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1. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 22
Howard J. Vogel African Americans and the Right to Self-Determination in a Christian Context
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The domestic legal obstacles to affirmative action to address the problem of the color line that have arisen in the United States in the past 30 years have become the occasion for discouragement and even despair in the face of the persistent racial disparities in American life. This is due, in part, to the limits of our domestic vocabulary for speaking about such initiatives. In this paper I argue that Christian ethics, with the help of the resources of the emergent minority rights dialogue in international human rights, can play an important role in securing the cultural transformation needed to broaden our vocabulary and reframe our thinking so that our efforts to secure racial justice are not bound by the limits of the conventional domestic vocabulary. Specifically, I argue that the new international discussion of "the right to self-determination" can be usefully employed within Christian ethics to secure the cultural, moral and legal changes needed to secure racial justice in the United States.
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
Charles Kimball The Just Peacemaking Paradigm and Middle East Conflicts
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Turmoil in many parts of the predominantly Muslim world is connected both to common themes and specific historical, political, social, and economic circumstances in various countries. While short-term threats may require forceful actions to neutralize violent extremists, the longer-term challenge requires painstaking work in the dense thicket of the particulars present in each situation. The just peacemaking paradigm provides an invaluable framework for addressing constructively the multiple root causes of conflict in the Middle East. This article identifies four specific practices from the just peacemaking theory, practices that provide meaningful ways to build trust, nurture hope, and move intentionally toward a more healthy future.
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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 23 > Issue: 1
Glen H. Stassen Resource Section on Just Peacemaking Theory
9. 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.
10. 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.
11. 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.
12. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 23 > Issue: 1
Martin L. Cook Just Peacemaking: Challenges of Humanitarian Intervention
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Just peacemaking proposes that it is a creative "third way" between just war and pacifism for Christian engagement with international affairs. It claims that its proposals result from the convergence of a number of important characteristics of the contemporary international scene that cumulatively make this a "kairos" for novel and creative modes of reflection and action. Further, it claims to offer workable and realistic counsel for action in the contemporary world of international relations. This paper critically assesses both claims. It reviews various interpretations of the direction of contemporary international affairs and raises some cautions about too enthusiastic an embrace of just peacemaking's vision of cooperative internationalism. It then focuses specifically on situations that invite intervention in the name of humanitarian concerns. There, the author finds some elements of just peacemaking to be an important supplement to the capabilities of military forces to intervene effectively and to transition successfully to nation-building activities that are necessary if intervention is to have a lasting positive effect.
13. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 23 > Issue: 1
Ronald H. Stone Realist Criticism of Just Peacemaking Theory
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Many of the ten practices to abolish war of just peacemaking theory can be appropriated by classical realist thinkers to illumine possibilities of more peace for the post-cold war situation. The optimism of just peacemaking theory about abolishing war, however, does not need to be appropriated. Realist participation in the just peacemaking project can proceed but only with reservations about what seems to be a mixture of optimism and Kantian idealism about the future peacefulness of a capitalist world, and the illusion that war will disappear from the world. Realism, grounded more in the prophets than the just peacemaking project and more in the prophets' moral critique than in Thucydides' cynicism, provides a stronger foundation for policy advice than the Sermon on the Mount which did not focus on international relations. The striking lack of attention by Jesus to questions of the management of the Roman Empire and the ethics of war and peace permits Christians to consult books of the Bible where international relations and foreign policy are prominent for moral wisdom on the subject.
14. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 23 > Issue: 1
Glen H. Stassen The Unity, Realism, and Obligatoriness of Just Peacemaking Theory
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Just peacemaking theory is a new paradigm for Christian ethics alongside just war theory and pacifism. It answers a different question than just war theory and pacifism seek to answer: not the question of justification, but prevention. The ethical norms of just peacemaking are not ideals or principles, but realistic, historically situated practices that are empirically demonstrating their effectiveness in preventing war. They are interactive, community practices that inherently engage in dialogue with diverse others, as befits a postmodern or pluralistic age. By no means does just peacemaking theory predict that there will be no more wars, or that the state is withering away, but it focuses on realistic, empirical evidence that ten historically effective practices are in fact preventing wars, and therefore, they have similar obligatoriness as do the principles of just war theory and pacifism.
15. 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.
16. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 23 > Issue: 1
Simeon O. Ilesanmi So that Peace May Reign: A Study of Just Peacemaking Experiments in Africa
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Post-colonial Africa's political stability, economic growth, and human development have been impeded by a vicious circle of ethnic rivalry and civil wars. This article examines the various attempts in Africa to move beyond the traditional lens of pacifism and just war theory in curtailing the deleterious effects of war. These attempts, which are also consistent with the theoretical proposal of just peacemaking, have had mixed results on the continent. The article focuses on Liberia and Rwanda to illustrate the strengths and weaknesses of just peacemaking theory, and concludes with a few suggestions on how its vision might be better pursued in Africa.
17. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 23 > Issue: 1
Lisa Sowle Cahill Just Peacemaking: Theory, Practice, and Prospects
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The just peacemaking project is a commendable effort to derive proactive initiatives from the teachings of Jesus and a strong sense of Christian discipleship, and to make these effective in volatile political situations. The project could be strengthened by a more explicit doctrine of sin, and an ethical justification of coercion. Recent debates among political scientists about effective social action in the era of globalization can also offer insights to enhance the political plausibility of the just peacemaking theory.
18. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 23 > Issue: 2
Cynthia S. W. Crysdale Playing God?: Moral Agency in an Emergent World
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Arguments against intervening in nature's ways have been used against many new technologies in the last century. Many of these arguments have employed the metaphor of "playing God." In this essay I briefly review the use of the term "playing God" in recent decades. I then examine the cosmology that lies implicit in this language. My thesis is that the language of "playing God" (or not) overlooks the dynamic, evolutionary nature of world process—the role played by the indeterminacy of statistical probabilities. I review the notion of "emergent probability" (Lonergan) in order, in the end, to advocate an ethic of risk that both recognizes the dangers of hubris and includes an open and emergent view of creation.
19. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 23 > Issue: 2
E. Harold Breitenberg, Jr. To Tell the Truth: Will the Real Public Theology Please Stand Up?
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Public theology has been praised for being in keeping with the best of the Christian theological tradition and denounced as a distortion of the church's true calling. However, it is not clear that public theology's advocates and critics always refer to the same thing. In this paper I seek to clarify and refine the conversation by comparing and contrasting descriptions of public theology with other related terms, describing three main types of public theology literature and two main areas of concern they address, proposing a definition of public theology based on a consensus within the field, outlining four basic critiques, and suggesting some implications for the continuing discussion of public theology.
20. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics: Volume > 23 > Issue: 2
Joel James Shuman Ethics, Liberalism, and the Law: Toward a Christian Consideration of the Morality of Civil Law in Liberal Policies
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This paper compares the accounts of agency, morality, and law presumed by liberal political theory to the account offered by Thomas Aquinas. In Aquinas, law is among the several "principles of human acts" and is presumed always to have a constructive effect on the moral formation of those living under its aegis. One of its purposes, in other words, is to make women and men good. The liberal account, on the other hand, is relatively less attentive to the constructive effects of law. This difference raises a question concerning the viability of the liberal assumption of a distinction between a morally neutral public law (based in reason) and a private morality (based in personal belief).