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Narrative and Ethics

Human beings tell the stories of their lives in many different ways. Often times, if not most times, the narration of life is a means of creating moral meaning. In this chapter we will explore the nature of narrative imagination and its relationship to theology, ethics, and Bible. In particular, we will consider in what ways (methods) the Bible addresses ethical concerns and present a methodology (a way) for dealing with our own ethical dilemma.

It is exciting to some and amazing to others that Christian theologians and ethicists spend time proclaiming that human beings love to tell stories and that there are fundamental reasons for that love. We spend hours remembering that the Bible is mostly narrative in form, that Jesus spoke of the Kingdom in parables, and that the Church recorded its history in narrative. When taken in its whole (there has also been a revival of interest in narrative in philosophical, history, Christian ethics, etc.), the emergence of narrative over the past decade or so is greater than the rebirth of storytelling. It is an indication of a paradigmatic shift in the way we understand.

Narrative Imagination

The development of a Narrative Hermeneutic has been taking place for many years. It is therefore possible to lump the justifications for this hermeneutic into three basic categories.

Ontological Justifications: The ontological argument asserts that narrative is basic to the very nature of being human. The reasons human beings tell stories are not due to historical accident, or simple entertainment, but can be found in the spiritual and physical nature of what it is to be human. In other words, narrative is not and artificial expression of human nature, but is instead, a natural expression of that nature. Thus, in Truthfulness and Tragedy, Stanley Hauerwas claims that both individual and community life are best understood in and through narrative interpretations and that story gives rhyme and reason to existence (1977:78). While narrative is an interpretation of existence, existence precedes the interpretative narrative; that is to say, the spiritual and physical predilection to interpret existence narratively actually exists before the narrative is expressed. Alasdair MacIntyre in After Virtue says, "The unity of human life is the unity of a narrative quest" (1984:203). Some thinkers, such as Claude Levi-Strauss, assert that the narrative expression is a result of brain anatomy and is, thus, the natural means of interpretation of experience.

Structural Justifications: The structural accounts insist that narrative is the most appropriate means of interpreting reality because of the very nature of reality itself. Specifically, reality is narrative in structure and, therefore, storytelling is a reflection of that structure. Thus, MacIntyre says, "Narrative is not the work of poets, dramatists and novelists reflecting upon events which had no narrative order before one was imposed by the singer or the writer; narrative form is neither disguised nor decoration" (1981:197). In other words, narrative is more than a convenient expression of reality, but is the most appropriate means of interpreting and understanding experience given its narrative structure.

Michael Goldberg says that the "shape of story and the shape of experience go hand in hand" (1982:164); George Stroup says that personal identity is an "hermeneutical concept" and necessarily assumes the form of narrative (1981:105,111), and in Stories of God by John Shea we read that storytelling is a way of seeing how we are "inescapably related to Mystery" (1978:13). What these and other authors are saying is that narrative is a natural hermeneutic for reality and indispensable for understanding that reality. Thus, we hear many say that Jesus used parables to speak of the Kingdom of God, not because he simply enjoyed telling parables, but because of the nature of the Kingdom demanded it.

Ethical Justifications: Ethical justifications for the place of narrative in Christian thought argue that the moral life is narrative-dependent. That is, the soil for the nurturing of character and the context for deciding what is the right and good action are found in and through the narrative tradition. Again, Hauerwas insists that narrative must be included in "any account of moral rationality" as stories determine what kind of character we will embrace and what kind of moral considerations we will ponder (1977:20); and MacIntyre says that virtue is narratively ordered, moral tradition is articulated in narrative history, and that story is the basic and essential genre for the characterisation of human action" (1981:194). In theological/ethical terms, the Christian turns to the story of Jesus to obtain insight into the virtuous character he or she wished to be or become.

The Characteristics of Narrative: Given that narrative may be essential to our understanding of reality and our interpretation of its meaning, it is important to speak briefly of the characteristics of narrative.

Narrative can be empirical or fictitious. Empirical narratives, in turn, can be historical, concerned with the truth of facts, measurement of time, and the past; or mimetic, concerned with the truth of sensation, observation of environment, and with the present. Plot is defined as a chronological connection among elements, that is, characters, actions, events and situations. It must have a beginning, middle and end, and it must be selective and particular. Selectivity implies that matters irrelevant to the plot are ignored or cut out of the history for the sake of the narrative and its meaning. The plot also demonstrates movement, its sequence of events being neither necessarily logical or predictable. There is also always an element of surprise in the plot. Thus, the plot is designed to move our understanding through a sequential unfolding of agents and events.

