M. Daniel Carroll R. and Darrell L. Bock
Christians have always believed that the Bible is the most important resource for thinking about the moral life of individual believers and their communities. Many different kinds of issues arise—theological, hermeneutical, exegetical, and historical—when we use the Bible to help answer ethical questions. Christopher Wright takes very seriously the shape of Israel's laws, social structures, and contextual realities, and avoids the vagueness of a disembodied set of supposed eternal principles. This article provides an overview of the most salient topics that are foundational for a proper appropriation of the Bible, both those of a more general sort and those most significant for the Old and New Testaments. First, it discusses the authority of the Bible for ethics, the study of ethics as it pertains to the Old Testament, social and textual reconstruction, virtue ethics, ethics and the canon, and New Testament ethics. It also examines different models for ethics in the New Testament, such as the imitation of Jesus, Jesus-centered character ethics, and the biblical Jesus in combination with a theological matrix.
Often referred to as the greatest Anglican apologist of modern times, C. S. Lewis is also regarded as a ‘popular’ theologian. His theology seems to be primarily encapsulated in his theological digest Mere Christianity, but that work contains only a pale reflection of most of his theological thought. Lewis's academic writings have a clarity and lucidity that makes them attractive to the general reader. His theological works have the same qualities, but are written from his own perspective as a layman. Lewis's theology might be divided into three parts, each representing a stage in his own spiritual development. The three parts of his theological vision are supernaturalism, the nature of good and evil, and the process of redemption. Each aspect of this vision emphasizes the key issue of his Christian faith: the surrender of the self to God.
This chapter explores the construction of evil and the strategies of violence in purification. Prurient fascination and righteous revulsion both recreate and repel each other, developing an anxiety of confusion that has resulted in many circumstances in community efforts to cast the subject, the symbol, of that confusion. Erotic prurience into the nature and deeds of Evil may remain as a living genre for centuries without lending itself to societies as legitimation for purge. Dramaturgy and procession can contribute to brutal but cathartic narratives of saints and monsters, martyrs, and their persecutors, into the immediate festival lives of communities. Furthermore, brutality and atrocity are recurrent characteristics of any culture, often aggravated in situations of historical stress independent of religious systems.
This chapter explores the medieval genre of sifrut ha-musar (ethical literature), which has largely been ignored in the recent burgeoning of the field of Jewish ethics. This neglect is attributed to the fact that the genre does not call halakhah into question, as does Jewish ethics generally, particularly through the notion of lifnim mi-shurat ha-din (supererogation), that one must act beyond the letter of the law. But this does not mean that musar is non-ethical; rather, its purpose was to “harmonize the spirituality of God with the values guiding his worship.” This spiritualization of Jewish ritual and culture generated creativity for nearly a thousand years around the Jewish world, first in Islamic contexts and then climaxing in Christian milieus.
Charlotte Elisheva Fonrobert
This chapter first sets out the difficulties in studying the sources for Jewish ethics in classical rabbinic literature. Not only do rabbinic texts lack the very notion of ethics, they also emerge from different terrains and times and perforce bespeak different moral conclusions if not presumptions on how to reach those positions. However, one exception is texts classified as rabbinic “ethical” literature, which include 'Avot or Pirkei 'Avot and its companion text(s), Avot de-Rabbi Natan. The discussion then turns to the relationship between law and ethics in rabbinic literature; ethical limits to halakhah in rabbinic literature; and issues of universality and particularity in rabbinic literature.
This chapter analyzes the ethical theories of Rabbis Abraham Isaac Kook and Joseph B. Soloeitchik, two luminaries in of twentieth-century Orthodoxy in Israel and the United States, respectively. Despite Kook's lean toward the mystical and Soloveitchik's tendency toward the rational, they nonetheless share in the perspective that ethics is central to proper Jewish living and theology. Whereas Kook views the moral impulse as already embedded in Jewish existence, Soloveitchik understands imitatio Dei as the central mechanism through which Jewish ethical behaviour comes into being.
