Original Research

Scriptural ethical principles and traditional African ethics

J. A. van Rooy
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 31, No 1/2 | a1601 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v31i1/2.1601 | © 1997 J. A. van Rooy | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 12 June 1997 | Published: 12 June 1997

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Abstract

The traditional ethical code of Africa is dominated by two factors, to wit, interpersonal relationships, which include the ancestor spirits, and taboo, which is mainly concerned with respecting the hierarchy of forces. God is hardly a factor in everyday conduct. Biblical ethics, on the other hand, is totally dominated by the idea of and relationship with God. The origin of biblical ethics (creation and redemption), history (God's redemptive acts), content (being God’s image, holy as He is holy), motivation (do as I have done to you), responsibility (both individual and communal responsibility) is directed towards God. Expectation (rewards and sanctions), universality (including all peoples, since God is the Creator of all), internal character (in that thoughts and motives are also judged by God), teaching about property, jurisprudence (placing kings and the lowliest on the same level before God and his law), and work ethic (which is strongly critical of using any magical means) - all of these are God-centred, and therefore sharply distinguished from African ethics which is man-centred. In the New Testament, the distinguishing factor is the new being, who is in Christ, being born again by the Holy Spirit, by which man is conformed to the image of his Redeemer and King. The dominant theme in both Testaments is love, which in African ethics is reserved for one's nearest kin), but in Scripture demanded even for one's enemies.

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