Monday, 3 May 2010

Readings in theological ethics?

Next semester I'll be teaching an undergraduate class in theological ethics. So I'd welcome your thoughts about good texts in this area.

At the moment, I'm thinking of using Richard Hays's The Moral Vision of the New Testament (1996) as the tutorial text. (My preferred approach is to assign a single book for the tutorial discussions; then the students also have a range of additional short readings on each weekly topic.) One of the advantages of Hays's book is that it models the whole process whereby ethical thinking springs from an immersion in the moral world of the New Testament – otherwise, class discussions could easily degenerate into free-floating expressions of opinion and sentiment.

I'm also very impressed with the new Blackwell introduction by Samuel Wells and Ben Quash, Introducing Christian Ethics (2010). Their typology of ethics (universal, subversive, ecclesial) is a remarkably elegant heuristic device, and the book's structure is perfectly geared towards this kind of undergraduate class. But at the moment, I'm just thinking of introducing some of this material in the lectures, rather than assigning the book for tutorials – I'm always worried that these ready-made textbooks are too smooth and too "objective" for class discussions. I'd prefer to get students discussing a first-rate work of theology: something that's completely partisan, committed, theologically engaged. (For this reason, I also love the Hauerwas/Wells Blackwell Companion to Christian Ethics – an absurdly partisan introduction!)

So anyway, I've started developing a list of various books and essays to use for shorter readings – I'd love to hear your own suggestions. And if anyone out there has used Richard Hays in an ethics class, I'd love to know if it worked well, or if you have alternative suggestions for class discussions.


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