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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Divinity : Theology and Ethics

Postgraduate Course: Christian Ethics (THET11008)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Divinity CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe course is designed to enable postgraduate students to understand and critique key figures and approaches in twentieth century and contemporary Christian ethics, to deepen skills in Christian moral reasoning, and to mobilise such skills in relation to contemporary moral issues such as international conflict and its representation in the mass media.
Course description Academic Description:
Students will study key texts and themes in Christian theological ethics. The course is based on reading classic and contemporary texts in theological ethics from primarily Protestant sources in North America and the UK, with a smaller number of Catholic and Continental European readings. The context for the course is the two thousand years of Christian moral teaching whose sources include the Old Testament, the life and teachings of Christ, the writings of St Paul, the fathers of the church, Thomas Aquinas, and the Reformers. Moses, the Hebrew Prophets, Aristotle and Plato were also major influences on the tradition of Christian ethics as were Enlightenment philosophers such as Mill and Kant. The influence of these sources on contemporary thinkers is a major orienting frame for the course. So too is the context of modernity which has seen the gradual secularisation of ethics in European societies and the rise of a range of new ethical dilemmas, such as those posed by modern technologies and the ecological crisis.

Syllabus/Outline Content:
The course is organised around key thinkers in and approaches in theological ethics. Key approaches in Christian Ethics include personalism (deontology), command ethics, virtue ethics, communitarianism, emotivism, and consequentialism. Set texts and additional reading to be studied in the course will be selected from key shapers of the tradition of theological ethics including: Thomas Aquinas, Augustine of Hippo, Karl Barth, Hans urs Von Balthasar, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Stanley Hauerwas, Martin Luther, Alasdair MacIntyre, John Milbank, Reinhold Niebuhr, Oliver O'Donovan and John Howard Yoder. 

Student Learning Experience Information:
The course is taught through the following: private study of set texts and secondary reading; writing about and discussion of set texts online at the course web site on Learn accessible via MyEd; lectures introducing set texts and interactive seminars studying set texts in detail and offering a forum for ethical debate; essay writing on set texts and themes arising from them. Essay topics for each week are given below. For the mid-semester essay all students are advised to write to one of the set topics. For the final paper students may write on another topic below. Or they may compose their own title to a topic or angle they particularly wish to pursue but they must clear the topic and title with the course lecturer via email. All forms of written assessed work should be submitted to Learn rather than in hard copy. Blog posts will serve as a starting point for discussion in the interactive seminar. For each week (except week 1), a small group will volunteer to start off discussion of set texts in the second half of the seminar by providing some opening comments and a suitable question or discussion starter. There is no formal assessment of presentation or oral skills but nonetheless these skills are developed through facilitating and engagement in debate in the seminar.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesThis is a graduate-level course. Please confirm subject prerequisites with the Course Manager.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Identify and explain key terms and their meanings in Christian Ethics.
  2. Articulate and critically compare key alternative approaches to Christian ethics among contemporary theologians.
  3. Apply Christian ethical approaches to contemporary moral dilemmas.
  4. Demonstrate a critical conceptual understanding of the sources of theological ethics.
  5. Select appropriate readings in Christian ethics as supplied in the course bibliography and as available online and in the university library in preparing and presenting course essays.
Reading List
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Course organiserMs Emma Dewhurst
Course secretaryMs Roisin O'Fee
Tel: (0131 6)50 8921
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