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The class I’m most excited to teach this semester is Christian Ethics. It’s a new class for me, and I always enjoy teaching new classes because you sort of figure it out with the students as you go. Plus, preparing for the class has meant reading outside my normal research area. Here are the primary textbooks for the class:

Instead of a welcome video, I’ve shared the theme song for the class, Right? by Sioux Center’s own local superstars, The Ruralists. The chorus captures the simple yet agonizing question that will drive our discussion: “How do you do the right thing?”

A few things we’ll try to accomplish in our class:

  • Complete a close reading of the recently translated first volume of Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Ethics.
  • Spend the first half of the class building a theological framework for Christian ethics, thinking carefully about ancient ethical proposals from Plato and Aristotle as well as three contemporary approaches: utilitarianism, deontology, and virtue ethics.
  • Spend the second half of class talking through some of the most pressing ethical debates of our day, including racial inequity, poverty and income inequality, health care, abortion, human sexuality, climate change, immigration, and war. We’ll use the recently published book Discerning Ethics, to which I contributed a chapter on social and entertainment media (but I won’t make them read it since they live it every day).

I will do some lecturing, but the bulk of the class will involve seminar-style discussions of our readings, both the course texts listed above as well as some of the following:

  • Plato, Republic book 1
  • Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Book I
  • Aquinas, “On Happiness”
  • Richard Hays, “Scripture-Shaped Community”
  • Machiavelli, The Prince (selections)
  • Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind (selections)
  • J.H. Yoder, “Nonresistance and the Aeons”
  • Stanley Hauerwas, “Abortion, Theologically Understood”
  • Stanley Hauerwas, “Sex in Public”
  • Gustavo Gutierrez, “A Theology of Liberation”
  • Sojourner Truth, “Ain’t I A Woman?”
  • James Cone, “A Black Theology of Liberation”
  • Walter Rauschenbusch, “Social Gospel”
  • Pope Francis, Laudato Si
  • The Belhar Confession + The Contemporary Testimony (Our World Belongs to God)

The best part of leading discussions with bright students is that you have no idea where the discussion will go. I’m looking forward to learning at least as much as I teach. Can you tell I’m excited for this class?

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