I blame Mike Williams. By the time I started my ordination training, he was no longer principal of the Northern Ordination Course, but he was brought back to teach Ethics in, I think, the final year. And it was fascinating.
In many ways Mike was like the lecturer that taught us thermodynamics at Leicester University. Unlike the other lecturers, he called himself Mr., not Dr., and always looked and behaved more like he was the departmental caretaker. In my memory his lectures took the following pattern: He would explain why something was impossible to measure (e.g. pressure of a gas), and then start on a series of assumptions about atoms and things, all of which were very reasonable, and which he always pointed out the limitations of, then stuck to. While he was doing this, he was recording this in symbols with chalk on the board. Eventually he would get to a point where he would say something like ‘if this, which is very small, we now make tend to zero, then this becomes this, this becomes negligible, and here is the expression for the relationship we can use to measure the gas pressure. Smiled, and walked out.
What Mike was able to do was to explain the different way people in different cultures (Buddhist, French Jewish, Hindu…) and with wacky intellects (Hauerwas is one I remember) and show us how, as they explored their reasoning ever more honestly and reflectively, it ended up Christian, whether they realised it or not.
If you seek the fundamental rules by which to make ethical decisions that genuinely reflects who we are as people, you end up agreeing with Jesus’ perspective. I am the way, the truth and the life.
And, like Jess said yesterday, ethics is about keeping company with God, and making decisions from there.
I suspect in this blog I may be just talking to myself after a Nexus session on medical ethics where everybody pitched in. It was great company. Thanks to all of you!