Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Scripture References in this Resource
Ephesians 5:17; Hebrews 13:17; I Peter 4:8; John 15:1-8; Matthew 19:21; Matthew 22:37- 39; Matthew 3:10; Psalm 119:129-136; Romans 12:2
This study strives to provide a way for all parish pastors to reconsider the task of providing ethical training in a parish setting. The intent of this investigation is to encourage a shift in perception that will allow training in ethics to be evaluated and eventually adopted as both practically positive and theologically valid. Failing that ambitious goal, the study can at least prompt further discussion of the appropriate place of training in ethics, that is, teaching the practical matters of living the Christian life. Understood scripturally, the goal is quite simply to provide a way for congregations faithfully to practice the Lord's parting instruction to make disciples-baptizing them, yes..., but also "teaching them to keep all the things which I have commanded you."
This paper will attend in particular to the concept of character formation. This emphasis is meant to further the understanding of Christian ethics as more the shaping of individual character and less the adoption of a set of basic rules of behavior or the provision of answers to perplexing moral dilemmas. Ethical training is neither the anticipation and resolution of every conceivable quandary that a Christian may eventually encounter nor the development of an exhaustive list of right activity. Rather, ethical training is about equipping and shaping individuals to be people of character so that in whatever circumstances they may find themselves they act virtuously, that is, in conformity with God's will for his people.
A call for training in virtue and shaping of character is a defining characteristic of a contemporary school of thought known as virtue ethics. Virtue ethicists do not strike out into new territory but rather seek to retrieve what has in recent centuries been neglected or forgotten. Josef Pieper insists on this characteristic: In this realm, originality of thought and diction is of small importance-should, in fact, be distrusted. It can hardly be expected that there will be entirely new insights on such a subject. We may well turn to the "wisdom of the ancients" in our human quest to understand reality, for that wisdom contains a truly inexhaustible contemporaneity. The rise and essential tenets of virtue ethics will be considered in the first chapter of this paper. Special attention will be given to one of the most prominent proponents and outspoken voices of virtue ethics: Stanley Hauerwas. Hauerwas's significance for this study will be made clear as that chapter unfolds. Of special interest for this researcher is the challenge which virtue ethics presents to contemporary manifestations of Lutheranism.
Chapter two will listen to four important Lutheran theologians who have committed themselves to a careful analysis of Lutheranism's current struggles with the ethical task. Their observations of present day Lutheranism will support the importance, as well as the relevance, of this study. An attempt will be made to examine their proposed solutions and assess the various arguments' strengths as well as shortcomings, whether actual or potential.
The third chapter will tum to the first generation of 16th century Lutherans in an effort to discern their attitude toward the concept of shaping character and training in virtue. This chapter's investigation will center on Lutheranism's formative and norming documents: the Lutheran Confessions, particularly the Augustana's Apology. The intent of this chapter is to discern whether Lutheranism is, as some have charged, inherently incapable of providing a meaningful account of Christian ethics. That is, do the theological presuppositions and emphases of Lutheran doctrine require a de facto disqualification of any attempts to articulate a Lutheran understanding of ethics? Chapter three will seek an answer in the work of the Reformers.
Having considered the contemporary situation within the Lutheran church and the relative faithfulness of the current manifestation of Lutheranism vis-a-vis the teaching of the Reformers themselves, chapter four will consider possible avenues out of Lutheranism's ethical predicament. Possible solutions to the problem of locating ethics within Lutheran theology will be examined and evaluated, particularly in the light of the findings of chapter three. These will include readily recognized 'standard' solutions, as well as some less familiar.
Chapter five will continue the task initiated in the fourth chapter but will begin the constructive work of proposing and defending a framework that is able to overcome the shortcomings of those previously considered. Ultimately, the chapter will suggest a paradigm or framework within which one may ably conduct the tasks of theology and ethics in a way that is wholly faithful to Lutheran doctrine.
Finally, this paper's sixth chapter will articulate conclusions that can be drawn from the research presented in the antecedent chapters. Additionally, several practical applications of the study as well as avenues for further investigation suggested by the study will be presented. Far from perfunctory addenda, these suggested applications should be recognized as the compelling purpose which has fueled this study from the outset. It is the practical needs of parish pastors and their parishioners which motivated and directed this dissertation. And it is for their sakes that this paper has been produced.
Biermann, Joel, "Virtue Ethics and the Place of Character Formation within Lutheran theology" (2002). Doctor of Philosophy Dissertation. 27.
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