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Posts tagged "Ethics"

Is There Life After Law? A Few Reflections on Pauline Ethics

Is There Life After Law? A Few Reflections on Pauline Ethics

Another wonderful piece by Charis Hamiltonius, continuing from last week’s entry on Luther and Paul.

“Shall we continue in sin in order that grace may abound?” This rhetorical question, dropped in the middle of Paul’s lengthy argument in Romans against a Law-oriented life, is not without merit. If grace is freely given to the ungodly, if the moral ordering of the universe is upside-down, and if our works have no bearing on our righteousness before God, then a reader of Paul’s letter would understandably wonder whether Paul cares about morality at all. To this question, Paul emphatically says, “HELL…

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Sinners and Saints in a Pandemic

Sinners and Saints in a Pandemic

One of the oldest words in the history of hospital care is the French term “triage”—meaning, the sorting of patients. The practice of triage keeps a hospital organized (Intensive Care Unit here, Emergency Room there), but it also provides a way of prioritizing the care of patients. This is especially important on battlefields and in disaster zones, where the need for treatment can heavily outweigh the resources available. When the number of sick people is far greater than the number of doctors, triage provides a sieve for who sees the doctors first.

As you might guess, then, triage naturally moves medicine…

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Personalizing Law and the Awkwardness of Kissing Albertine

Personalizing Law and the Awkwardness of Kissing Albertine

Many pastors feel they’re losing credibility. A greater attention to the Law in human experience could help regain it.

Along with preaching the Gospel, which overwhelms and effaces our faults, there is still, in Luther’s thought at least, the need to preach God’s Law, which – in addition to making sense of the world around us – lets us know how we stand before God, which is always as those who are spiritually impoverished in themselves and in need of continual mercy. As grace comes into focus only when we know we have done wrong, so the Gospel comes into focus only when…

Addiction, Psychotherapy, and Paul Tillich

Addiction, Psychotherapy, and Paul Tillich

We all have our doubts about Paul Tillich (heresy, philandering, or the embarrassingly earnest Christian existentialist phase you had in college), but he crafted some seriously good Protestant ethics in a small tract called Morality and Beyond. With his trademark psychological acumen, he’s one of the few ethicists who casts the question in Law/Grace terminology. I have my doubts, too, but the narrative he traces is a compelling one, and it produces passages of startling insight.

First, humans, unlike God, are different in our existence from the way we are in our essence. This idea has been central for centuries in…

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A Quick Calvin and Hobbes

The Immoral Ethics of Desire (on the Other Side of Should)

The Immoral Ethics of Desire (on the Other Side of Should)

A very thought-provoking recent entry in the NY Times column, The Stone, entitled, “Confessions of an Ex-Moralist” in which Yale philosopher/ethicist Joel Marks comes clean about the precarious relationship between moral relativism and moral nihilism, among other things. Not unlike the book of secularist essays we covered last week, Marks had devoted his professional life to the task of establishing morality apart from divine sanction. He found it to be an impossible project, even a deluded one. In fact, he goes so far as to say that in his former scheme, morality itself became a kind of unassailable God.

What’s particularly…

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Ethical Fading, Vested Interests, and (Un-)Willful Misconduct

Ethical Fading, Vested Interests, and (Un-)Willful Misconduct

An illuminating op-ed by professors Mark Bazerman and Ann Tenbrunsel in the Times, “Stumbling Into Bad Behavior,” explaining the phenomenon known as “ethical fading,” in other words, unethical conduct which is unconscious in nature (as much apparently is) – mainly in relation to business practices, but the lessons translate. Once again we’re confronted with evidence of the unpopular truth that conscious transgression is really only the tip of the ethical iceberg, and that to limit the sphere of justice, either “worldly” or divine, to actions that are premeditated/intentional is woefully unwise, or dare I say, irresponsible. In other words, what…

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Karl Holl on Creativity, Heart, and 'Situation-Ethics'

Karl Holl on Creativity, Heart, and ‘Situation-Ethics’

In The Reconstruction of Morality (1979 Augsburg edition, as cited last week), Holl brushes up fairly close to what later American theologians would call ‘situation-ethics’. What we came to know in the 1960s as ‘situation-ethics’, the effects of which are still with us, sounds a little like what Karl Holl is saying when he talks about the ‘creative’, ‘flexible’ ‘genius of the heart’. For myself, Karl Holl’s version reads true to life, while the contemporary version of ‘situation-ethics’ sounds more like a rationalization of evolving fashions in behavior.

This is what Holl says, on page 133. The emphases are Mockingbird’s.

“For Luther, part…

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Karl Holl on Morality as Instinctive

Karl Holl on Morality as Instinctive

In his lecture on Luther’s earlier ethical views, which was published and then re-worked between 1919 and 1923, Karl Holl wrote in a way that today could be described as ‘luminous’. The American edition of that lecture, entitled The Reconstruction of Morality (Augsburg, 1979, translated by Fred W. Meuser and Walter R. Wietzke from the seventh German edition of 1948 and edited by James Luther Adams and Walter F. Bense) is a classic exposition of the Gospel. It is dense, deep, wide-ranging, and diagnostic. It’s hard to think of another book of its kind that just hits you between the…

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Karl Holl on Morality as Awakening

Karl Holl on Morality as Awakening

This is the last quote in Mockingbird’s Holl series from The Distinctive Elements in Christianity (1937). Next week we will feature Holl‘s lecture and book, The Reconstruction of Morality.  

Here the great one does away with distinctions between people. He also references by strange advanced knowledge a novel by James Gould Cozzens. Most important, Karl Holl here observes that Christ’s conception of God came to people like an awakening from a dream. As always, the emphases are Mockingbird’s, and the excerpt is from pages 29-30.

This conception of God which Jesus taught, though it ran so sharply counter to all natural religious…

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Karl Holl on Spontaneity and 'Situation-Ethics'

Karl Holl on Spontaneity and ‘Situation-Ethics’

Karl Holl understood the morality of Jesus as a kind of spontaneous response to situations of need, which would not involve reflection but were of the immediate moment. He understood the Lord to have taught a non-systematic approach to moral actions that approaches what some ‘liberal’ theologians wished to call, later, ‘situation-ethics’. The key element in Christ’s way of living is, according to Holl, a spontaneity born from love.

The following is also from The Distinctive Elements in Christianity (1937), page 22.  The emphases are Mockingbird’s.

“From this follows the most splendid feature of the ethic of Jesus, namely the naturalness, the…

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Karl Holl on Freedom and Exaction in the Moral Life

Karl Holl on Freedom and Exaction in the Moral Life

This quote for today, like last week’s, is from the 1925 essay translated as The Distinctive Elements in Christianity (T & T Clark, 1937). It is from page 21. Note here the insight, unique as we hear in that rare-to-hear item the Christian Gospel, that the dissolution of demand results in a new compunction. The italics are by Mockingbird.

“Jesus’s conception of God was new. He dealt a blow at everything that earnest ethical thinking about the relation between God and man had established, and everything that the common-sense understanding of mankind down to the present day has held to…

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