Aim & Learning Outcomes

Aim: To help you to reflect more deeply on ethical issues in the light of the Christian tradition.

At the end of the sessions, you should all be able to:

  • Identify and analyse different types of ethical arguments.
  • Begin to analyse and critically explore ethical issues in light of faith.
  • Undertake further informed reading in the area of Christian ethics.

Outline of Course

In each session we will discuss various topical issues such as euthanasia, homosexuality and genetic engineering in the light of ethical theories.

  • Session 1: What is Ethics?
  • Session 2: Ethics and the Bible
  • Review of Sessions 1 and 2
  • Session 3: Making ethical decisions
  • Session 4: Back to basics
  • Session 5: Making connections
  • A Useful Checklist
  • Some Key Books

Session 1

Introduction: What is Ethics? What is Christian Ethics? How do we make ethical decisions?

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Session 2

Ethic and the Bible: How can we use the Bible in ethics? Is the Bible the only authority for Christians?

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Read extracts from two philosophers: Nigel Warburton "Philosophy: The Basics" Chapter 2 and Keith Ward "The Divine Image" Chapters 1 and 15. Warburton is a summary of the ethics systems we will be covering in this course, so don't be too concerned if you don't understand it all at the moment. Ward is a good response to Warburton's criticism of Christian ethics being about doing God's Will.

Further Reading

In 2008 the Bishop's Education and Resource Group (BERG) of the Diocese of Manchester produced a report entitled Scripture, Tradition and Interpretation: The Quest for Authority as an initial response to the House of Bishops' report Some Issues in Human Sexuality. The report is a good summary of different Anglican positions concerning the authority of the Bible and tradition.

Review of Sessions 1 and 2

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Session 3

Making ethical decisions: Do we base our decisions on principles or practical outcomes?

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Read Chapter 8 of John V Taylor's book The Go-Between God. The chapter is entitled 'Exploring: The Freedom of the Spirit and the Search for a New Ethic' and is about the problems of legalism within the church and ethics - the "New Ethic" is about a style of life rather attempting to follow rules. Note that this is a very large download.

Session 4

Back to basics: Are we naturally good? How do we form a good moral character?

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Session 5

Making connections: How does our idea of God affect our ethical decisions? How does our ethics affect our pastoral care?

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Making Ethical Decisions: A Checklist

Doing Christian ethics does not result in an automatic answer but there is a clear process to be followed. Here is a simple checklist which you may find useful:

Download Check list in Making Ethical Decisions (PDF)

Some Books

An annotated list of books, articles and web links:

The Revd Phil Edwards © 2008