Christian perspective on accounting ethics
Comparing the code of conduct attributes (i.e., professional competence, professional character, and professional public service) with the traditional ethics perspectives (i.e., the moral reasoning perspective and the virtue ethics perspective) and Rest’s (1983, 1994) moral action elements (i.e., moral awareness, moral judgment, moral character, and moral motivation) reveals opportunities for a Christian perspective's unique contribution to accounting ethics. While the moral reasoning perspective draws attention to a code of conduct's professional competence attribute and the virtue ethics perspective focuses on a code of conduct’s professional character attribute, neither brings central attention to the moral motivation of the professional public service attribute. While Kohlberg's (1969) moral reasoning competence approach focuses attention on Rest’s (1983, 1994) moral awareness and moral judgment factors and a virtue ethics approach centers attention on Rest’s (1983, 1994) moral character factor, neither approach gives central attention to moral motivation.
A Christian perspective can contribute to these accounting ethics perspectives, then, by drawing attention to the foundational importance of Rest’s (1983, 1994) moral motivation factor. Haidt (2001, 2013) finds that emotions, intuitions, desires, and motives shape morality more than reason, drawing attention to the significance of desires and motives, and a Christian approach can serve as a bridge to bring attention to these ideas in accounting ethics. Beneath the needs for moral virtue to change behavioral action and moral reasoning to improve judgment and decision making, a Christian perspective first recognizes the foundational need for Jesus and His love to transform the motives and desires of the human heart. The Bible recognizes the spiritual importance of the heart. When the Bible uses the term “heart,” it refers to a person’s causal core. The heart is the center of our loves and what we serve, commit to, worship, hope in, and trust. A Christian approach identifies first and foremost the importance of a love-based spiritual solution to transform the underlying spiritual condition, desires, and moral motives of the heart.
Presenting and articulating this Christian perspective begins by identifying what it means to be Christian. In the simplest sense, Christianity is “the religion based on the person and teaching of Jesus” (emphasis added).11 Answers to two foundational questions about Jesus, also called the Christ (or Messiah), identify Christianity: (1) Christ’s person or image: Who is Jesus? and (2) Christ's work and teaching: What did Jesus do and teach? Christians recognize that the person of Jesus is the Son of God and is fully God, Creator of all things.12 They believe that God’s Word in the Bible13 shares what God has performed for us by His love, in that God's Word became human14 in the person ofjesus to fulfill His work as our Savior and Redeemer through His perfect life, innocent death, and resurrection, to reconcile us to God and restore humans' relationship with God.
Jesus taught that through faith in Him and His redemptive work, Christians have the forgiveness of sins and eternal life in heaven.1’Jesus’ performance restored and secured God’s acceptance, making believers members in God's family. But Christ’s image and work does more than transform our future, eternal identity and existence. This section explores how Christ’s image and work transform the ethics of our present image and work, redeeming the present moments of our daily living here and now. We begin by identifying God’s intended plan and diagnosing the problem. We then consider God's provided prescription and the process through which God's image and work transform the ethics of our present image and work.