Special Issue "The Provinces of Moral Theology and Religious Ethics"

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444). This special issue belongs to the section "Religions and Theologies".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 December 2020).

Special Issue Editor

Dr. Dafydd Mills Daniel
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Oxford, Oxford, OX2 6GG, UK
Interests: moral theology and Christian ethics; theories of moral conscience; ethical rationalism; theological, ethical, and political thought in the British Enlightenment; the philosophy and theology of education

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

‘“You have a very short memory,” returned the monk. “Did I not inform you a little ago that…in matters of morality we are to follow, not the ancient fathers, but the modern casuists?”’ (Blaise Pascal, Letter VI).

Even leaving aside its title, Pascal’s Lettres provinciales, point to how the history of moral theology is a history of debates about provinces – and how thinking in terms of provinces also allows us to access contemporary debates, movements, and developments in moral theology and religious ethics.

When Pascal sent his letters to a fictional friend in the provinces, it was to convey his Jansenist objections to Jesuit casuistry as the dominant model for moral theology in the academy and the Roman Catholic church; an opposition which made Pascal’s Provincial Letters popular in a different province of Christianity: seventeenth-century Anglicanism. The return of casuistry was heralded in the 20th century with the rise of bioethics (Albert Jonsen, Stephen Toulmin, James Childress); a rise which has been criticised for leading to a contemporary focus on ‘hard problems’ in medical ethics, encouraging Christian moral theology to stray from its true province(s) (Stanley Hauerwas), while simultaneously making it less provincial (at least in Michael Banner’s sense of quotidian). However, debates in medical ethics have been an opportunity for reflecting on the contribution specifically Christian virtues can make to contemporary concerns in health care (Robin Gill, Joshua Hordern), just as the wider field of theological practical ethics has been informed by reflection on issues in the provinces of sexuality, race, gender, and identity (Margaret Farley, Katie Cannon, Susan Parsons, Elizabeth Stuart, Miguel De La Torre). At the same time, the Anscombe-Foot-MacIntyre re-emergence of virtue ethics in the province of moral philosophy, has furthered questions about the relationship between Christian moral theology and secular liberalism, and whether Christian ethics can be active in the province of the contemporary public sphere (Nigel Biggar, Oliver O’Donovan, Robin Lovin, Eric Gregory, John Milbank, Kathryn Tanner). Moreover, a question about Christian ethics and the public sphere, raises the further question of whether ‘moral theology’ and ‘Christian ethics’ are themselves different provinces, because they comprise different practices and methodological approaches, or because of the way we have tended to interpret leading figures, concepts, and denominations through history (D. Stephen Long, Peter Sedgwick, Charles Curran, Brian Brock, Samuel Wells, Jean Porter, Jennifer Herdt).

This special issue invites submissions on the theme of the provinces of moral theology and religious ethics in any of the senses indicated above. And although Christian moral theology has been used to indicate such provinces, this special issue would also welcome submissions focusing on the provinces of theological ethics in other religions or comparative religious ethics.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word province can mean simply ‘a country, territory, district, or region’, as well as ‘the parts of a country outside the capital or chief seat of government’. Province can also refer to an area under the particular ‘jurisdiction’ of a governing authority, as well as ‘an administrative division of certain countries or states; a principal division of a kingdom or empire, especially one with a distinct historical or linguistic identity’.

Reflecting on the theme of the provinces of (or the provinces within) moral theology and Christian ethics, articles might explore the word provinces in a pejorative sense. Such articles could defend or challenge what they consider to be provincial within contemporary moral theology and religious ethics, whether the concern is with how we approach individual theologians, ethical concepts, practical issues, or intellectual traditions. Articles might also ask why moral theology and religious ethics have sometimes been looked upon as provincial from within particular religions, religious denominations, or other disciplines in theology and religious studies.

Articles might also seek to define the provinces of moral theology and religious ethics by demonstrating in which areas it is or should be active. Here articles could examine how moral theology and religious ethics address a theoretical or practical ethical issue, and whether they can or should do so while employing material from, for example, sociology, ethnography, history, public policy, philosophy.

At the same time, articles could assess whether moral theology and religious ethics are or comprise distinctive provinces, and, if they do, what that means for the discussion of ethical issues between different religions, religious denominations, or the religious and nonreligious.

