St. Mark’s Adult Education Meeting Summary
“Ethics After Easter” by Stephen Holmgren
A Study Led By Rev. Deacon Mary Slenski
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Ethics After Easter (1)
Chapter 2-Seeking to Live a Good Life
Collect for Proper 14 The Sunday closest to August 10
Grant to US, Lord, we pray, the spirit to ~ and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
“As a primary principle for Christian ethics, love is never a minimal starting point but a
comprehensive starting point.” (p. 27)
“.. .persons who identify the same good or principles as the foundation for their ethics may nevertheless understand that good in very different ways.” (p. 27)
Where do we find the Good? Three approaches:
-natural law: rooted in reality
-historicist: what has stood the test of time
-choices and’ acts of will: our own and of our community ~
Natural Law (ODCC): An expression used with a wide variety of meanings, but in a theological context the law implanted in nature by the Creator which rational creatures can discern by the light of natural reason. It has been contrasted with the revealed law, though it was commonly held that the Commandments revealed in the Decalogue were also precepts of the Natural Law.(2)
Natural Law (Westminster Dictionary): The classical moral philosophers in the Western
tradition have almost all adopted some form of natural law theory. However, it must also be said that while they share the crucial tenet of natural law theory, i.e. that moral duties can be ascertained by reflection on human nature, they differ widely in their views about what human nature is and, as a result, about the moral theory that can be derived from it. …It was Aquinas’ view that by using our reason to reflect on our human nature, we could discover both the specific ends toward which we naturally tends (such as to live, to reproduce, to acquire knowledge, to have a role in an ordered society “to worship God) and the general end for which God created us, a blessed immortality. When we have discovered these ends, it is then possible for us to determine the means required to achieve them. This understanding of God’s plan for us, built into our nature by his act of creation is called natural law.”(3)
“Whether we rely on nature, history, or convention, all three are capable of yielding wrong or bad answers to the question, What is the good: Therefore, we may want to look at them not from the point of view of deciding which one is “right.’~ Instead we may want to inquire about the strength and weaknesses of each approach when we want to correct what was previously misidentified as the good. Second, very few of us employ only one or another of these three approaches, nor do we employ them consistently.” (p 29)
There are different frameworks, each supported by the Books of Nature and Scripture.
Holmgren: Salvation History (deals with sinners): creation/sin/redemption/resurrection
Liberation Theology (deals with the sinned against):
-preferential option for the poor
-liberation essential for salvation (Exodus as paradigm)
-a social-political reading of the Gospels
-non-violence both structurally and physical
Theology of Healing (deals with healing of both the sinner and the sinned against)
What brings wholeness-the shalom of God?
Four Ways of Responding to different aspects of moral life (p. 37): ~
1. Personally: “… we can affirm and celebrate goods intended by God in creation, such as…”
2. Interpersonally: “… we can affim1 acts or patterns of living that arise after the fall but still fit in with god’s purposes for creation and redemption, such as. ..” ‘I..
3. Community: “… we can seek to make pastoral accommodation for the effects of sin [or woundedness]
4. Culturally: “… we will encounter aspects of life that are inconsistent in every way with God’s work of creation and redemption. ..”
We can choose to act with God in God’s work of creation, redemption and healing of the world.
Holmgren’s Axioms for Moral Theology
5. Moral Theology has two primary reference points: creation and scripture. Moral theology looks both to the world and our experience of life together within it, and to scripture and our tradition of reasoned reflection based upon it, as sources of moral principles.
6. Moral theology works in light of an understanding of the four principal phases of salvation history: creation, fall, redemption, and the end of all things in Christ.
7. In coming to agreement concerning the pattern of life that is worthy of the calling, Anglicans have looked for consensus. We have the greatest degree of assurance for what has been most widely received.
8. Anglicans have looked for consensus in several interrelated spheres: the praying community of the church throughout the world; the wider community of the Body of Christ through history; and the academic community, when its work is founded upon Christian principles.
(1) Stephen Holmgren, Ethics after Easter, The New Church’s Teaching Series Volume 9, (Cambridge, MA: Cowley Publications, 2000).
(2) Natural Law. Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church Third Edition Revised 2005
(3) Natural Law. Westminster Dictionary of Christian Ethics, 1986