Today the director of CISRS, Goodwin Shiri led the session on Christian Ethics. It was supposed to be a Ethics methdology lecture, but became only an Ethics lecture.

While I am more convinced that even UTC students (and faculty) don’t always get their methdology right… still, I did learn something.

The most important reminder was that there has been a paradigm shift in the mid 20th century that has affected various disciplines. For instance, the praxis oriented theology post-liberation theology… is not just one example. Even Christian Ethics has been influenced by a similar movement.

This is important to remember especially for historical surveys of Asian/Indian theology of the 20th Century. Without recognising this paradigm shift… we would only depict a flat picture of the movement/processes of theology in these regions.

As for ethics… the main thrust of the class was encapsulated in the three-fold ethical orientation: Deontological, Teleological and Responsible/Relational.

Usually (often), Christianity tends to function with the Deontological orientation, which is the law-based ethical system that emphasises timeless right and wrong.

The post-puritan era has also seen Christianity function within the teleological system where the end (eschatology) determines good and bad (ie, heavenly kingdom, perfect state etc).

Both these positions have weakness, the first is categorically, unmindful of diversity and cultural conditioning of laws. The second is problematic because it is other-worldly.

The Responsble-Relational ethical system, according to Shiri, is the corrective to both systems coming through the paradigm shift. It does not replace the above (because all are needed), but important keeps Love as the central ethical premise. Therefore, in love, ethics is situational… certain conditions determine varied action… ie Jesus’ treatment of the adulteress etc.

I think I differ from Shiri in that the paradigm shift is not the above, but a further development of this model, where love is defined particularly as social action, having a liberative motif etc. Ie… you do not love, if you are not involved in the liberation of the poor/oppressed. This prioritisation… sometimes concious, sometimes unconcious, it the extension of Responsible-Relational system, which in the earlier avatar is more universally accepted accross evangelicalism as well.

The afternoon session was a discussion of ethical issues, prostitution, homosexuality, mass-poverty, and cloning. Nothing new was added, and it was a thoroughly disappointing session.

Still, I enjoyed today, for the morning lessons… and my own extended methodological thinking.

Already, I’m gaining clarity on what my PhD topic would be… and how I could shape it. Exciting times, these!

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