Sunday 21 June 2009

Lutheran Ethics, Abortion and George Tiller

As a person with a Lutheran background (somewhat convoluted and sidetracked admittedly, as most people who read this blog know) I found a recent university course on Christian ethics moderately distasteful in its carelessly assumed Calvinism. I prefer progressive Catholic teaching on ethics by far, and am especially impressed by the work of Daniel Maguire (not top of the bishops' hit parade by any stretch!) Maguire's A Moral Creed for All Christiansis worth a truckload of Reformed gnat-straining.

A specifically Lutheran approach to ethics, however, is hard to pin down. It's not the same as our Calvinist brethren, and often woefully negligent in specifics. I found this article by Ed Knudson, an ELCA pastor, fascinating because he actually tackles the ethical question, and in the difficult context of the recent murder of George Tiller, a doctor who performed abortions. Tiller was also a practicing Lutheran. Knudson goes as far as implying that he was a martyr.

I'm not sure how to evaluate Knudson's article. It needs time to "settle," and deserves a second (and third) reading before leaping to conclusions. Reservations? You bet. But definitely food for thought (and grist for fundagelical outrage, no doubt.)

Related Link: Online Journal of Public Theology.

Friday 19 June 2009

Hans Kung on Beginnings

Hans Kung is a brilliant scholar and among the most perceptive voices in Christendom. Reading his Christianity: Essence, History & Future (2004) is to subject oneself to a well-deserved slapping about the chops for intellectual laziness and historical ignorance from a writer whose rigor rises far above those charges. Mea culpa! Non-Catholics in particular should probably read Kung to get a flavor of the best-case-scenario for the church-to-come, both post-Ratzinger and post-Calvinist. Kung is a prophet ahead of his time.

Having said that, The Beginning of All Things: Science and Religionis a disappointment. Kung is outside his field, and doggy-paddling beyond his depth, a keen amateur out for a romp. Intelligent and articulate? That goes without saying. Convincing and authoritative? No. A good editor might pare the material down to a salvagable level by dumping a good third of the text, but even then I have my doubts. This book, unlike his others, is likely to date quickly. John Haught is the better communicator on the fault line between religion and science

Pommies posturing on Paul

BBC4 has a recent program on Paul the apostle available online for those with an interest in this pivotal figure. Some mildly interesting discussion hosted by the insufferable Melvyn Bragg, with a sizable dose of utter nonsense as well, and a lot of dim-witted posturing by the blokes, dressed up with upper-class accents. Possibly the only sane person in the studio is Helen Bond, if you don't fall asleep before she gets a chance to get a word in.

BBC programs only stay on the web for a short time, so "get it while it's still lukewarm."