Ethical Decision Making

Douglas McArthur is quoted saying, “A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent.” The quality of a leader’s actions and the integrity of a leader’s intent are central to the ethical manner in which a leader handles responsibility.

Every leader is faced with three viewpoints from which to make ‘good’, ‘right’, or ‘righteous’ decisions. (Fedler, 2006) The first viewpoint is ethical egoism, where decisions are based on the principle that everyone should act in a manner that maximizes their personal benefits in a given situation. (Fedler, 2006) The second viewpoint is psychological egoism, which acts as a descriptive way of decision-making rather than a normative view that suggests people should act solely out of a degree self-interest.

The final viewpoint of on ethical decision-making is the deontological egoism, which stresses the innate nature of certain actions being inherently right or wrong; this is the view predominantly held, in varying degrees, by Christians. (Fedler, 2006) One aim of a deontologist is to focus on making decisions which are inherently good and avoid decisions that are inherently bad through habitual behavior grounded in the exercise of virtues. (Fedler, 2006) A virtue is an inclination to act, think, or feel in a particular way and serves as the foundation from which an individual’s character is built; an individual’s character is where actions are birthed, which in turn further develops an individual’s character. (Fedler, 2006)

Does scripture focus primarily on the development of character or the acting out of virtuous actions?


Fedler, K. D. (2006). Exploring Christian Ethics: Biblical Foundations for Morality. Louisville, Ky: Westminster John Knox Press.

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