Religion & Philosophy at Lyon College

The Syllabus Should Be Checked At Least Once A Week In Case There Are Revisions.
Christian Ethics Syllabus
RPH 320
9:30-10:45 a.m., Tue. & Thur.
Dr. Paul Custodio Bube  
Fall 2013

 

Office Hours: Lyon 321
MWF: 10:00 a.m. - noon; 1-1:250 p.m.
TR: 8:30-9:20 a.m.
or by appointment
Phone: 870-307-7351

E-mail: Click on Mailbox to e-mail professorHH01580A.gif (1311 bytes)

 

Educator is at 

[Tip: If you wish to print out the syllabus, check your printer options to see if you can print in black and white or grayscale or without the background.]

Nature and Purpose of Course:

There are a variety of ways to study Christian Ethics. One approach is to look at the history and development of Christian ethical thinking from the earliest Christian writers (the New Testament writers) to the present. Another way is to examine various “types” of Christian ethical theories, e.g., Christian Realism, Narrative Ethics, Liberation Theology, etc. A third way is to start with ethical issues that have been important to Christians—such as poverty, war, and abortion—and examine the way various Christians have dealt with them. Each approach has its strengths and weaknesses. This course will combine aspects of all of these approaches in an effort to appreciate the development, diversity, and unique concerns that have characterized Christian ethics.

Objectives:

Upon successful completion of this course students will be able to

  • describe and critique representative approaches to Christian ethics
  • analyze major ethical issues from a variety of Christian ethical perspectives
  • analyze specific forms of service from a variety of Christian ethical perspectives

Required Readings:

Christian Ethics: An Essential Guide by Robin W. Lovin
Bible and Ethics in the Christian Life by Bruce C. Birch & Larry L. Rasmussen
Moral Man and Immoral Society: A Study in Ethics and Politics by Reinhold Niebuhr (This book can also be read in its entirety on-line at: http://www.scribd.com/doc/23360361/ebook-Niebuhr-Reinhold-Moral-Man-and-Immoral-Society-A-Study-in-Ethics-and-Politics-philo but you will not have proper page numbers)
A Black Theology of Liberation by James H. Cone
A Community of Character by Stanley Hauerwas
Why We’re Equal: Introducing Feminist Theology by Val Web
A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans
 

Requirements:

As an upper level RPH course, there will be a fair amount of reading and writing involved in our study. We have seven books that we will read all or most of. There will be a take-home essay exam on each book. The final "exam" is to be either a group project/presentation or research paper. (Keep in mind the project/presentation will also require research.) Groups may be 2-3 persons. Students will research a topic chosen from a list I will provide, explain the ethical problems raised by the topic, and how Niebuhr, Cone, Hauerwas, Webb, and Evans, have or might deal with the topic. E.g., if the topic were capital punishment, how would each of these Christian thinkers analyze the issue and what would they say is the right thing to do? In light of that discussion, how would the members of the group respond to the issue? Each group will have approximately 40 minutes for this presentation. Think of it as a way of teaching the class about the topic, and be sure to provide a bibliography of sources consulted, handouts, and a short written summary of your presentation. For those interested in doing a research paper, meet with me before fall break to finalize a topic.

Students are expected to write e-journals in response to questions found on the syllabus and under the "Assignments" section of Educator. Journal responses need only be a couple of paragraphs.

Christian ethics is not only concerned with knowing about right and wrong and good and bad from a Christian perspective, it is also concerned with doing what is right and promoting what is good. For that reason, this course will include a service component of 10 hours. Students may choose where they do their service hours and whether they want to do all 10 hours at one location or split the hours up among two or more locations. The choice of locations is also open, but should be with an organization that is largely motivated by a Christian commitment to service. Some examples of where students might work include: Habitat for Humanity; Help and Hope; a local church that has an outreach program (e.g., an after school program, day care); Family Violence Prevention and Rape Crisis Center; Christian Health Center of Batesville; or an interdenominational or nondenominational agency. A good place to get a list of possible places to do service would be through the Campus Ministry Board which sets up the Fall Service Day. STUDENTS MUST GET MY APPROVAL FOR WHERE THEY DO THEIR SERVICE HOURS IN ADVANCE. For each hour of service, the student should e-mail me about what they did, who they interacted with, and in what ways the work of this organization reflects the views of Christian ethics we are covering in the course (or how the particular view might interpret the work of the organization). (E.g., do people work here because they are obeying a command by God or they have been inspired by the example of someone else?) I should receive at least 10 e-mails for this assignment -- one for each hour of service. These e-mails are not the same as the students' e-journals. Students will also need to get some official signature from the supervisor or other responsible person at the organization indicating they have put in the hours they report.

Grading:

Take-home Exams: 48%
E-journals: 16%
Service Hours: 10%
Final Project/Paper: 20%
Attendance/Participation: 6%
 
 

COLLABORATION: Students are encouraged to help each other in preparing for exams and exchanging ideas and advice on papers. However, in keeping with the Lyon College Honor Code, actual written work on exams and e-mail journals are to be done by the student her or himself. Be sure to write "pledged" on all submitted work, including e-journals.