Dr. Dafydd Mills Daniel
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Religions is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1200 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • moral theology
  • religious ethics
  • comparative ethics
  • practical ethics
  • metaethics
  • normative ethics
  • history of ethics

Published Papers (10 papers)

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Research

Article
Recognition and Responsibility
Religions 2021, 12(7), 467; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12070467 - 25 Jun 2021
Viewed by 451
Abstract
While the concept of responsibility is a cornerstone of Christian ethics, recognition theory still lacks a thorough theological–ethical analysis. This essay seeks to fill the gap and develop normative ethics of recognition and responsibility. The first part provides a systematic analysis of the [...] Read more.
While the concept of responsibility is a cornerstone of Christian ethics, recognition theory still lacks a thorough theological–ethical analysis. This essay seeks to fill the gap and develop normative ethics of recognition and responsibility. The first part provides a systematic analysis of the conceptual elements of recognition, emphasizing the need to focus on misrecognition as a heuristic tool and ethical priority. While recognition coincides with responsivity and attentiveness in the encounter of self and other, responsibility adds to this the moral accountability for acts, practices, structures, and institutions, rendering recognition and responsibility interrelated but also distinct principles of morality. This normative analysis is then correlated to the hermeneutical, narrative ethics of Christian ethics. The founding narrative of biblical ethics, the Cain and Abel narrative in Gen 4, is interpreted as a dialectic of recognition and responsibility. Both exegesis and ethics profit from this interdisciplinary and correlative approach between philosophical and biblical ethics. Finally, the ethics of recognition and responsibility, which emerges from the Frankfurt School critical theory, is confronted with exemplary indigenous approaches focusing on mutual responsibility as the foundation of ecological ethics. Christian ethics of recognition and responsibility resonates with this approach, yet emphasizes the distinctiveness of human interactions and the demands of moral responsibility. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Provinces of Moral Theology and Religious Ethics)
Article
James Baldwin and the “Lie of Whiteness”: Toward an Ethic of Culpability, Complicity, and Confession
Religions 2021, 12(6), 447; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12060447 - 16 Jun 2021
Viewed by 611
Abstract
This article is an attempt to draw on James Baldwin’s depiction of white identity as the “the lie of whiteness” to tease out a nascent ethics that centers the role of genuine, honest confrontation with this so-called “lie.” In order to connect the [...] Read more.
This article is an attempt to draw on James Baldwin’s depiction of white identity as the “the lie of whiteness” to tease out a nascent ethics that centers the role of genuine, honest confrontation with this so-called “lie.” In order to connect the dots between excavation of Baldwin’s lie of whiteness and the provinces of religious ethics, we will explore the role that truth-telling plays in the form of something like a religious notion of confession, limiting our engagement with confession to an honest and genuine encounter with culpability and responsibility through truth-telling. The analysis will be guided by several questions: how might a genuine reckoning with the reality and prevalence of what Baldwin intimately describes about whiteness and its connection to anti-black racism be understood morally? How might this confrontation with the truth be understood in relation to a religious concept like confession, as defined above? Finally, how might this process of confrontation further expose the machinations of Baldwin’s “lie of whiteness” and, in so doing, offer an ethical response that includes culpability and complicity? In so doing, this article seeks to begin sketching out an ethics of the role of confession in the struggle against the evils of anti-black racism, through direct engagement with Baldwin’s description of the “lie of whiteness.” Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Provinces of Moral Theology and Religious Ethics)
Article
Mapping Muslim Moral Provinces: Framing Feminized Piety of Pakistani Diaspora
Religions 2021, 12(5), 356; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12050356 - 18 May 2021
Viewed by 583
Abstract
Over the last two decades we have seen a proliferation in the number of self-proclaimed Islamic scholars preaching piety to Muslim women. An emerging few of these scholars gaining prominence happen to be women, feminizing what is predominantly a patriarchal domain of dawah [...] Read more.
Over the last two decades we have seen a proliferation in the number of self-proclaimed Islamic scholars preaching piety to Muslim women. An emerging few of these scholars gaining prominence happen to be women, feminizing what is predominantly a patriarchal domain of dawah (missionary work) and proselytization. Traditionally speaking, Muslim missionaries have never been restricted to a particular moral province, perhaps due to the fact that Islam was never intended as a hierarchical religion with a mosque–state divide. This makes mapping Muslim moral spaces in a hyper-globalized world—one in which shared identities and ideologies transcend territorial boundaries—all the more challenging. Using the firebrand female Muslim tele preacher, Dr. Farhat Hashmi, and her global proselytizing mission (Al-Huda International) as a springboard for discussion, this paper seeks to map out the ways in which modern Muslim women in the post-9/11 British Pakistani diaspora navigate these moral provinces. By juxtaposing the staunchly orthodox impositions of niqab-clad Dr. Hashmi, with the revolt from within Muslim spaces, from practicing, ‘middle-path’ Muslims, this paper critically engages with Saba Mahmood’s concept of the ‘politics of piety’ and its various critiques. In so doing, we reimagine Muslim spaces, as well as the moralization versus multivocality debate surrounding them, and the importance of positioning agency and complex lived realities of women occupying these spaces at the center of our analysis on Muslim moral provinces. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Provinces of Moral Theology and Religious Ethics)
