I’ve just made it through my first semester teaching a class called Ethical Reasoning. It was definitely one of my more enjoyable teaching experiences, particularly examining the many ways of assessing morality in relation to various contemporary moral issues.
- Utilitarianism and violence
- The Bible and sexuality
- Ethical Egoism and social justice
- Relativism and religious ethics
- Social Contract theory and government
- The Sermon on the Mount and everyday life.
These are just a few of the things we got to reflect on together. Considering such diversity in ethics, one word came up several times throughout the semester: “complexity.”
To some, accepting complexity can seem like a cop-out to addressing difficult moral issues. And yes, there is the risk of accepting complexity as way to end discussion on difficult matters - “Oh well, that’s just too complex to really know the answer to.” Yet to ignore complexity in today’s discussion of Christianity and ethics is to be...well, ignorant.
One of my goals for the course, beyond recognizing where complexity lies, was for students to engage the complexity. Not run from it, but not just embrace it either. As Christians, I think we have a responsibility to honestly engage the world we live in. And yes, this is hard work. It takes time. It takes others. It takes prayer. It takes discernment of biblical texts and current culture. In a word, Christian ethics is complex. And so my aim in this class - and life in general - is to not only seek answers to the complexity of ethics today (we did some of that), but also explore what it means to live faithfully in the midst of the complexity.
In many ways, the advent of Immanuel (“God-with-us”) at Christmas provides a needed grid for life and ethics. Engaging the complexity, we find God with us in the complexity.