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Theological Ethics and the Personal Life*
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 (since ethical dilemmas are never solely “personal”). The course will address issues such as marriage and commitment, homosexuality, friendship, hospitality, work and money, end of life and beginning of life issues, and environmental ethics. Attention will be given to how one’s theological commitments inform one’s actions and moral decisions.
Introducing Christian Ethics. Samuel Wells and Ben Quash. Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.
Christian Ethics: An Introductory Reader. Samuel Wells and Ben Quash. Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.
Christian Ethics: A Case Study Approach. Christine E. Gudorf, James B. Martin-Schramm and Laura Stivers
Additional files and web based readings to be posted online.
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
One Book Review and one Film Review 15 points each
Each are 3-4 page papers. One is a book review of one of the following: Made for Goodness by Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tutu; Do Morals Matter? by Ian Markham; The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis. The book review should provide both summary and analysis, including what messages this book has to offer the average Christian on how to a live a moral life. It is due at week 6. The other is a review of the film we will watch in week 10. The paper should also provide summary and analysis, including what ethical issues and what perspectives are portrayed in the film. Does the film persuade you to a particular ethical point of view? Due at week 12.
One 10-15 page research paper 40 points
This is an opportunity to go in depth on any of the topics we have covered in class. You will be expected to engage with texts beyond those read in class. You may do an in depth analysis of one of the case studies we read or engage with a particular issue or news story that is of interest. Other topics may be worked out in advance with the professor. Papers are expected to lay out the various moral issues at stake and to examine the theological sources and implications of those issues. Your paper should advocate for a particular viewpoint (with theological justification), and should also reflect an awareness of other theological perspectives on the topic.
The final paper should conform to the Seminary’s “General Guidelines for a Research Paper.”
Participation 30 points
Each week students should do the assigned readings and make a minimum of two posts: one on the week’s reading and/or the lecture (word limit: 500 words) and another post of a news story that contains an ethical issue. In addition to the link to the news story, please post a paragraph indicating why you chose the story, what the ethical issue(s) is/are, and what you would do in the situation (word limit: 300 words). Both must posted by Wednesday midnight. In addition students must engage and comment on at least one post written by another student (word limit: 300 words) posted by Friday at 5 pm.
A Note About Plagiarism
In all assignments it is assumed that what is submitted is the student’s own original work. Plagiarism is strictly forbidden. As described in the Hartford Seminary General Guidelines for a Research Paper, plagiarism occurs when students “submit another person’s work, lift paragraphs, sentences, or even a choice phrase from another writer, or make use of another person’s ideas (even if the student puts these ideas in his/her own words) without acknowledging the source.” A related kind of dishonesty is to resubmit a paper which was done for a different course, even if it is the student’s own work. These practices are not permitted at Hartford Seminary. They will be reported to the Dean’s Office and may result in disciplinary action.” If a paper is found to contain plagiarism, the minimum penalty will be failing that assignment, with no opportunity to rewrite. If you are unsure of the line between plagiarism and legitimate uses of sources (e.g., quotation, paraphrase), see one of the Seminary’s Writing Consultants.
Grading Scale (within letter grades there will be +’s and –‘s)
90-100% A 60-74% C
75-89% B below 60% F
Weekly Schedule of Topics and Readings
Week 1: Introduction:What is Goodness? Are human beings fundamentally good?
Watch the following interviews with Desmond Tutu on YouTube:
Week 2: Introduction to the Christian Tradition
Read: Introducing Christian Ethics, Chapters 1 & 2 and Christian Ethics: An Introductory Reader, p. 20- 28 & 39-51.
Week 3: History & Background of Christian Ethics
Read: Introducing Christian Ethics, Chapter 3 and Christian Ethics: An Introductory Reader, p. 52- 68.
Week 4: Theories of Moral Deliberation
Read: Introducing Christian Ethics, Chapter 4 and Christian Ethics: An Introductory Reader, p. 84-95.
Week 5:Universal Ethics
Read: Introducing Christian Ethics, Chapter 5 and Christian Ethics: An Introductory Reader, Chapter 5.
Week 6: Subversive Ethics
Read: Introducing Christian Ethics, Chapter 5 6and Christian Ethics: An Introductory Reader, Chapter 6.
Week 7: Ecclesial Ethics
Read: Introducing Christian Ethics, Chapters 7 and Christian Ethics: An Introductory Reader, Chapters 7.
Week 8:Good Life: Work, Money and Media
Read: Introducing Christian Ethics, Chapter 9, and Christian Ethics: An Introductory Reader, Chapter 9, p. 35-37 and re-read p. 87-89.
“Homelessness: The How and Why of Caring,” “Who Cares about Haiti Anyway?,” “Sustaining Dover” and “Executive Pay: Reward or Excess?” in Stivers et. al
Week 9: Relationships: Marriage, Family & Friendship
Read: Introducing Christian Ethics, p. 275-295 and Christian Ethics: An Introductory Reader, p. 239-255.
“Rigor and Responsibility,” “What God has Joined” and “What Makes a Marriage?” in Stivers, et al.
Week 10: Film & Discussion:
Watch The Garden, write review and participate in online discussion.
Week 11: Homosexuality
Read: Introducing Christian Ethics. p. 296-310, and Christian Ethics: An Introductory Reader, p. 258-265.
“Mixed Blessing” in Stivers, et al.
Week 12:Ethical decisions at the beginning and end of life: Abortion and Euthanasia
Read: Introducing Christian Ethics. p. 321-335 and Christian Ethics: An Introductory Reader p. 277-293.
Read: “A Matter of Life or Death” and “Death, Duty and Dignity” in Stivers, et al.
Week 13: Making Babies: Infertility treatments, prenatal screening, surrogacy, adoption
Read: Introducing Christian Ethics. p. 311-321 and Christian Ethics: An Introductory Reader p. 268-275.
“How many children?” in Stivers, et al.
Week 14: Good Earth
Read: Introducing Christian Ethics , . Chapter 12, and Christian Ethics: An Introductory Reader, Chapter 12.
“Oil and the Caribou People” and “Whose Water?” in Stivers, et al.
Week 15: Applying Ethics in your Daily Lives.
In lieu of a news story this week, please post a brief reflection on how the material we have studied in class might impact your own daily life.
Introducing Christian Ethics. Samuel Wells and Ben Quash. Wiley-Blackwell, 2010. Buy now
Christian Ethics: An Introductory Reader. Samuel Wells and Ben Quash. Wiley-Blackwell, 2010. Buy now
Christian Ethics: A Case Study Approach. Christine E. Gudorf, James B. Martin-Schramm and Laura Stivers. Orbis Books, 2005. Buy now