Article
Living Islam in Prison: How Gender Affects the Religious Experiences of Female and Male Offenders
Religions 2021, 12(5), 298; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12050298 - 23 Apr 2021
Viewed by 508
Abstract
Addressing a significant gap in the knowledge of female Muslim prisoners’ religiosity, this paper describes and explains the gendered impact of incarceration on the religiosity of Muslim female and male offenders. Based on quantitative and qualitative data collected in ten prisons, including a [...] Read more.
Addressing a significant gap in the knowledge of female Muslim prisoners’ religiosity, this paper describes and explains the gendered impact of incarceration on the religiosity of Muslim female and male offenders. Based on quantitative and qualitative data collected in ten prisons, including a male and female prison in England and a male and female prison in Switzerland, the authors show that prison tends to intensify the religiosity of Muslim men and reduce the religiosity of Muslim women. In explanation of this, the authors argue that, at the individual level, the feelings of guilt at the absence of family, the absence of high-status religious forms of gender and feelings of trauma and victimhood impact negatively on Muslim female offenders’ religiosity. At the institutional level, female Muslim prisoners, being a small minority, do not mobilise a powerful shared religious identity and chaplaincy provision—including provision of basic religious services—is patchier for Muslim women than it is for men and often does not take into account the specific needs of female prisoners. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Provinces of Moral Theology and Religious Ethics)
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Article
Moral Intuition, Social Sin, and Moral Vision: Attending to the Unconscious Dimensions of Morality and Igniting the Moral Imagination
Religions 2021, 12(5), 292; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12050292 - 22 Apr 2021
Viewed by 388
Abstract
This paper argues that the unconscious dimensions of the moral life—for example, moral vision, moral imagination, and distorted consciousness—are some of the most urgent provinces of moral theology today. Historically, moral theology was concerned with moral quandaries and observable actions, and moral agents [...] Read more.
This paper argues that the unconscious dimensions of the moral life—for example, moral vision, moral imagination, and distorted consciousness—are some of the most urgent provinces of moral theology today. Historically, moral theology was concerned with moral quandaries and observable actions, and moral agents were understood to be rational, deliberate, self-aware decision makers. Cultures of sin, such as racism and sexual violence, require that moral theologians reconceive of moral agency. Confronting these unconscious dimensions of the moral life requires integrating research in disciplines such as science, sociology, history, and anthropology with Christian ethics, pushing the boundaries of what has traditionally been understood to be the domain of moral theology. As an example, this paper draws upon the mutually reinforcing theories of moral intuition, developed by social and moral psychologists, and recent theories of social sin in Christian ethics, arguing that attention to the unconscious province of the moral life is necessary for developing an accurate conception of moral agency and for future work in moral formation. This paper concludes with a modest proposal for how stories might enable awareness of our distorted consciousness. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Provinces of Moral Theology and Religious Ethics)
Article
Public Moral Discourse
Religions 2021, 12(4), 255; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12040255 - 06 Apr 2021
Viewed by 449
Abstract
Public moral discourse encompasses open discussions in which moral concepts of good and right are brought to bear on questions of public policy and on broader issues of basic rights and the goals and rules that guide social institutions. These public questions also [...] Read more.
Public moral discourse encompasses open discussions in which moral concepts of good and right are brought to bear on questions of public policy and on broader issues of basic rights and the goals and rules that guide social institutions. These public questions also raise practical, apologetic, and political concerns that are central to Christian ethics and moral theology. Public discourse frames legal and political understandings of religious freedom, and Christian ethics has a practical interest in ensuring that these choices do not limit Christian worship and formation or unduly restrict the institutional life of the church. Public discourse also engages apologetic theology in a moral task because the questions raised in public discourse involve conceptions of human good, human nature, and human community that have been discussed in Christian theology across the centuries. Christians have a distinctive understanding of persons in society that they hope to make effective, or at least to make understood, in a wider public discussion. Finally, public moral discourse gives rise to a moral responsibility for Christian participation in politics to create a public consensus on the creation of shared human goods. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Provinces of Moral Theology and Religious Ethics)
Article
Prison as a Site of Intense Religious Change: The Example of Conversion to Islam
Religions 2021, 12(3), 162; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12030162 - 03 Mar 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 786
Abstract
Based on the findings of mixed-methods research conducted with 279 Muslim prisoners in 10 prisons in England, Switzerland and France, this paper argues that contemporary European prisons are sites of intense religious change, in which many people born outside Islam and many born-Muslims [...] Read more.
