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1. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 23 > Issue: 1
Preface
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selected essays
2. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 23 > Issue: 1
Jennifer Beste Receiving and Responding to God's Grace: A Re-examination in Light of Trauma Theory
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Christians have traditionally claimed a kind of invulnerability to harm that would render them incapable of responding to God's grace. This claim to invulnerability will be examined in light of trauma theory's insistence that, in situations of overwhelming violence, a person's capacity for responsive agency can be severely disabled. Drawing from incest survivors' experiences of recovery, I argue that a critical re-examination of the human capacity to receive God's grace must include greater appreciation for how God's love is mediated, at least in part, through loving interpersonal relations. Ethical implications resulting from this insight should challenge our communities in profound ways.
3. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 23 > Issue: 1
Raymond Kemp Anderson Corporate Selfhood and "Meditatio Vitae Futurae": How Necessary Is Eschatology for Christian Ethics?
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With John Calvin, the Reformed tradition found inseparable linkage between eschatology and ethics. Christians' decision making must include reflection about God's future re-creation of our corporate, corporeal selves, or else individualism or dualism will set in. Meditatio vitae futurae is to figure right alongside of the Creator's past word for us and His present intercourse as Spirit among us. Calvin's three foci here, trinitarian in intent, are Christologically informed. Comprising teleological, deontological, and contextual vectors for ethical consideration, they are to work together as orientational constants—a kind of global positioning system—functioning as faith's response to the triune God. This eschatology becomes a key to puzzles in Calvin's ethics: such as why he is reluctant to prescribe patterns of conduct; why he gives such prominence to Christians' freedom; or again, how his world-weary expressions cohere with his astounding activism. Calvin's letters show how anticipation of our future generates normative challenge, proleptic promise, and much more.
4. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 23 > Issue: 1
Julie Hanlon Rubio Three-in-One Flesh: A Christian Reappraisal of Divorce in Light of Recent Studies
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The author argues that Christian theologians must consider the suffering of children in their moral evaluation of divorce. A review of recent social science literature shows the negative consequences of divorce, especially in low-conflict cases, and suggests the need to return to the tradition for retrieval of theologies of marriage that include children. In St. John Chrysostom, the author finds a three-in-one flesh metaphor that she claims is a more adequate description of marriage with children as lived reality. With the addition of parallel material from Vatican II and John Paul II, the author argues, it is possible to construct a new theology of marriage that moves beyond relationship to include commitments to spouses, children, and society.
5. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 23 > Issue: 1
Andrea Vicini Ethical Issues and Approaches in Stem Cell Research: From International Insights to a Proposal
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In recent years and months, human stem cell research has dominated many scientists' interests, the media, public debate, and social policy. This paper aims to consider, first, the major scientific data on stem cell research that are available. Second, I reflect on them by examining how they shaped policies in Europe and the United States. I also point to current changes in policy-making concerning the creation of ad hoc committees to address this novel issue and how, in a few instances, different ethical positions are part of the documents produced. In other words, diverse approaches are not solved but kept in tension. Finally, I suggest that the current state of research on human stem cell will benefit from an ethics of risk.
reassessing "christ and culture"
6. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 23 > Issue: 1
D. M. Yeager The View from Somewhere: The Meaning of Method in "Christ and Culture"
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Accepting James Gustafson's recent argument that right reading and valid criticism of H. R. Niebuhr's Christ and Culture must begin with an informed understanding of Niebuhr's utilization of the ideal-typical method, the author reviews characteristics of Weberian typologies and discusses the levels of criticism to which typologies are legitimately subject. Right appreciation of the text's genre exposes many criticisms of Christ and Culture to be misguided, but it also throws into relief those features of the text that cannot be accounted for by that method, revealing the complexity of a text that advances both a comparative descriptive analysis and a bold theological argument. Recognition of this tension prompts the question whether the one so compromises or constrains the other that the enterprise does, indeed, fail as a whole, even though it remains intensely interesting in all its parts.
7. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 23 > Issue: 1
Douglas F. Ottati "Christ and Culture": Still Worth Reading after All These Years
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This essay argues that H. Richard Niebuhr's classic book, Christ and Culture, is best understood as a typology of moral theologies. Each of Niebuhr's five types may be regarded as a patterned resolution of four theological relations: reason and revelation, God and world, sin and goodness, and law and gospel. Many of his evaluative comments reflect his preference for what he calls a transformationist or conversionist pattern. However, it is not difficult to imagine evaluative comments on the several types, including the transformationist one, made from the perspective of a different preferred resolution of the four theological relations. Moreover, Niebuhr's scheme remains useful for analyzing more recent texts in theological ethics, such as Gustavo Gutierrez's A Theology of Liberation. Thus, while the book is not without its flaws and while readers may wish to enter some emendations and revisions, Christ and Culture is still worth reading because the categories it presents for analyzing moral theologies remain unsurpassed in their richness, usefulness, and suggestiveness.
8. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 23 > Issue: 1
Glen H. Stassen It Is Time to Take Jesus Back: In Celebration of the Fiftieth Anniversary of H. Richard Niebuhr's "Christ and Culture"
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In The Kingdom of God in America, H. Richard Niebuhr argued that three dimensions are crucial for transformative faith: the sovereignty of God over all; the independence of the living God from captivity to human ideologies or institutions; and a revolutionary strategy with particular normative content from God's self-revelation in Jesus Christ. Without the historically particular content of the way of Jesus, Christian faith has a vacuum only too eagerly filled by alien ideologies. Hence Niebuhr begins Christ and Culture with a historically particular and concrete understanding of the way of Jesus Christ, and evaluates the five types with this three-dimensional standard. The puzzle is that the farther the book goes, the thinner Jesus becomes, until the concluding chapter backs off from evaluation. Niebuhr moved back to his more Christocentric ethics before he died, and thus recovered his prophetic edge. To learn from Niebuhr's history and teach a transformative faith not accommodated to ideologies of injustice, ethics needs to recover a thicker Jesus. Helpful resources are emerging from which Christian ethicists can draw rich help: the third quest of the historical Jesus, new exegetical and canonical approaches, the new emphasis on normative practices, historically situated narrative ethics, and some models by Christian ethicists, all of which point to a thicker, richer, historically particular way of Jesus in the prophetic tradition of Israel.
9. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 23 > Issue: 1
Duane K. Friesen A Discriminating Engagement of Culture: "An Anabaptist Perspective"
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Niebuhr's definitions of "Christ" and "culture" set up a problematic dualism that leads to a misrepresentation of the Christ-against-culture type. The paper proposes that instead of Niebuhr's "idealized" Christ (defined by a set of virtues), an embodied Christology locates Christ within culture. The tension, then, is not between Christ and culture, but between different cultural visions. A cultural vision with Christ as norm provides a discriminating ethic of normative practices to engage culture. Many scholars have recognized that Niebuhr not only develops a descriptive typology in Christ and Culture, he also argues that the fifth type, Christ-the-transformer-of-culture, is the most adequate position. Almost everyone identifies with this type. Why is that? The problem is that the variety of meanings of "transformation" is not illuminated by Niebuhr's typology. An alternative typology is proposed which addresses these two problems: a richer development of three types that Niebuhr lumps together in his Christ-against-culture type; and the development of a typology to show that there are four different ways to understand what the church has meant by Christ-the-transformer-of-culture.
10. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 23 > Issue: 1
Darryl M. Trimiew Jesus Changes Things: A Critical Evaluation of "Christ and Culture" from an African American Perspective
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Christ and Culture remains a useful heuristic device for discerning and interpreting the process of struggle and change produced by the attempts of the church to minister to the world. It is also helpful for ecclesial self-evaluations. While its typologies are conceptually imperfect, they can be used, nevertheless, to disclose important changes in society and within denominations. These attributes can and do help to facilitate the African American church's ongoing liberation efforts and therefore, hopefully, the flourishing of African American communities.