 

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Please note: Students seeking reasonable accommodations based on documented learning disabilities should contact the Office of Academic Services at 307-7332.

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Weekly Assignments:
 
Aug 21
Introduction to course
 
 
Aug 23-28
Read pp. 7-60 of Christian Ethics: An Essential Guide by Robin W. Lovin [click here for slides]
E-journal#1: Respond to the following questions--
From a religious (or spiritual or philosophical) standpoint, what is your life's goal?
How does that goal relate to God's goals?
What rules do you think are fundamental for Christians to follow and why? Due by 5:00 p.m. Aug 26.
 
 
Aug 30(?)-Sep 4 [I will be out of town the afternoon of the 30th, so we need to reschedule class]
Read pp. 61-125 of Christian Ethics: An Essential Guide by Robin W. Lovin [click here for slides]
E-journal#2: Respond to the following-- Outside of persons mentioned in the Bible, whose story inspires you as an example of a good life? Why? What virtues do they model? (This could be someone you know personally or someone you know about, e.g., through reading) Due by 5:00 p.m. Sep 2
 
 
Sep 6
Conclude discussion of Lovin's book [First take-home exam distributed on Sep 6 and due back by 11:59 p.m. on Sep7.  E-mail the exam as a Word attachment.]
 
 
Sep 9-13
Read pp. 7-65 of Bible and Ethics in the Christian Life by Bruce C. Birch & Larry L. Rasmussen
[click here for slides on chs. 1&2]
E-journal#3: Read over the mountain-climbing story on pp. 52-53 of Birch & Rasmussen. From a perspective informed by the whole Bible, how do you think one should act in this situation? Due by 5:00 p.m. Sep 9
 
Sep 16-20
Read pp. 141-202 of Bible and Ethics in the Christian Life by Bruce C. Birch & Larry L. Rasmussen [slides for ch. 8] [slides for chs.9 & 10]
 
[Second take-home exam distributed on Sep 20 and due back by 11:59 on Sep. 21]
 
 
Sep 23-27
Read Introduction and chs. 1-5 of Moral Man and Immoral Society: A Study in Ethics and Politics by Reinhold Niebuhr
E-journal#4: Niebuhr argues that the morality of a group will inevitably be inferior to the morality of an individual. Why do you think he says that and do you agree or disagree? Due by 5:00 p.m. Sep 23
 
 
Sep 30-Oct 4
Read chs. 6-10 of of Moral Man and Immoral Society: A Study in Ethics and Politics by Reinhold Niebuhr
[Third take-home exam distributed on Oct 4, due 11:59 p.m. on Oct 5]
 
 
Oct 7-9
pp. 1-39 in A Black Theology of Liberation by James Cone. (Do not read the prefaces at this time.)
E-journal#5: In what ways does Cone seem similar to Niebuhr and in what ways different? Who do you find more compelling? Why? Due by 5:00 p.m. Oct 7.
Oct. 10-11
FALL BREAK
 
 
Oct 14-18
Read pp. 40-128 in A Black Theology of Liberation by James Cone. (Read the prefaces after reading the text.)
[Fourth take-home exam distributed on Oct 18 and due 11:59 p.m. on Oct 19]
 
 
Oct 21-25
Read pp. 1-52 in A Community of Character by Stanley Hauerwas
E-journal#6: What do you think of Hauerwas's analysis of Watership Down? Do you think it is relevant to Christian ethics? Can you think of other literature that could be analyzed this way? Due by 5:00 p.m. Oct 21
 
 
Oct 28-Nov 1
Read pp. 196-229 in A Community of Character by Stanley Hauerwas
[Fifth take-home exam distributed on Nov 1 and due 11:59 p.m. Nov 2]
 
 
Nov 4-8
Read the Preface and pp. 1-80 in Why We’re Equal: Introducing Feminst Theology by Val Web
E-journal#7: After reading this section of Val Webb's book, would you consider yourself a feminist? Why or why not? Due by 5:00 p.m. Nov 4
 
 
Nov 11-15 (the Nov. 15 class needs to be rescheduled because I have a meeting out of town)
Read pp. 81-145 in Why We’re Equal: Introducing Feminst Theology by Val Web
 
Nov 18-20
Read pp. 1-96 in A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans (this is a fast read)
E-journal#8: After reading this section of Rachel Held Evans' book, how would you compare her approach to ethics with our previous authors? Due by 5:00 p.m. Nov 20
Nov 20-25
Read pp. 96-223 (up to and including June) in A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans

Nov 27-Dec 1 THANKSGIVING BREAK

Dec 2-4
Read pp. 224-308 (July until end of year) in A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans
[Sixth take-home exam distributed on Dec 4 and due 11:59 p.m. Dec 7]
 
 
Dec 6 &12

Final Presentations

 

© 2011-13 Paul Custodio Bube