Hauerwas maintains that character in narrative is "not a theoretical notion, but merely the name we give to the cumulative source of human actions" (1977:29). In fact, Robert Scholes and Robert Kellogg believe that if character is distinguishable at all from incident, it must be "in terms of the inner life" (1966:151). The inner life is accessible through direct narrative statements or through interior monologue. Character is not an explanation of the narrative, and is not independent of the narrative, but plays a role in the narrative, being both moved by and mover of the plot.

Narrative is usually concrete and realistic. It deals with the everydayness of life. Walter Brueggemann says the story does not "flinch from the scandal of specificity" (1982:23). Yet while it is very concrete and specific, it is holistic (avoids reductionism) and analogical in nature. It seeks not so much to explain and describe but to evoke imagination and participation. The meaning of the narrative is embodied in the narrative itself. And while it evokes participation, it does not encourage neutrality, but demands a response. The story is what Walter Brueggemann calls a "bottom line": "The listener has freedom to hear and decide, and is expected to decide" (1982:24).

While historical narrative may deal with past events, it is nonetheless a living genre that must effect the present. In a real way, the story is alive and directs the storyteller more than he or she directs the story. The listener too, is taken by the story. As we claim a story as ours, it too claims us. This claim is evident in the power of stories to mold and change our individual and communal life.

To  say a story "claims" us is also to say that it is re-creative and transcends the self. It can move people (sometimes with a jolt) to new awareness, self-identity, actions and relationships. John Dunne in Time and Myth, says that when a person is only self-concerned, he/she become fixed in his/her own "standpoint." When one is claimed by a story, and responds to it by embracing the meaning of the story, he/she is, according to Dunne, able to express "care which allows him to pass over to the standpoint of another human being, the first step toward passing over to the standpoint of God" (1973:59).

However, to say that a story can claim us is not to say that all stories do so. Robert McAfee Brown points out that the story must be similar enough to us to provide a point of contact, and yet dissimilar enough to fend off the boredom of predictability. "A story, in other words, must reach me on some level to which I can respond, but it must also 'stretch' me, pull me beyond where I now am, open some new doors of my mind or heart, so that, wanting to explore further, I become an increasingly willing listener" (1975:167). Thus, to be claimed by a story is to become an adventurer who is at great risk of being changed in character and in behavior.

 Ethics and The Bible

Krister Stendahl articulated one of the fundamental tension found in biblical theology and ethics. He said there exists a tension between the twin goals of understanding what a biblical text meant in the situation of its origins, to its original author and readers, and what it now means to us in our contemporary situation. Stendahl insists that the historical descriptive task (what it meant) is fundamentally different from the current theological/ethical task (what it means).

While this distinction may be helpful, it is near impossible to maintain in actual practice. No historian can approach biblical studies totally divorced from his or her cultural, theological, ethical, sociological, political, etc. understanding of reality. Complete objectivity is impossible. On the other hand, even if such an objective descriptive task were possible, the relevance of the exegesis for contemporary theology and ethics would still to be determined.

The truth is, ethics as understood today plays a minimal role in the world of the New Testament. And yet, Christians today do have a genuine concern for the world as God's creation and gift, and do see the Bible as a theological and ethical authority. And while Christians today embrace an understanding of ethics that has a much more individualistic and autonomous concern for human aims and conduct (that is to say, is much more utilitarian) then New Testament ethics, we should not despair. According to Paul Nelson,

"Christians today should not look to the New Testament for direct guidance. Rather, they should approach moral problems by asking, 'On the basis of what we know of God through Christ, what should we do?' This approach is warranted, not only with respect to problems on which scripture is silent (e.g. genetic engineering), but also where the Bible seems to speak with ongoing relevance, as in the command to love our neighbors as ourselves" (1987:89).

Nelson goes on to say that while scripture may not provide a "static moral code," it does remind contemporary Christians that "morality pertains to human existence as it stands in relation to God" (1987:90.)

If we accept that the world and the ethics of the Bible are far removed from our contemporary understanding of reality and morality, but that the Bible "reminds" us that morality is related to the desires and intentions of God, it is legitimate to ask how the Bible actually does the reminding. James Gustafson in Theology and Christian Ethics sketches a general typology of the ways the Bible has been appropriated as a revealed morality.

