This is reaching back. I was reminded of another article I had written by one of the comments on my article concerning Imago Dei. In the interactions which followed, Atana wrote, Since Marx it has been difficult to see law as protecting anything other than the interests of the ruling class. It made me think (sideways turn from Atana's point) that some people - not just the controlling rulers but their subjects - like law. Speaking for myself, I never got that. "It's simple. You read what it says and you do what it says" "Um. Sure". While it would be nice to think I don't get it because I think more or I am not "simple", the range of reactions by the range of people indicate it's kinda how people are built. Variations, Continuum, Bell Curve, and all that.
A while back, I heard a report on the radio about pastors leaving the ministry. They reported that ministers are leaving the ministry at a rate of 1800 a month. They mentioned ways to reverse that and seemed generally good but one thing caught my attention. At one point, the announcer said that if you attended a pastors conference, the people there would not be the most physically fit you have ever seen. He then said that God commands us to take care of our bodies and pastors really need to consider their disobedience to God in this matter.
Though I am neither a pastor nor out of shape, when I heard that pastors “need to consider their disobedience to God” I thought, “Oh great, another way I am disappointing God. Just put that on that big pile over there.” There are some listening to that program who may take that kind of appeal seriously but my guess is that the majority of burned-out pastors already feel overwhelmed by their own list of how they are “disobeying” God. On the other hand, the speaker clearly thought this was a good thing to say and, as I said, there probably were listeners who thought this was a good point. What this illustrates, if we can step back from the specific example of physical fitness for pastors, is there are different ways to appeal to action. Likewise, there are different ways that people respond to appeals.
Ethicists write that there are basically three appeals to ethical action. Most writers have all three appeals. Some writers have only two basic appeals, the first and the second. Christian writers commonly say that of the appeals only the second is The Biblical Ethic. I suspect this is because the second seems objective while the other two, more subjective. My problems with the typical “Christian” breakdown include: It is the third appeal that strikes me the most. All three appeals are found in Scripture, so how can one say that only one is biblical? In any case, I have found this grid to be helpful in analyzing not only what people are attempting, but also how I am reacting. Beyond the issue of ethics, this also has application in advertising and also in analyzing political speech.
The first appeal is called Teleological (Greek, Teleos - Goal, End). It is defined, Ethics in which moral choices are based on a goal. So, in a given situation one makes his ethical choice based on the goal or end to which he is committed.
This is often criticized for its subjective nature. Commonly referenced here is Situation Ethics (a book by that title was written by an Episcopal Priest Joseph Fletcher) which has as its goal to show love. Ultimately, WWJD is a goal-based ethic. I make it my goal to act like Jesus and approach decisions by asking myself “What would Jesus do?” In the end, its value in ethics really concerns the chosen goal, whether it is being like Jesus or being a millionaire by age thirty. Goals can be ignoble as well as noble and they can be neutral - it’s just what you wish to accomplish. When there is a choice to be made, the goal is the deciding factor.
Were I to put the appeal of losing weight into a goal based appeal, I would speak of the ultimate benefits associated with good health, including better endurance for the tough times, and the hindrances which obesity places in your way.
The second appeal is Deontological (Greek, Deon - Duty). This is defined as Ethics in which ethical choices are based on duty or law. This, as I said before, is often stated as the only “Christian” ethic. It is also the base of the call to action quoted above, “the Bible says it, this is your duty; if you are not doing it, consider your disobedience.” In ethical situations, one considers what his duty is when choosing. Duty takes precedence.
Need I say that this is often the type of appeal we hear from our theologically conservative churches? It also is the most common caricature of church people used by the world outside the church. “Obey!” they screech, in mock imitation of the stereotypical pulpit-pounder. This is also common among our politically conservative voters, and shown in a common refrain among the politicians that people care too much about rights and not enough about responsibilities (leave aside the fact that they often are cherry-picking who they are criticizing for asking for rights and they have their own list of people who are above the law and “freedom fighters”).
The third appeal is Areteological (Greek, Arete - Virtue). This is defined as, Ethics in which moral choices are based on virtue or character. In some ways, this can be a variation of the first appeal, but it specifies admirable characteristics. It is shown negatively in the expression “what are you, a coward?” People do not want to hear something like that. A person’s choice is a reflection of his character. So, in situations, one chooses based on what virtue or characteristic he has developed or considers most important.
An areteological appeal for keeping in shape might take the form of talking about diligence or self-discipline. The oft-found description “passionate” is also character-based.
As a summary: the three ethical appeals are based on Goal, Duty and Character. An illustration of all three would be when the US Army changed their advertising slogan from a goal-based appeal (“Be All That You Can Be”) to a character-based appeal (“The Army of One”) while their “corporate personality” is duty-based. As I said, I have found this to be a helpful grid through which to think of my and others’ actions and reactions.
Ultimately, it is a matter of personality which one strikes you most often. One time I was teaching this concept to a group and I introduced it by “preaching” three sermons, each one a different appeal to solve the same problem. At the end when I asked which had the stronger appeal, one guy said “I like the first one. That really cut through the fluff and got to the heart of the matter.” Another said “I liked the second one. It cut through the fluff and got to the heart of the matter.” Identical comments calling the appeal which fit their personality “right to the heart” while the others were fluff.