The Problem of Teaching Ethics
Ryan Reeves offers a series on Lewis and Tolkien, taken from his classroom lectures at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. In this video, entitled C.S. Lewis, Theology and the Space Trilogy, he raises an interesting discussion point.
At a faculty retreat that was taken with a group of pastors, one of the professors from the seminary asked: what can we teach our theology students that we aren’t teaching? In other words, when the students graduate and you get them, on what subjects are they falling short?
The answer: you could teach six courses on ethics, and it still wouldn’t be enough. Not only would it not be enough, but the ethical issues we are facing are changing so fast that we can’t keep up.
Admittedly, ethical issues are changing very fast today. But ethical issues have always been changing, and, at other times, quite fast. We faced such issues in the 1960s regarding the sexual revolution and civil rights; in the 1920s regarding the family in post-war Europe especially; in the 1860s regarding slavery in the United States; in the 1790s regarding the use of the guillotine. I could continue traveling through time in reverse.
In other words, we have faced such change before, both in speed and magnitude. Unfortunately for us, each of those episodes preceded or followed a dramatic episode of violence. My first point is that we have gone through many periods where we can’t keep up. and this has come at a tremendous cost.
Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime
My main point: in teaching ethics, teaching the issues of the moment is insufficient – one is always teaching on how to deal with that which already happened. Each new question in ethics requires a new course to deal with that which has already overtaken society.
By the time a theological seminary or a university develops a new course, sends enough students through it, and those students then are in a position to make an impact in their community, the horse is out of the barn – followed by four additional horses for which new courses have yet to be developed or new students have yet to be taught.
Such a course of action – giving men fish – will never off
Article from LewRockwell