This chapter examines the thoughts of the most significant and influential theologians in American Jewish religious life, Mordecai Kaplan and Abraham Joshua Heschel. Emerging from the pragmatism and naturalism of the early decades of the century, Kaplan fostered a fascination with humanity that led him to eschew traditional Judaism's theocentric views of morality. For him, it would be better to understand Judaism as a civilization—no better and no worse than others—and jettison mitzvoth (commandments) in favour of “folkways” so as to inspire social behaviour, for it is through the folk themselves that morality comes into being. Heschel, by contrast, favours a more mystical and theocentric approach. For him the prophets best articulated the apocalyptic dangers of even the smallest immorality and the need to rise above human communities to root morality in God's will for us.
Posed by the character Philo in David Hume's Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, questions about God that find their source in Epicurus crystallize the traditional philosophical understanding of the problem of evil. This problem – whether evoked by a case of natural evil; epitomized by the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 or the South Asian tsunami of 2004; or of moral evil, epitomized by the Shoah – poses a grave challenge to conventional theism and is deemed ‘the guiding force of modern thought’. This article examines the thematic relation between evil and the God of love in English literature, the theme's roots in the Bible, conceived as a unified ‘literary’ document. It is in this sense that the Hebrew Bible or Tanakh furnished for Jack Miles his best-selling God: A Biography.
Pamela Sue Anderson
A major obstacle inherent in patriarchy remains its barely perceptible reality for all of those women and men whose lives have been decisively ordered by the rule of the father. Toni Morrison, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, captures the imperceptible reality of racial domination with imagery of a fishbowl. Her imagery reveals the ways in which apparently invisible structures of domination can suddenly become visible. With Morrison's cogent use of imagery in mind, this article examines patriarchy by revealing the transparent structure of male domination that has contained women's lives, and the ways in which feminism has emerged with this revelation. The bare outlines of the former are made evident here in a reading of English literature and theology; the latter can be seen as if the writer and reader were outside that ordered life, tackling ‘the obstacle which does not speak its name’.
Jesus taught that we are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. (Matt. 5:44). He said we were not to resist those who wrong us, but if hit on one cheek we are to turn the other (Matt. 5:39). Yet this is not the only strand that relates to the issue of violence in the New Testament, let alone the Bible as a whole. For example, John the Baptist appears to have accepted military life as a legitimate vocation and Jesus is reported to have had a positive attitude to centurions, who were soldiers of an occupying power. This article is not a history of how these texts have been interpreted, nor is it a history of the changing circumstances in which force has been used or a history of the Just War tradition. It is attempt to show how there has been a tension throughout Christian history between these two strands in the New Testament — a tension, or at least a contrast, which is inescapable, if justice is to be done to the New Testament. Nevertheless, it is not possible to consider this tension without also being aware of the changing circumstances in which force has been used, how the key texts have been interpreted, and the developing tradition of Christian thinking about the criteria which must be met if war is to be waged on a moral basis. The church has never been easy with this tension, and has tried to ease it or dissolve it altogether in different ways; and it has been expressed differently depending on whether most weight has been put on the teaching and example of Jesus about non-retaliation, or on the apparent need for state-sanctioned force to maintain order both within a state or empire or, reflecting a later period, between states. How this tension is rooted in the New Testament and why it is inescapable is taken up again at the end of the article.
This chapter investigates how violence gets into religious texts and how it gets out of them, into action. Religious literatures clearly help to provide archives of cosmologies, memories, personalities, and symbols for collective imagination. Trauma, terror, pain and the like are among the fundamental components of religious literature, and conjure a violent imaginary, which, by definition, takes shape in violent acts. It surely modifies wartime actions constituted within ancient literature, in some cases saturating warlike acts with sacrificial themes. Upon reading, hearing, or seeing, it is hard to imagine that any conscious being would not be focused by a spectacle of violent destruction, grasping immediately the specter of his or her own demise.