Biblical Social Ethics: Doubt Principle

In this series we are looking at six principles that will help us make ethical decisions. The daily application of these principles concern regular activities that we are involved in. However, there are larger issues where these principles can be applied. When making decisions for your family, business and government you can use these principles to help you know how to lead and cast your vote.

Doubt Principle: Defined

God requires that the Christian abstain from that which he does not reasonably know is right. Paul says that offending a weaker brother is sinful (Romans 14). It is reasonable to encounter times when you are unsure as to whether engaging in an activity will cause a weaker brother to sin. In those instances, Paul says that it is better to not engage in the activity. When unsure whether something is right or wrong, then you should err on the side of caution and not get involved (Romans 14:23).

Doubt Principle: Clarifying Questions

  • Do I think this activity might be wrong?
  • Am I certain the activity is appropriate?

Any time there is not an absolutely clear teaching in the Bible on an issue and you are struggling with whether something might be wrong, then the teaching of this principle is to avoid the activity. The activity might be perfectly fine. But the admonition in the Bible is that when there is an atmosphere of doubt then to do the activity would be sinful.

Policeman putting a light on his car.Recently I was reading a blog post where the writer asked if it was wrong for a Christian to flash their lights at other drivers on the highway warning them that there was a speed trap up ahead. There was a good deal of friendly debate over the issue. In some states, according to some of the posters, it is actually illegal to warn other drivers in this way. Others argued that warning fellow drivers is a “Christian thing to do” because it could save the other person from endangering others and from having financial problems with the ticket.

There were people completely convinced on each side of the argument as to whether it was right or wrong. Obviously in the states where there is a law against it, then the decision is to obey the law. According to Romans 14:5 whatever your decision on such an activity, you should be absolutely convinced that your position is the right one. Later in the chapter (verses 21-23) the Bible clearly says that it is sin to engage in any activity that you are not convinced is right.

The principle then is that you only do that which you are convinced is biblically correct. This is a principle that requires spiritual maturity and knowledge of the Bible. A principle like this should drive you to the Bible to find out God’s opinion on various matters. There are obviously daily activities that we are engaged in in which the Bible does not even touch. You need to ask the Lord to guide you in those decisions using these principles.

Doubt Principle: Biblical Basis

Romans chapter 14 is the basis for this principle. The whole chapter talks about our relationship with others. It even concedes that there are times when people can disagree on matters that aren’t prohibited directly in the Bible. They can come to two different conclusions and both be right.

The key verses in Romans 14 are verses 5, 21 and 23 when looking at the Doubt Principle.

Doubt Principle: Application

  • Should a missionary drive a car or ride a bike?
  • Is it appropriate for men to wear shorts?
  • Should teenagers be allowed to hold hands?
  • Should a missionary work in a large cities or smaller villages?

You can see where some of these questions aren’t even biblical matters.

Now that we have discussed four of the six principles in this series, I hope you are starting to see that God has given us clear teaching on how to make decisions. God does not need to create a law that says “thou shalt not” for everything that man may encounter through history. Using principles that are taught in the Bible we can see that God has given direction for our lives.