  • The first use of scripture in ethics is the most direct: "Those actions of persons and groups which violate the moral law revealed in scripture are to be judged morally wrong" (1974:130). Here, "the idea of moral law becomes the principle for ethical interpretation" (1974:130).
  • The second use of scripture presents moral ideals that can be used to evaluate human action; that is: "Those actions of persons and groups which fall short of the moral ideals given in scripture are to be judged morally wrong, or at least morally deficient" (1974:131).
  • The third us of scripture is: "Those actions of persons or groups are to be judged morally wrong which are similar to actions that are judged to be wrong or against God's will under similar circumstances in scripture, or are discordant with actions judged to be right or in accord with God's will in scripture" (1974:133).
  • The fourth use of scripture as understood by Gustafson is, as he says, "looser than the first three." It reads: "Scripture witnesses to a great variety of moral values, moral norms and principles through many different kinds of biblical literature: moral law, vision of the future, historical events, moral precepts, paraenetic instruction, parables, dialogues, wisdom sayings, allegories. They are not in a simple way reducible to a single theme; rather, they are directed to a particular historical contexts. The Christian community judges the actions of persons and groups to be morally wrong, or at least deficient, on the basis of reflective discourse about present events in the light of appeals to this variety of material as well as to other principles and experiences. Scripture is one of the informing sources for moral judgments, but it is not sufficient in itself to make any particular judgment authoritative" (1974:134).

From what was said at the beginning of this section, all the above categories of scriptural use in ethics have difficulties. The fourth category, however, leads us to two fundamental questions in the study of Christian and biblical ethics. The first asks whether there is a methodology distinctively Christian, that is to say, different from, for example, philosophical, Jewish, Buddhist, Humanists ethical methodologies. Some would say Christian ethics has a distinct methodology because it is based on revelation rather than reason. Others would disagree. 

The second question asks what the relationship between biblical and non-biblical sources of ethical wisdom actually is, and whether Christians can use non-biblical sources for understanding and doing ethics. In other words, is the content of Christian ethics particularly distinctive. Again, some say yes and some say no. As we will see in Chapter VI, liberationists would be an example of those Christians who say Christians can and should use other sources in our theological and ethical deliberations and activities.

How we answer these question is important. Most agree that scripture plays a significant role for Christians in forming the individual and communal sense of self-understanding. As Paul Nelson says, "Scripture allows us to reflect on who the Christian is and what his attitudes, dispositions, goals, values, norms, and decisions are as they are shaped by the Christian mysteries of creation, sin, incarnation, redemption, and resurrection destiny" (1987:95). Thus, for example, we can relate the Gospels to morality by understanding how they influence the kinds of people we become in a Christian community. Nelson says that the Gospels, "reorient the action, intention, and disposition of persons who attend to them", noting that a Christian's moral sensibilities and creative imaginations are "involved in the movement from gospel paradigms to specific actions in the world" (1987:96).

Stanley Hauerwas, in his many books on Christian theology and ethics, is particularly concerned with scriptural influences on the moral life of individual Christians and Christian communities. He maintains that scriptural authority and Christian community cannot exist without each other. However, he would not say that the Bible is the only authority in the development of Christian Community, nor that there is even a single normative concept of scripture. Still, Hauerwas maintains that the scripture is the classic model for understanding God and what it is to be a community in relationship to God. He says the Bible functions as an authority for the Christian community precisely because by attempting to live, think, and feel faithful to its witness we are more nearly able to live faithful to the truth. And for Hauerwas, it must be noted, the most appropriate way to understand and appropriate scripture is to regard it as a narrative.

Narrative and Biblical Ethics: The Bible is comprised of a variety of literary genres. Even a casual reading of current scholarship makes clear that the exact labeling of genres differs from scholar to scholar. Nonetheless, it safe to say the major biblical genres include:

  • mythology and saga;
  • historic and realistic narrative;
  • poem and song;
  • gospels;
  • parable; and
  • epistle.

While narrative is not the only literary genre used in the Bible, it is central to any understanding of the Scripture. George Stroup says, "The core of Scripture is a set of narratives which serves as the common denominator for the whole Scripture." (1981:136). And Hauerwas asserts that non-narrative material in Scripture "gains intelligibility" by virtue of being a product of a community that lives by a narrative tradition (1981:67).

Erich Auerbach notes that the narratives in Scripture (particularly the gospels) were unlike any antique genre. They were too serious for comedy, too everyday in observation and contemporary in description for tragedy, and lacked the political significance to be considered history. He says in Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature, "In the last analysis the differences in style between the writings of antiquity and early Christians are conditioned by the fact that they were composed from a different point of view and for a different people" (1957:40).

