Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

, Volume 4, Issue 4, pp 349–364 | Cite as

Theological Ethics, Moral Philosophy, and Natural Law

  • Svend Andersen


The article deals with the relationship between theological ethics and moral philosophy. The former is seen as a theoretical reflection on Christian ethics, the latter as one on secular ethics. The main questions asked are: (1) Is there one and only one pre-theoretical knowledge about acting rightly? (2) Does philosophy provide us with the theoretical framework for understanding both Christian and secular ethics? Both questions are answered in the negative. In the course of argument, four positions are presented: theological ‘unificationism’, philosophical ‘unificationism’, theological ‘separationism’ and Lutheran ‘dualism’. It is argued that the latter position is most convincing. It is dual in the sense of being both a theory of Christian ethics and of including a recognition of natural law. Hence, it unites a particularistic and a universalistic point of view. In the last section a reformulation of the Lutheran position is attempted in making use of the ethical theory of Knud E. Løgstrup's The Ethical Demand.

Christian ethics secular ethics Lutheran ethics natural law particularism universalism ethics of interdependence 


  1. Andersen, S., Rationality and Lutheran Ethics, in A. Bondolfi, et al. Ethik, Vernunft und Rationalität/Ethics, Reason and Rationality. Münster: Lit, 1997, pp. 169–187.Google Scholar
  2. Bexell, G., and Grenholm, C.-H., Teologisk Etik. En Introduktion. Stockholm: Verbum, 1997.Google Scholar
  3. Hare, J.E., God's Call. Michigan/Cambridge: William B. Eerdmans, 2001.Google Scholar
  4. Hauerwas, S., The Peaceable Kingdom. A Primer in Christian Ethics. London: SCM Press, 1984.Google Scholar
  5. Hütter, R., Evangelische Ethik als kirchliches Zeugnis. Interpretationen zu Schlüsselfragen theologischer Ethik in der Gegenwart. Neukirchen: Neukirchener Verlag, 1993.Google Scholar
  6. Kant, I., Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten. Riga: Hartknoch, 1785.Google Scholar
  7. Kierkegaard, S., Works of Love. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995.Google Scholar
  8. Luther, M. [1520], Von der Freiheit eines Christenmenschen, Weimarer Ausgabe Bd. 7. Weimar: Hermann Böhlau, 1835–1904.Google Scholar
  9. Luther, M. [1520], Von den guten Werken, Weimarer Ausgabe Bd. 6.Google Scholar
  10. Luther, M. [1523], Von weltlicher Obrigkeit, Weimarer Ausgabe Bd. 11.Google Scholar
  11. Løgstrup, K.E., The Ethical Demand. Notre Dame: Notre Dame University Press, 1997.Google Scholar
  12. Martensen, H.L. Die christliche Ethik etc. Berlin: Reuther, –.Google Scholar
  13. Phillips, D.Z., Religious Beliefs as Language Games, in B. Mitchell (ed)., Philosophy of Religion. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971.Google Scholar
  14. Calixt, G., Ethische Schriften, Inge Mager (Hrsg.), Werke in Auswahl, Hrsg. v. der Abteilung für Niedersächsische Kirchengeschichte an den Vereinigten Theologischen Seminaren der Universität Göttingen, Band 3, Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1970. Bystaevnet 16 DK-8520 Lystrup Denmark Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Svend Andersen
    • 1
  1. 1.LystrupDenmark

Personalised recommendations