Based on the findings of mixed-methods research conducted with 279 Muslim prisoners in 10 prisons in England, Switzerland and France, this paper argues that contemporary European prisons are sites of intense religious change, in which many people born outside Islam and many born-Muslims believe in and practise Islam for the first time. In order to map this experience of intense religious change in prison, the paper articulates an original typology of conversion to identify Muslim converts as Switchers and Intensifiers. Both of these types of convert mobilise their Islam to turn to God in acts of repentance for their crime(s), to find a renewed purpose in life and to re-gain psychological balance and inner peace. By contrast, a minority of prisoners are Reducers, whose Islamic faith diminishes in prison. A minority of converts to Islam also persist or become more deeply entrenched in the Islamist Worldview of Us vs. Them. Therefore, while choosing to follow Islam in prison carries with it some criminogenic risk, conversion to Islam is significantly more likely to help than to hinder prisoners’ rehabilitation by enabling them to feel remorse for their crimes, reconnecting them with work and education and encouraging them to find emotionally supportive company. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Provinces of Moral Theology and Religious Ethics)
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Article
Reassessing the Inculcation of an Anti-Racist Ethic for Christian Ministry: From Racism Awareness to Deconstructing Whiteness
Religions 2020, 11(10), 497; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11100497 - 29 Sep 2020
Viewed by 1547
Abstract
This paper outlines the means by which candidates training for Christian ministry are encouraged to engage with the deontological positionality of anti-racism as a substantive element of Christian praxis. The first part of the paper provides some brief historical reflections on what was [...] Read more.
This paper outlines the means by which candidates training for Christian ministry are encouraged to engage with the deontological positionality of anti-racism as a substantive element of Christian praxis. The first part of the paper provides some brief historical reflections on what was then the conventional approach to teaching an anti-racist ethic for Christian ministry, namely, the practice of “racism awareness”. Following these reflections, the author proceeds to outline the epistemological change that has occurred in his own ethical teaching, moving from the focus on racism awareness to a more critical, postcolonial deconstruction of Whiteness and its concomitant links to Mission Christianity. Mission Christianity, the religion that underpinned the British Empire, is identified as the repository that helped to institutionalise the existence of “white supremacy” and racism within the body politic of colonialism and the rise of notions of “manifest destiny”. In switching the modus operandi for an anti-racist ethic within Christian ministry, this paper seeks to reframe the ways in which the ethical basis for opposing and resisting racism is effected within Christian theology Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Provinces of Moral Theology and Religious Ethics)
Article
Suffering and Sacrifice in an Unfinished Universe: The Energy of Love
Religions 2020, 11(7), 335; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11070335 - 07 Jul 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1043
Abstract
Transhumanism is a cultural and philosophical movement that advocates human enhancement through technological means. Seeking to eradicate suffering and death and transcend the limits of biology, transhumanists celebrate the power of technology to transform human life. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was intrigued by [...] Read more.
Transhumanism is a cultural and philosophical movement that advocates human enhancement through technological means. Seeking to eradicate suffering and death and transcend the limits of biology, transhumanists celebrate the power of technology to transform human life. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was intrigued by computer technology and its potential to link humankind on a new level of a global mind. He has been labeled a forerunner of transhumanism; however, his theological vision is not about enhancement but transformation. He recognized that suffering and death are invaluable to the emergence of unitive love, exemplified in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Teilhard’s vision helps us realize that suffering in nature may appear as erratic and absurd; however, in light of God’s kenotic love, suffering is oriented toward freedom and the fullness of love. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Provinces of Moral Theology and Religious Ethics)
Article
Pathology, Therapeutic Discipline and Its Limits in Augustine: A Dialogue with Foucauldian Readings
Religions 2020, 11(7), 326; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11070326 - 02 Jul 2020
Viewed by 569
Abstract
Recently, there have been some attempts to reframe the Augustinian view of political realism in terms of the Foucauldian concept of resistance and discipline; attempts which resonate with another Foucauldian, post-colonial understanding of Augustine. This paper addresses both political realist and post-colonial ‘Foucauldian [...] Read more.
Recently, there have been some attempts to reframe the Augustinian view of political realism in terms of the Foucauldian concept of resistance and discipline; attempts which resonate with another Foucauldian, post-colonial understanding of Augustine. This paper addresses both political realist and post-colonial ‘Foucauldian approaches’ to Augustine, examining how Augustine envisages critical resistance and counter-disciplines in the midst of the earthly city’s domination. Redefining political realism as the tragic ambiguity of healing intermixed with disease, it will examine how Augustine allows (and offers) social criticism of the earthly city’s ethos, civic rituals and networks of disciplinary power, not least through the heavenly city’s counter-disciplines, including the sacraments, oration, rebuke, coercion, and civic virtues. It is argued that, as Augustine’s understanding of social criticism and counter-discipline is concerned with spiritual freedom and the effect of grace, it does not collapse into support for disciplinary measures of human control. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Provinces of Moral Theology and Religious Ethics)
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