In fact, Auerbach contends that the highly educated pagans were "horrified" by the commonness of the Christian narrative style. It was to them "impossibly uncivilized and in total ignorance of the stylistic categories." Auerbach continues to say, however, that the very controversy also indicated the greatness of the style because it "created an entirely new kind of sublimity, in which the everyday and the law were included, not excluded, so that, in style as in content, it directly connected the lowest with the highest (1957:134).

That "different point of view" that distinguished early Christian writing included the fact that Christ came, not as hero and king to the socially  prestigious, but as a humble person to live with a humble people. This fact alone caused a literary scandal. The style in which this story was presented lacked "rhetorical culture in the antique sense," and completely destroyed the "aesthetics of the separation of styles," replacing it with a new style that did not "scorn everyday life...[and was ready to] absorb the sensorial realistic, even the ugly, the undignified, the physically base," and yet did so with the "deepest dignity, more significant than anything else in the world" (1957:63).

The significance of Auerbach's work for the relationship between narrative and Scripture is that the context of the Christian story determined the style of Christian narrative. It is logical to assume, therefore, that the study of narrative is in turn significant in the quest for meaning of the Christian story.

Narrative and Theology

Stanley Hauerwas says, "[T]he most significant claims about God and the moral life take the form of or presuppose a narrative context. Any theological account of narrative, therefore, must involve an attempt to show that this is not just an accidental category but a necessary one for any true knowledge of God and the self" (1981:95).

Some would claim that narrative is not an accidental category and is not simply a propaedeutic to theology, for it illumines our understanding of God and of the Christian faith in ways that cannot be realized without its focus. "Why" this is so is found in the nature of God, Christian convictions, and the faith community. What we seek is an interpretation of meaning, and story is a "well-known pedagogical device" to do just that, at least according to H. Richard Niebuhr (1960:34). The point here is that many have come to believe that the search for the meaning of theological convictions is in itself a confessional activity and a witness of faith. If it is not, it undermines the integrity of the object (e.g. God, Community of faith) being studied. Narrative theologians claim that a "truer" truth is found through the telling and analysis of the Christian story. In fact the story is an irreplaceable telling of the nature of God and the life of Jesus Christ, which is at the heart of any theological task.

The compulsion, as H. Richard Niebuhr says, to express the convictions of faith in story, is due first to the nature of the convictions themselves. They are not "isolatable facts" but are located in a community tradition and life. They are inherently practical, the story giving ways to "be" in the world. Hauerwas says, "A theory is meant to help know the world without changing the world yourself; a story is to help you deal with the world by changing it through changing yourself" (1977:73). In short, any and all theological convictions are rooted in a community tradition and the Christian community has chosen to communicate its conviction through narrative.

Therefore, genre reductionism and norm reductionism is inappropriate given the nature of what is being studied. Walter Brueggemann helps us to understand this when he says that education (and we might add doing theology and ethics) has become "the process of considering alternatives". For example, when asked "Who is my neighbor?" Jesus did not say: "Your neighbor is the one in your family, or the one in your local community, or the one in your synagogue, or the one in your nation, or the one who is a member of the human species. Choose one!" (1982:19). Instead, Jesus told a story about who one's neighbor is and allowed the listener to decide. The concept of neighbor is too expansive and complex to be reduced to one or two normative formulas. Therefore, to be true to such a concept, one can only tell a story that in some way embraces the whole of the concept, demands participation of and response by the listener. Theology can no longer be a task of isolating and deducing principles, but must incorporate narrative as a holistic approach to the study of faith.

Narrative and Christian Ethics

In biblical ethics, of course, the narrative prominence in Scripture is foundational for narrative ethics. Let us briefly note in what ways this narrative paradigm is changing contemporary Christian ethics. In the most general of terms, the change consists of a shift from an emphasis on duty and consequence ethics to an emphasis on character and virtue.

Alasdair MacIntyre in After Virtue, gives a convincing argument that the reliance on rules and principles for action is based on a misinterpretation of ethics. He says, "Suppose...that in articulating the problems of morality the ordering of evaluative concepts has been misconceived by the spokesmen of modernity and more particularly of liberalism; suppose that we need to attend to virtues in the first place in order to understand the function and authority of rules" (1981:112).

