The transformation of persons and the concept of moral order : a study of the evangelical ethics of Oliver O'Donovan with special reference to the Barth-Brunner debate
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This dissertation investigates the evangelical ethics of Prof. Oliver O’Donovan in order to explore the implications of his “evangelical realism” for theological anthropology, moral knowledge and the concept of moral order. The Barth-Brunner debate regarding natural theology provides a lens onto these issues. Theological case studies are used to test our findings. Chapter 1 provides an overture to these issues, paying attention to current ideas about human nature and morality, and the growing influence of neuroscience and evolutionary psychology. Chapter 2 focuses on Resurrection and Moral Order, elucidating the salient factors in its outline for evangelical ethics. Chapter 3 diagnoses the challenges which a dialectical epistemology presents to the development of a doctrine of evangelical ethics. Chapter 4 delves into O’Donovan’s treatment of the Barth-Brunner debate over natural theology, and discovers therein an illuminating correspondence between O’Donovan’s ethics and the concept of a human “capacity for revelation” (Offenbarungsmächtigkeit), which became a hinge issue in the debate. This provides a helpful lens onto O’Donovan’s concept of moral order. Chapter 5 examines the intrinsic connection between the concept of moral order and the epistemic role of faith. Kierkegaard’s treatment of the paradoxical aspects of faith as an event of epistemic access figures prominently in this analysis. Chapter 6 brings together the results of our analysis and applies them to the thesis that: the transformation of persons lies at the heart of evangelical ethics. The cosmology of faith emerges as a critical hermeneutical factor in the development of a doctrine of evangelical ethics. We explore here the doctrinal implications for Trinitarian theology. Chapter 7 draws out practical implications of our thesis. We see the central place of prayer and worship in evangelical ethics, and point out implications for teaching. Lastly, we show practical applications of our thesis by examining the bio-ethical issues of human reproductive technologies, with special attention to O’Donovan’s work, Begotten or Made?
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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