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Introduction to Kierkegaard: The Religious Solution

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Preview — The Responsible Self by H. Richard Niebuhr ,. William Schweiker. The Responsible Self was H. Richard Niebuhr's most important work in Christian ethics. In it he probes the most fundamental character of the moral life and it stands today as a landmark contribution to the field. The Library of Theological Ethics series focuses on what it means to think theologically and ethically. It presents a selection of important and otherwise The Responsible Self was H.

It presents a selection of important and otherwise unavailable texts in easily accessible form. Volumes in this series will enable sustained dialogue with predecessors though reflection on classic works in the field. Get A Copy. Paperback , pages. More Details Original Title. Other Editions 4. The lump of bronze in our example is clearly distinct from The Thinker , since it can exist without The Thinker ; but it also clearly shares all the same matter in common with The Thinker , and hence, on this view, counts as the same material object.

Likewise, then, we might say that all it means for one person and another to be the same God is for them to do something analogous to sharing in common all of whatever is analogous to matter in divine beings.

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On this view, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are the same God but different persons in just the way a statue and its constitutive lump are the same material object but different form-matter compounds. Of course, God is not material; so this can only be an analogy. But still, it helps to provide an illuminating account of inter-trinitarian relations, and it does so in a way that seems at least initially to avoid both modalism and polytheism. Brower and Rea maintain that each person of the trinity is a substance ; thus, none is a mere aspect of a substance, and so modalism is avoided.

And yet they are the same substance ; and so polytheism is avoided. This account is not entirely free of difficulties however. Critics also object that this view does not directly answer the question of how many material objects are present for any given region, lump, or chunk. Is there an objective way of deciding how many objects are constituted by the lump of bronze that composes The Thinker?

Are there only two things statue and lump or are there many more paperweight, battering ram, etc. And if there are more, what determines how many there are? The doctrine of the Incarnation holds that, at a time roughly two thousand years in the past, the second person of the trinity took on himself a distinct, fully human nature.

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As a result, he was a single person in full possession of two distinct natures, one human and one divine. The Council of Chalcedon C. For example, it seems on the one hand that human beings are necessarily created beings, and that they are necessarily limited in power, presence, knowledge, and so on. On the other hand, divine beings are essentially the opposite of all those things.

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Thus, it appears that one person could bear both natures, human and divine, only if such a person could be both limited and unlimited in various ways, created and uncreated, and so forth. And this is surely impossible.

Two main strategies have been pursued in an attempt to resolve this apparent paradox. The first is the kenotic view. The second is the two-minds view. We shall take each in turn. According to this view, in becoming incarnate, God the Son voluntarily and temporarily laid aside some of his divine attributes in order to take on a human nature and thus his earthly mission. If the kenotic view is correct, then contrary to what theists are normally inclined to think properties like omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence are not essential to divinity: something can remain divine even after putting some or all of those properties aside.

The problem, however, is that if these properties aren't essential to divinity, then it is hard to see what would be essential. If we say that something can be divine while lacking those properties, then we lose all grip on what it means to be divine.


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One might respond to this worry by saying that the only property that is essential to divine beings as such is the property being divine. This reply, however, makes divinity out to be a primitive, unanalyzable property. Critics like John Hick 73 complain that such a move makes divinity out to be unacceptably mysterious.

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Alternatively, one might simply deny that any properties are necessary for divinity. It is widely held in the philosophy of biology, for example, that there are no properties possession of which are jointly necessary andsufficient for membership in, say, the kind humanity. That is, it seems that for any interesting property you might think of as partly definitive of humanity, there are or could be humans who lack that property. Thus, many philosophers think that membership in the kind is determined simply by family resemblance to paradigm examples of the kind.

Something counts as human, in other words, if, and only if, it shares enough of the properties that are typical of humanity. If we were to say the same thing about divinity, there would be no in-principle objection to the idea that Jesus counts as divine despite lacking omniscience or other properties like, perhaps, omnipotence, omnipresence, or even perfect goodness. One might just say that he is knowledgeable, powerful, and good enough that, given his other attributes, he bears the right sort of family resemblance to the other members of the Godhead to count as divine.

Some have offered more refined versions of the kenotic theory, arguing that the basic view mischaracterizes the divine attributes.

According to these versions of the kenotic view, rather than attribute to God properties like ommniscience, omipotence, and the like, we should instead say that God has properties like the following: being omniscient-unless-temporarily-and-freely-choosing-to-be-otherwise, being omnipotent-unless-temporarily-and-freely-choosing-to-be-otherwise, and so forth.

These latter sorts of properties can be retained without contradiction even when certain powers are laid aside. In this way, then, Jesus can divest himself of some of his powers to become fully human while still remaining fully divine. Feenstra, — Unfortunately, however, this response only raises a further question, namely: if Christ's incarnation required his temporarily surrendering omniscience, then his later exaltation must have involved continued non-omniscience or the loss of his humanity.

However, Christians have typically argued that the exalted Christ is omniscient while retaining his humanity. It is hard to see how this view can respond to such an objection.