He continues in his argument to say that all morality is, to some degree, connected to a particular community, and that modernity's commitment to the finding of universal objective principles freed from all particularism is an illusion. And further, that any notion of virtue is a part of a tradition. That tradition, which we inherited and is expressed through a community narrative, defines virtue and our understanding of it. MacIntyre says "generally to adopt a stance on the virtues will be to adopt a stance on the narrative character of human life" (1981:135). MacIntyre continues in wonderful detail to develop his thesis, but for now let it suffice to accept that concern for character in ethics can never be independent of narrative.

Perhaps the most popular spokesperson for narrative and character in Christian ethics is Stanley Hauerwas. While his arguments sometimes become circular (how to determine the truthfulness of a narrative) and his use of terms sometimes becomes confused (narrative, story, tradition, history), he must be taken seriously.

For Hauerwas, prior to any decision, is the moral notion. Moral notion is "but the recognition that we never simply know facts, but that we know them for some reason" (1974:16). They are creations of common experience in a particular community. Thus, the language of moral notion is a language of "common sense," and an ethics of vision is an ethics of realism. Moral reflection must begin with our moral notions. Ethics, then, is not simply knowing when it is wrong to lie. Rather, to know "how to use the word 'lie' is in effect to know how the world orders that aspect of human behavior which it is about" (1974:19). To learn of moral notions is to learn how to order the world, and is "more than thinking clearly and making rational choices. It is a way of seeing the world" (1974:36). The moral life is moral reflection (ethics) of moral notions (life's experiences) in the hopes of finding or creating a pattern of life (interrelations of moral notions). Moral behavior is an affair of vision and not of choice; a way of seeing and not just of rationalizing.

Character includes having certain intentions and convictions over others. Those intentions and convictions are displayed in a narrative and, therefore, "narrative must be included in any account of moral rationality that does not unwarrantedly exclude larger aspects of our moral existence, i.e., moral character" (1977:20). Character is narrative-dependent and community-dependent; all our notions are in effect narrative-dependent; narrative provides the context necessary for determining character and decision making. The conversion of character and the integrity of decision making cannot be based on principles. They depend on narrative which provides a life pattern into which they can "fit." Narrative is not arbitrary, indeed, in ethical reflection it is necessary.

The narrative quality of Christian convictions (and therefore of Christian character) helps us to realize that ethics is not "what one does after one has gotten straight on the meaning of the truth of religious beliefs." Rather, it is a means of "exploring the meaning, relation, and truthfulness of Christian convictions" (1981:90). Such a conviction leads Hauerwas to conclude that a narrative ethics of character must be nonreductionistic so that "questions of truth can be rightly asked; and that universalism comes first through particular stories and communities."

For Hauerwas, narrative provides a means of facing the world truthfully. Truthfulness in the Christian story is, of course, connected to the character of God as witnessed by the nation of Israel, the nature of the Kingdom and the life of Jesus Christ. There is no way of knowing the Kingdom separate from knowing the life of Jesus, and one can know that only through narrative. Here, "knowing" does not refer to principles or isolated chronological events, but refers to participating in the narrative, being a character in the ongoing story, living a life of action that imitates the story.

"An ethic of virtue centers on the claim that an agent's being is prior to doing" (1981:113). However, that is not to say decisions are not important or in no way connected to character. Rather it is that making decisions is not the "paradigmatic center of moral reflection" (1981:114). James McClendon explains the relationship between character and actions this way:

To have to enter a new level of the realm of morality, the level at which one's person, with its continuities, its inner connections, its integrity, is intimately involved in one's deeds. By being the person we are, we are able to do what we do, and conversely, by those very deeds we form or re-form our own character. Only a man of (some) generosity will act generously, as a general rule; but also as a general rule a man who acts generously on this occasion is shaping himself along generous lines. Thus, character is paradoxically both the cause and consequence of what we do (1974:30-32).

The moral life is actually a plenitude of convictions and intentions, values and virtues, deeds and character. Narrative provides a paradigm to embrace this potpourri we call life. What is required of us over and above our choices or deeds, is the "formation of character by a narrative that provides a sufficiently truthful account of our existence" (Hauerwas 1981:136). A single moral principle cannot account for the diversity of moral life. A narrative is required, as is the way of knowing a narrative offers.

