“Everyday Ethics: A Future for Moral Theology?”

How might a focus on “everyday ethics” shape the discipline and the methods of moral theology and religious ethics? What can attention to social practices teach us about moral formation, ethical citizenship, or human flourishing? What can moral theologians, philosophers, and social anthropologists learn from thoughtful and constructive engagement with each other?

These questions frame the McDonald Centre’s upcoming conference, “Everyday Ethics: A Future for Moral Theology?” to be held on 26–27 May, 2016, at the University of Oxford. The McDonald Centre, in collaboration with the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia, will welcome an esteemed group of theologians, ethicists, philosophers, and social anthropologists to explore how various disciplines might benefit from collaborative attention to the moral, spiritual, and secular practices of daily life.

Michael Banner’s recent book, Ethics of Everyday Life: Moral Theology, Social Anthropology, and the Imagination of the Human (OUP, 2014), provides our starting point. Proposing a new direction for moral theology, Banner suggests that the discipline should offer plausible and therapeutic narrations of everyday practices that take social anthropology, rather than moral philosophy, as their primary interlocutor. The conference will both critically evaluate Banner’s methodological proposal and also consider a number of everyday moral practices, including eating, learning, working, loving the neighbour, mobilizing citizens, using technology, and borrowing and spending. We anticipate a rich and fruitful dialogue as speakers and participants consider how attending to everyday moral practices such as these might shape the future of moral theology and its contribution to human flourishing.

Keynote speakers include:

  • Michael Banner, Fellow and Dean of Chapel, Trinity College, University of Cambridge, author of Ethics of Everyday Life: Moral Theology, Social Anthropology, and the Imagination of the Human
  • Luke Bretherton, Professor of Theological Ethics and Senior Fellow, Kenan Institute for Ethics, Duke University, author of Resurrecting Democracy: Faith, Citizenship, and the Politics of a Common Life and Christianity and Contemporary Politics
  • Brian Brock, Lecturer in Moral and Practical Theology, University of Aberdeen, author of Singing the Ethos of God: On the Place of Christian Ethics in Scripture
  • Molly Farneth, Assistant Professor of Religion, Haverford College
  • Craig Gay, Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies, Regent College, author of Cash Values: The Value of Money, the Nature of Worth
  • Eric Gregory, Professor of Religion, Princeton University, author of Politics and the Order of Love: An Augustinian Ethic of Democratic Citizenship, and What Do We Owe Strangers? Globalization and the Good Samaritan (forthcoming)
  • Jennifer Herdt, Gilbert L. Stark Professor of Christian Ethics, Yale University, author of Putting on Virtue: The Legacy of the Splendid Vices
  • Philip Lorish, Director, Project on Vocation and the Common Good, New Cities Common / Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, University of Virginia
  • Charles Mathewes, Carolyn M. Barbour Professor of Religious Studies, University of Virginia, author of A Theology of Public Life and The Republic of Grace
  • Rachel Muers, Senior Lecturer in Christian Ethics, University of Leeds, author of Living for the Future: Theological Ethics for Coming Generations, and co-author, Theology on the Menu: Asceticism, Meat and Christian Diet
  • Joel Robbins, Sigrid Rausing Professor of Social Anthropology, Trinity College, University of Cambridge, author of Becoming Sinners: Christianity and Moral Torment in a Papua New Guinea Society
  • Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury; Member of the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards; former treasurer of Enterprise Oil PLC; author of Can Companies Sin?: “Whether”, “How” and “Who” in Company Accountability

Registration details for the conference will be forthcoming.

Living with Trident

nuclear-submarine-HMS-Ven-008In May’s edition of the Scottish Review Nigel Biggar advances a detailed case in favour of preserving the UK’s nuclear deterrent in the form of the Trident submarine fleet.  The issue may prove to be pivotal in any forthcoming negotiations between the Labour Party and the Scottish National Party after today’s General Election.  For details of the symposium on this issue organised by the McDonald Centre in March, please see here.

International Symposium on Law and Religious Freedom


Nigel Biggar recently addressed an interdisciplinary symposium at the Centre of TheologicalInquiry, Princeton University, on the relationship between law and religious freedom, further details of which can be found here.

For Prof. Biggar’s response to John Witte’s paper on ‘Rights, Resistance, and Revolution: The Calvinist Contribution to Human Rights’ and for his own reflections on the nature of human rights, please click here.  The theme of this symposium will be the focus of our upcoming conference on May 21-22, tickets for which can be obtained here.

Justifying Trident?

vanguard_1819364cDefence policy promises to feature more
prominently in the 2015 UK General Election than in any in living memory (see the Director’s letter on the recent debate regarding the allocation of defence spending and international aid)

tridentnoOverwhelmingly, the most divisive and important defence-policy issue is the continued existence of the UK Trident programme. Its importance in national politics has been magnified by its pivotal role in the ongoing debate over Scottish Independence. Some commentators have suggested that a SNP-Labour coalition or (more likely) a ‘confidence-and-supply’ arrangement between the SNP and Labour in the wake of the latter’s likely electoral collapse in Scotland, could lead to the permanent closure of the programme.

On Friday 20 March, the McDonald Centre organised and hosted a colloquium on the question of nuclear deterrence, Trident, and Trident’s role in contemporary Scottish politics. Attendees included several highly experienced and distinguished experts from the civil service, academia, and journalism:

  • General Sir Hugh Beach, former Deputy Commander-in-Chief, U.K. Land Forces
  • Professor Nigel Biggar, Moral Theology, University of Oxford; author of In Defence of War
  • Peter Burt, Researcher, Nuclear Information Service
  • Desmond Bowen, former Director General of Policy at the M.o.D.
  • Professor Paul Cornish, Research Group Director, Defence, Security & Infrastructure at RAND Europe, Cambridge
  • Professor Andrew Dorman, International Security, Defence Academy and King’s College London; editor, International Affairs
  • Tom McKane, L.S.E. and R.U.S.I.; former Director General for Strategy, and Director General for Security Policy, at the M.o.D.
  • Dr James Orr, McDonald Postdoctoral Fellow in Christian Ethics and Public Life, University of Oxford
  • Professor Paul Schulte, Institute for Conflict, Cooperation, and Security, University of Birmingham
  • Dr Bruno Tertrais, Fondation pour la Recherche Stratégique, Paris; author of In Defense of Deterrence: The Relevance, Morality, and Cost-effectiveness of Nuclear Weapons (2011)
  • David Torrance, freelance journalist; author of Salmond: Against the Odds (2010)
  • Simon Webb, former Director General of Policy at the M.o.D.

Several of the participants attended a special edition of The World Tonight on BBC Radio 4 at Chatham House on the evening before the event, which examined the future of defence in the UK. The discussion can be viewed here on BBC iPlayer until 20 April 2015.  The colloquium itself was referred to in a recent article for the Glasgow Herald by one of the participants.