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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Divinity : Divinity

Undergraduate Course: Christian Ethics (DIVI10027)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Divinity CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe course is designed to enable students to acquire skills in Christian moral reasoning, and successfully to mobilise such skills in relation to contemporary moral controversies such as the patenting of life or the moral status of animals.
Course description Academic Description:
This course explores key thinkers in, approaches to, and controversies within Christian theological ethics. The focus is on understanding and evaluating how recent and current contributions to Christian ethics draw on Christian scripture and tradition, on the experience of Christian communities, and on different academic disciplines and approaches, to address specific contemporary ethical challenges. Topics to be covered may include the climate crisis; poverty and economic inequality; truth and lies in an age of fake news; misogyny and gender-based violence; and the treatment of non-human animals. Alongside these topics, we will explore fundamental questions about the project of Christian ethics. Why and on what basis can we talk about a distinctive 'Christian ethics'? What methods and sources are appropriate for Christian ethics? And what should be the response when Christian theology itself stands accused of being 'unethical'?

Syllabus/Outline Content:
The first, shorter, part of the course will focus on approaches to Christian ethics - what ethics is, how it relates to Christian theology, whether and why it makes sense to talk about a distinctively Christian ethics, and how Christian communities arrive at ethical positions. The second part will apply and develop these ideas through in-depth consideration of Christian approaches to contemporary ethical challenges. Topics to be considered may include, but are not limited to: the climate crisis; poverty and economic inequality; truth, lies and 'fake news'; treatment of non-human animals; misogyny and gender-based violence; ethics in finance.

Student Learning Experience Information:
The course is taught through the following: private study of set texts and secondary reading; lectures introducing texts and topics; interactive seminars for discussion of texts and topics, requiring specified advance preparation; use of online discussion boards; essay writing on set texts and themes arising from them.

Online discussion boards will serve as a starting point for discussion in the seminars. There is no formal assessment of presentation or oral skills but nonetheless these skills are developed through facilitating and engagement in debate in the seminars.

The mid-semester assessment (2000 words, 40%) will take the form of a critical review of two or more treatments of a contemporary issue in Christian theological ethics; suggested topics and readings will be provided, although alternatives may be chosen with the agreement of the course organiser. For the final essay (3000 words, 60%) students will have a choice of broad essay questions within which they will develop their own focused investigation in consultation with the course organiser. There is no exam for this module.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Students MUST NOT also be taking Christian Ethics 3/4 (THET10007)
Other requirements Students who have previously taken the following course MUST NOT enroll: Christian Ethics 3/4 (THET10007)
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students should have at least 3 Divinity/Religious Studies courses at grade B or above (or be predicted to obtain this). We will only consider University/College level courses.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate a critical conceptual understanding of the sources of theological ethics.
  2. Articulate and critically compare key alternative approaches to Christian ethics among contemporary theologians.
  3. Apply Christian ethical approaches to contemporary moral dilemmas.
Reading List
Adams, Carol J., and Marie Fortune, eds. Violence against women and children: A Christian theological sourcebook (New York: Continuum, 1995).

Cannon, Katie. Black Womanist Ethics. (Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1988).

Chryssavagis, John, et al (Commission of the Ecumenical Patriarchate). 'For The Life Of The World: Towards a Social Ethos of the Orthodox Church' (2020 - available )

Clough, David. On Animals, vol. 2, Ethics (Edinburgh: Bloomsbury/T&T Clark, 2018).

Cunningham, David. Christian Ethics: The End Of The Law (London: Routledge, 2008).

Hauerwas, Stanley, and Sam Wells. Blackwell Companion to Christian Ethics (Oxford: Blackwell, 2011).

Herdt, Jennifer. Putting On Virtue: The Legacy of the Splendid Vices (University of Chicago Press, 2010)

Kao, Grace, and Ihlsup Ahn. Asian American Christian Ethics (Waco, TX: Baylor, 2015).

Mathewes, Charles. Understanding Religious Ethics (Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010).

Reed, Esther D. The Ethics of Human Rights. (Waco, TX: Baylor, 2007).

Weaver, Darlene Fozard. The Acting Person and Christian Moral Life. (Georgetown University Press, 2011).

World Council of Churches Faith and Order Commission. Churches and Moral Discernment, 3 volumes (2021 - available from )
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills - Empathy and imaginative insight, with a tolerance of diverse positions
- Capacity for reflexive learning
- Commitment to lifelong learning
- Ability to attend to others and respect others' views
Course organiserProf Rachel Muers
Course secretaryMs Amy MacKinnon
Tel: (0131 6)50 7227
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