Issues and Questions for Discussion

If by ethics we mean the process of understanding and reflecting upon the virtues of character and the actions that are conducive for a virtuous character, then biblical ethics must be based on the assumption that the Bible can offer insights or revelations to enlighten that process. To say that there actually is such a thing as a biblical ethics relevant for contemporary situations and issues, and not simply an historically interesting ethic, implies that the Bible has something to say to us today. Thus, our interest is not merely in studying ancient biblical ethical theories as if visiting a living museum, but building bridges between biblical texts and our contemporary situation and particular ethical concerns. Having said that, it is very important that we keep the historical and cultural context of the biblical texts clearly in view. If we fail to do so, we will distort both ethical and theological understandings and how they can inform today's world and our lives.

Keeping the above in mind, consider the following questions:

a) Do you consider the Bible an authority (legitimated and institutionalized power) in your life and moral experiences; in society? Why? In what ways?

b) If you answered yes to that question, do all biblical text exercise the same and/or equal authority in your life; in society? If not, identify some differences. To help, consider your attitudes and approaches to the various biblical genres (mythologies, historical narratives, poems and psalms, wisdom texts, gospel narratives, letters, etc.), biblical issues and themes (justice, sexuality, dietary laws, human relationships, etc.), and biblical voices (Moses, Miriam, Ruth, Jesus, Paul, etc.).

In both the Old and New Testaments ethical considerations and moral experiences are addressed and described in many different ways. Some Christian say the Bible is a 'manual for human behaviour' while others say there is no concrete biblical ethic, but stories, images and symbols that may or may not address our lives today. 

a) What do you think the difference is between Codes of Behaviour and Narratives of Experience? And what do you think is the primary biblical approach to addressing ethical issues? To help, identify an example of an ethical code and a moral narrative in the Bible. Be prepared to share your examples, discuss their differences, and in what ways they contribute, if at all, to contemporary ethics?

b) Can biblical ethics 'stand on its own' as a moral authority in doing ethics today, or must it 'stand next to' other moral authorities? If the latter, what other authorities and/or areas of experience and knowledge should we consider?

The ethical thinking of the Old and New Testaments are both contextual (the various texts were written at different times to particular peoples and/or churches in changing situations) and theological (theological understandings may have been more fundamental to authors than ethical reflection).

Within the context and theology of the Old Testament, many would say that the Old Testament authors did not concern themselves with a establishing rational basis for ethics, as is the case in philosophy. Instead they focused on ethical commands. For them God was the source of all morality and what God commanded was good and good for the community that obeyed. Those commands were expressed in The Law, which if followed could lead to ethical perfection. Consider the following:

a) How do the Old Testament authors tell of these commands and laws?

b) To whom are these commands and laws addressed?

c) Is Old Testament Law primarily deontological or teleological?

d) Is the Old Testament primarily concerned with virtue and character or with duties and consequences?

It is often said that the New Testament is more concerned with Love than Law and that all our understanding of ethics and morality flows directly from a faithfulness to God in and through Christ. No longer is our road to ethical perfection just the adherence to the Law, but is now also through our understanding of a human being and discipleship to that human being.

It must be admitted, however, that the original context of the ethical teachings of Jesus himself is always difficult to discern because of the filters through which it reaches us. Some suggest that the setting of imminent eschatology renders his teachings so alien to our own time that Jesus cannot possibly provide a valid ethic for today. Others suggest that out task is the same as that of the New Testament writers, namely, to interpret what Jesus taught in and for new contexts. Still we can have some confidence about his teachings concerning the Kingdom of God, Love vs. Law, and his use of parables as a pedagogical approach.

Consider the following questions:

a) What is the primary method of teaching ethics and morality in the New Testament? Of Jesus himself?

b) Is New Testament ethics primarily deontological or teleological?

c) Is the New Testament primarily concerned with virtue and character or with duties and consequences?

Living the Methodology

Step 2: Analysis of the Narrative
Situation: Relevance, Duties, and Roles

The Croquet Game

Ruth should describe her encounter with Kathy in detail. She should tell: when the encounter took place; where; what her relationship with Kathy is (minister to parishioner, friend to friend, older woman to younger woman, etc.); what Kathy asked of her; what she promised Kathy and why; Kathy's mental and emotional state; her own mental and emotional state; how the encounter ended; etc.

Ruth should now be asking what are the morally relevant factors in her story. Does it matter that Kathy spoke to her in her office? Is Kathy's age important? Should Kathy's "outburst" in this particular setting, with this particular person, be considered a "confession"? Does the difference in Ruth's and Kathy's age matter in some way? She would also be asking what prima facie duties are involved in her encounter with Kathy.

Copyright © 2000 Dale Rominger

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