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Posts Tagged ‘ethics’

Only if we back off some distance from the actual content of the Pauline letters can we posit a dichotomy between Paul’s theology and his ethics — or between kerygma [κήρυγμα] (the proclamation of the gospel) and didache [διδαχὴ] (the teaching of standards of conduct), or between indicative (what God has done in Christ) and imperative (what human beings are called upon to do). The more closely we read Paul’s letters, the more fragile there familiar dichotomies appear. In these texts, it is difficult to draw a clear distinction between theology and ethics. They are packing together, under pressure: specific pastoral problems in Paul’s churches elicit his theological reflection. Thus, we see theology in progress, unfolding. Paul is not simply repeating already formulated doctrines; rather he is theologizing as he writes, and the constant aim of his theological reflection is to shape the behavior of his churches. Theology is for Paul never merely a speculative exercise; it is always a tool for constructing community.(18)

Richard B. Hays, Moral Vision of the New Testament (1996)

El Greco, St. Paul (1606)

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I certainly do not mean to deny that people of character may possess extraordinary self-awareness.  What I want to deny, however, is that such self-awareness is a necessary correlative to having character . . . In this respect I think the emphasis on character in our cultural situation may have connotation with which I am very unsympathetic.  Character tends to suggest to us a heroic conception of the moral life . . . Thus it is people who are able to stand against the “crowd,” who go their own way, who are often seen as persons of character.  While certainly such people may be persons of character, it is important that they not be taken as paradigmatic examples of character.  The Mennonite farmer in central Indiana may be quite happy in his community and strikingly “unaware” of himself, but that in no way disqualifies him from being a person of character.  This examples helps remind us  that “consciousness” is not a quality inherent to the individual, but rather is a skill made possible by our participation in a substantive community with an equally substantive history. (81-82)

Stanley Hauerwas, A Retrospective Assessment of an “Ethic of Character” : The Development of Hauerwas’s Theological Project (1985, 2001), from The Hauerwas Reader (2001)

Mennonite farmer transporting load of tobacco, near Lancaster. (Website)

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