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 2017


Office Hours: Lyon 321
MWF: 10:00 a.m. - noon
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)


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, justice, the role of women in the church, and the environment—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.

Learning Objectives:

Upon successful completion of this course students will be able to

  • Read and become familiar with representative concepts, theories, and approaches to Christian ethics
  • Analyze and write critically about major ethical issues from a variety of Christian ethical perspectives
  • Research a specific ethical issue from the standpoint of several approaches to Christian ethics
  • Engage in and analyze specific forms of service from a variety of Christian ethical perspectives
  • Take steps to integrate faith (broadly construed to include one's philosophy of life) and reason

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 be purchsed or downloaded as a pdf from Schoology, but you will not have the original page numbers)
A Black Theology of Liberation by James H. Cone
A Community of Character by Stanley Hauerwas
A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans
Of God and Pelicans: A Theology of Reverence for Life by Jay McDaniel

Suggested Reading: Why We’re Equal: Introducing Feminist Theology by Val Web



Honor Code

All graded work in this class is to be pledged in accordance with the Lyon College Honor Code. The use of a phone for any reason during the course of an exam is considered an honor code violation. On electronic exams, there will be a place for students to click that they are pledging their work. On all other assignments, students should type or write "Pledged" on the assignment, followed by their name and student ID number. (For example, "Pledged, Harry Potter 7311980.")

Class Attendance Policy

Students are expected to attend all class periods for the courses in which they are enrolled. They are responsible for conferring with individual professors regarding any missed assignments. Faculty members are to notify the Registrar when a student misses the equivalent of one, two, three, and four weeks of class periods in a single course. Under this policy, there is no distinction between “excused” and “unexcused” absences, except that a student may make up work
missed during an excused absence. A reminder of the college’s attendance policy will be issued to the student at one week, a second reminder at two weeks, a warning at three weeks, and notification of administrative withdrawal and the assigning of an “F” grade at four weeks. Students who are administratively withdrawn from more than one course will be
placed on probation or suspended.

In this class attendance and participation count for 5% of your final grade. It is the student's responsibility to check this online syllabus at least once a week in case the schedule is changed. Be sure to check your e-mail every day. This is Lyon College policy, and it is the main way I communicate with students outside class. If you are having problems with your Lyon email, contact Information Services at


Students seeking reasonable accommodations based on documented learning disabilities must contact the Provost at 870-307-7332.

Harassment, Discrimination, and Sexual Misconduct

Title IX and Lyon’s policy prohibit harassment, discrimination and sexual misconduct. Lyon encourages anyone experiencing harassment, discrimination or sexual misconduct to talk to Clarinda Foote, Title IX Coordinator, or Patrick Mulick, Dean of Students and Title IX Investigator, about what happened so they can get the support they need and Lyon can respond appropriately. Lyon is legally obligated to respond to reports of sexual misconduct, and therefore we cannot guarantee the confidentiality of a report, unless made to a confidential resource (Chaplain, Counselor, or Nurse). As a faculty member, I am required to report possible Title IX violations and must provide our Title IX coordinator with all relevant details. I cannot, therefore, guarantee confidentiality.



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 (e.g., a digital story), a presentation, a research paper, or some combination of all of these.. (Keep in mind a project or 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, Evans and McDaniel, 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 and an educated public audience about the topic, and be sure to provide a bibliography of sources consulted, handouts, and a short written summary of your presentation.  All students mus meet with me before spring 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 Schoology. Journal responses need only be a couple of paragraphs, but should demonstrate thoughtfulness and understanding of the readings.

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, community breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, warming center programs, etc.); Family Violence Prevention and Rape Crisis Center; 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 IN ADVANCE FOR WHERE THEY DO THEIR SERVICE HOURS. 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.


Take-home Exams: 50%
E-journals: 16%
Service Hours: 10%
Final Project/Paper: 20%
Attendance/Participation: 4%

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.


Weekly Assignments:
Jan 10-12
Introduction to course
Jan 17-19
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 11:59 p.m. Jan 19.
Jan 24-26
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 11:59 p.m. Jan 26
Jan 31
Conclude discussion of Lovin's book [First take-home exam distributed on Jan 31 and due back by 11:59 p.m. on Feb 3.  E-mail the exam as a Word attachment.]
Feb 2-7
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 11:59 p.m. Feb 7
Feb 9-16
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 Feb 16 and due back by 11:59 on Feb 19]
Feb 21-23
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 11:59 p.m. Feb 22
Feb 28-Mar 2
Read chs. 6-10 of Moral Man and Immoral Society: A Study in Ethics and Politics by Reinhold Niebuhr
[Third take-home exam distributed on Mar 2, due by 11:59 p.m. on Mar 4]
Mar 6-10
Mar 14-16
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 11:59 p.m. Mar 16.
Mar 21-23
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 Mar 23 and due 11:59 p.m. on Mar 25]
Mar 28-30
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 11:59 p.m. Mar 30
Apr 4-6
Read pp. 196-229 in A Community of Character by Stanley Hauerwas
[Fifth take-home exam distributed on Apr 6 and due 11:59 p.m. Apr 8]
Apr 11-13
Read pp. 1-98 in A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans ("October" through "January") this is a fast read)
E-journal#7: After reading this section of Rachel Held Evans' book, how would you compare her approach to ethics with our previous authors? Due by 11:59 p.m. Apr. 13
Apr 18
Read pp. 99-249 ("February" through "July") in A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans
Apr 20
Read pp. 250-308 ("August" until end of year) in A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans
Apr 25-27
Continue discussion of A Year of Biblical Womanhood
E-journal#8: Look up various definitions of Christian feminism. Is Rachel Held Evans a feminist or not? Explain. Due by 11:59 p.m. Apr. 27
  • [Sixth take-home exam distributed on Apr 27 and due 11:59 p.m. Apr 29]

    Final Presentations TBA

    © 2011-17 Paul Custodio Bube