Course Description: This course will examine issues of personal morality and faith from a Christian perspective. We begin with a brief introduction to theological ethics, and then move to practical issues in personal morality, which will be discussed in relation to family and society. The course will address issues such as marriage and commitment, homosexuality, friendship, work and money, end of life issues, abortion, and the expanding field of genetics as it relates to conceiving and having children. Attention will be given to how one’s theological commitments transform secular moral problems and their solutions.
Course Texts and Required Reading:
Sisela Bok. Lying: Moral Choice in Public and Private Life. New York: Vintage Books/Random House, 1999.
L. R. Holben. What Christians Think About Homosexuality. North Richland Hills, TX: Bibal Press, 1999.
Robin Lovin. Christian Ethics: An Essential Guide. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2000.
Gilbert Meilaender. Bioethics: A Primer for Christians. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1996.
Gilbert Meileander. Friendship: A Study in Theological Ethics. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1981.
Tim Parks. Goodness. New York: Grove Press, 1991.
Stephen G. Post. More Lasting Unions: Christianity, the Family, and Society. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2000.
Articles on Reserve in Library:
Lisa Sowle Cahill, “The Bible and Christian Ethics;” Robert Bellah, et. al., “Work;” Peter Singer, “The Singer Solution to World Poverty;” Pope John Paul II, Laborem Exercens (selections) and Veritatis Splendor (middle section); Martin Luther, “The Estate of Marriage;” Mark Oppenheimer ,“Who Lives? Who dies? The Utility of Peter Singer;” H. Richard Niebuhr, “The Meaning of Responsibility” and “Toward the Recovery of Feeling;” Margaret Farley, “Feminist Theology and Bioethics;” Janice Raymond, “Reproductive Gifts and Gift Giving: The Altruistic Woman;” Beverly Wildung Harrison, “Theology and Morality of Procreative Choice”
Note: Please look ahead and be sure to copy articles for the coming weeks’ readings!!!
Aims of the Course:
- To understand how the discourse of faith can apply to issues of personal morality
- To learn the key approaches to Christian ethics
- To apply those approaches to specific moral dilemmas
- To learn how to dissect the central ethical issues of a given situation
- To examine at length one central current moral issue in light of the themes of the course
1. 3-page review of Tim Parks’ novel, Goodness - 10 points
2. 3-page reflection paper on homosexuality - 10 points
3. 15-page paper exploring one moral issue - 50 points
4. Weekly reading sheets - 20 points
5. Attendance and Class participation - 10 points
Further instruction on requirements will be given in class as the due dates approach. The final paper should conform to the Seminary’s “General Guidelines for a Research Paper.”
Grading Scale (within letter grades there will be +’s and –‘s)
below 60% F
Weekly Schedule of Topics and Readings
Note: All readings should be complete, and weekly reading sheets filled out, for date listed.
Jan. 30: Introduction to course: Why be Good? Definitions. The Difference Faith Makes
Feb. 6: Theories of Moral Deliberation: Teleology, Deontology, Virtue, Utility
Read: Robin Lovin, Christian Ethics: An Essential Guide, Chapters 1-4
Feb. 13: Sources for Moral Deliberation: Methodist Quadrilateral (Reason, Tradition, Scripture, Experience), Natural Law, Moral Feeling and Intuition
Read: Lisa Sowle Cahill, Between the Sexes, Chapter 2: The Bible and Ethics; H. Richard Niebuhr, “Toward the Recovery of Feeling;” Pope John Paul II: Veritatis Splendor (middle section)
Feb. 20: No Class, Presidents’ Day
Feb. 27: Who is good?
Read: Tim Parks, Goodness (novel)
Assignment Due: 3-page paper on Tim Parks’ novel, Goodness: Who, in this book, is good, and by what standard? Describe a character, a dilemma that he or she faces, and the moral reasoning that leads to his or her decision and action.
March 6: Friendship
Read: Gilbert Meilander, Friendship: A Study in Theological Ethics
March 13: Money and Work
Read: Robert Bellah, et. al., “Work;” Peter Singer, “The Singer Solution to World Poverty;” Pope John Paul II, Laborem Exercens (selections)
March 20: Marriage and Family; Visiting Professional to discuss divorce and “mediation.”
Read: Martin Luther, “The Estate of Marriage;” Stephen Post, More Lasting Unions, Chapters 1, 2, and 4
March 27: Homosexuality I
Read: L. R. Holben, What Christians Think about Homosexuality, Intro and Chapters 1-3
April 3: Homosexuality II
Read: L. R. Holben, What Christians Think about Homosexuality, Chapters 4-6; Latest RC stance on homosexuality and the priesthood
Assignment due: 3-page paper on the position you hold on homosexuality, and why
April 10: No Class, Easter Break
April 17: Ethical decisions at the beginning and end of life: Abortion and Euthanasia
Read: Gil Meilaender, Bioethics, Chapters 3 and 6-8; Beverly Wildung Harrison, “Theology and Morality of Procreative Choice,” in Lois K. Daly, ed. Feminist Theological Ethics; Mark Oppenheimer, “Who Lives? Who dies? The Utility of Peter Singer;” Stephen Post, More Lasting Unions, Chapter 6
April 24: Making Babies: Infertility treatments, prenatal screening, surrogacy, adoption
Read: Gil Meilaender, Bioethics, Chapters 2, 4, and 5; Margaret A. Farley, “Feminist Theology and Bioethics,” and Janice Raymond, “Reproductive Gifts and Gift Giving: The Altruistic Woman,” both from Lois K. Daly, ed. Feminist Theological Ethics; Stephen Post, More Lasting Unions, Chapter 5
May 1: Lying
Read: Sisela Bok, Intro.-Chapter 6, Chapter 15, Conclusion, and works by Augustine, Aquinas, Grotius, Kant, and Bonhoeffer in the Appendix.
May 8: Concluding reflections
Read: H. Richard Niebuhr, “The Meaning of Responsibility”