Religious Studies | From Christian Ethics to Social Criticism II
R575 | 25477 | Miller
This will be the second half of the first half of a two-semester
survey of the history of Christian ethics and religious social
criticism. It was preceded by R374/574 in the fall. You are not
required to take both courses.
The survey has three objectives.
First, the course aims to give an overview of major thinkers in key
periods of Christianity and to acquaint students with different
genres of ethical literature. The underlying argument of the course
is that the tradition of “Christian ethics” is not a single,
monolithic entity. It is rather a patchwork of subtraditions that
have produced literatures, arguments, and standards for human
conduct in response to problems that have emerged in different
cultural, social, and institutional contexts. We will explore that
variety in this course. Materials for the second semester are
likely to include Wesley, Butler, Edwards, Kierkegaard, Barth,
Reinhold and H. Richard Niebuhr, Richard McCormick, Paul Ramsey, and
Second, the course will examine intellectual changes that emerged in
the last third of the twentieth century, giving rise to a more
comparative and diversified discipline of religious ethics. I call
this “religious social criticism.” It has important connections to
and differences from Christian ethics, which we’ll note during the
last part of the second semester.
Third, given the diversity of materials we study, we will examine
the idea of a “tradition,” and we will ask what a tradition
comprises. That is to say, we will step back from the survey and
ask which materials seem obvious to include in a tradition of
Christian ethics, and what those decisions suggest about how a
tradition is constructed (and revised).