of today’s laws governing business practices including truthfulness in business transactions, pro- per entitlement, and so forth. Also, the life and teachings of Jesus provide moral guidance in busi- ness. The parable of the rich fool and the parable of the talents teach about proper management of pos- sessions and diligence at work.

The primacy of love and service to others is consistent with the goals of corporate social responsibility (Calkins, 2000). It should be noted that simply citing a chapter and verse for the moral statement being made, or insisting that God has demanded it, is not sufficient to a make a Christian ethic (Rossouw, 1994). Likewise, Christian ethics is not a set of isolated moral principles but is dependent on a prior Chris- tian view of reality as expressed in the relationship between God and his people.

What is expressed in Scripture is not a set of principles or rules, but rather a comprehensive understanding of reality such as all life originating from God, the nature of God and man, and life’s meaning. Christian ethics requires the use of reason to derive from Scripture certain pre- cepts and narratives that guide human action and bring about certain consequences, primarily to pur- sue the ideals of love and service to others (Calkins, 2000) and practicing good stewardship of money and resources.

Rossouw (1994, p. 564) offers the following illustration: Someone with a Christian understanding of the unconditional value of life, cannot be careless in the workplace about products and quality-standards that pose a threat to the lives of consumers or employees. Neither can someone who believes that humans have the responsibility to cultivate and protect nature, be careless about pollution and ozone- depletion. In the same way, someone with a conviction that special care should be taken of the unfortunate in society, cannot be unconcerned about employment practices that cause hardships for employees in their old age. In recent years, the assumptions of modernism have been challenged by the postmodern worldview which questions whether we can know anything with certainty (Daniels et al., 2000). And as post- modern thinking has become more dominant in our culture and academe, it has opened the door for business ethicists to explore alternative worldviews, like Christianity, to explain the nature of reality, knowledge, and morality. Approaching business ethics research from a Christian worldview requires us to re-think our assumptions and beliefs about religion and the nature of reality. Works by Christian writers and thinkers would suggest that Christianity is more than a reli- gion or a set of moral guidelines or beliefs. It is a worldview that applies to all areas including social issues, history, politics, science, and anthropology (Pearcey, 2004).

Whereas modernism assumes that knowledge, truth, and morality are founded in sci- ence and reason, Christianity is based on the understanding that God was the creator of the uni- verse, and that man, by use of his reason, could discover the mysteries of the universe. Contrary to popular notion, Christian thinking is not opposed to science and scientific discoveries or to a rational understanding of the world as evidenced by the works of early scientists. Finally, Scripture has much to say about human nature and behavior that is consistent with what we observe in ourselves and others. Given the challenge among business ethicists and business leaders to create a more ethical environment, ethics research from a Christian viewpoint may offer insights that promote morality in the workplace.

Source: Kim, D., Fisher, D., & McCalman, D. (2009). Modernism, Christianity, and Business Ethics: A Worldview Perspective. Journal of Business Ethics, 90(1), 115–121.

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One thought on “Christianity and Business Ethics

  1. Pingback: Business Ethics and Religion - Pilant's Business Ethics

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