Tag Archives: christian ethics

Biomimicry, Democracy & Trashing the planet by trashing people

Guest post by Harry Samuels:

This video features a talk given by Mr. Van Jones – a noted figure and intellectual in the contemporary environmental movement – where he does something that echoes my last post about blacks caring about the environment. He is addressing what has grown to be a massive environmental issue- plastics in the environment, specifically plastic in the oceans. There is a massive underwater mass of plastic about the size of texas caught up in the Pacific gyre ( a portion of the ocean where global tradewinds interact in the ocean-atmosphere boundary layer to generate vortices on the ocean surface). This is insane! Jones, however, makes the case for the link between environmental welfare and human welfare – truly trashing the planet is impossible without trashing people (environmental issues as civil rights issues!).

Van Jones also makes an interesting link between the ideas of democracy – valuing the wisdom of all people , and biomimicry – valuing the wisdom of all lifeforms. What might we learn from mushrooms, insects, honey bee colonies, etc. about how we ought to conduct society? What have we perhaps already learned? Enjoy & comment!

@ScotMcKnight Is Right; Jesus Was NOT A Virtue Ethicist

On Jesus Creed earlier today, Scot McKnight wrote up a relatively non-controversial and short post on why he did not believe Jesus was a virtue ethicist: see The Habits of Virtue at Jesus Creed.

In the article McKnight link, research was showing that our willpower has its limits. In contemporary Christian culture, its popular for folks to have studied narrative theology and virtue ethics , much like written by Stanley Hauerwas and Alasdair MacIntyre. I agree with Scot, who contended that New Testament ethics was about the development of the moral agent through grace and the Holy Spirit. In other words, Christian ethics starts with Christology + pneumatology, and NOT ecclessiology, which plays a larger role in the Christian life for RadOx theologians. Scot is NOT arguing for an abstract, disembodied form of ethics; on the contrary, if one starts with Jesus and the Holy Spirit (second and third persons of the Trinity), one cannot help but talk about embodiedness!

Virtue ethics frames its ethics based on communal formation; Christ, however, as the Logos comes in the form of a demand, a burden on us in every situation. The Word as Duty has its theological founding in the words of the prophets; just as YHWH is duty bound to the divine promise, so are human beings in right relationship with God bound (by covenant). Theologically, as I am working back with Clement of Alexandria and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Logos (CoA)/the Word (DB) encounters the faithful and works to create us into responsible subjects before God and between us and our neighbors. Talking about the role of the church and its pedagogical benefits is good, but this type of conversation when it comes to moral action definitely has its limits. The trend towards virtue ethics does not take into consideration (or does not like to) issues relating to power within the community. Christian ethics is quite a complex topic, but I am now leaning more towards a pneumatological + deontological (duty/law) way of thinking about things.

What say you? Is virtue ethics (even with some talk of Spirit/Grace) a helpful way to talk about Christian ethics?

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