Hauerwas on ethics

“How ‘Christian Ethics’ Came to Be” (1997) in The Hauerwas Reader

  1. The notion of Christian ethics is a modern invention. At one time Christian ethics did not exist…For the ancients, pagan and Christian, to be schooled in philosophy or theology meant to submit one’s life to a master in order to gain the virtues necessary to be a philosopher or a Christian. (p.37)
  2. Ethics was not something done in distinction from theology, since both theology and moral theology presumed baptism, penance, preaching, and Eucharist as essential for the corporate life of the church…(e.g.) Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas…Aquinas’s great works evince  a three-part structure. The story of creation begins in divine freedom; then Aquinas treats how all creation, and in particular that part of creation called human, return to God; finally, in the third part he provides an account of the means of creation’s return to God through Christ and the sacraments…The Summa…is concerned to place the Christian’s journey to God squarely within the doctrine of God. (p.40-41)
  3. Neither Luther and Calvin distinguished between theology and ethics…(however) the Reformation could not help but reshape how ethics was conceived in relation to theology. Faith, not woks, determines the Christian’s relationship to God…Certainly the Protestant Reformation changed the language for how Christians understood “ethics,” but far more  important were changes in the ways Christian related to their world…as it became less and less clear among Protestants what it “means” to be Christian there have increasingly been attempts to “do” ethics…no consensus…theologians often turned to philosophy…now it was assumed that “ethics” is an autonomous discipline that is no longer dependent on religious conviction. (p.42-43)
  4. “Ethics” becomes that quest to secure a rational basis for morality so we can be confident that our moral convictions are not arbitrary. (p.44)
  5. (Immanuel Kant propose “Categorical Imperative”)…that is, free of all religious and anthropological presuppositions…Such an ethic is based on reason alone and can therefore be distinguished from religion, politics, and etiquette. (p.45)
  6. Since the state needs religion, theology is justified for the training of clergy who are thus seen as servants of the state. The theology that is so justified is now the name of a cluster of disciplines (scripture, church history, dogmatics, and practical theology) that are understood to be descriptive in character…theology is no longer understood to be practical knowledge necessary for the acquisition of wisdom, but a “science” for the training of semipublic officials. (p.47)

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