Religions (Journal)

Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesEditor of research journal


'The Provinces of Moral Theology' guest edited by Dafydd Mills Daniel, containing 11 articles by international scholars

‘“You have a very short memory,” returned the monk. “Did I not inform you a little ago that…in matters of morality we are to follow, not the ancient fathers, but the modern casuists?”’ (Blaise Pascal, Letter VI).

Even leaving aside its title, Pascal’s Lettres provinciales, point to how the history of moral theology is a history of debates about provinces – and how thinking in terms of provinces also allows us to access contemporary debates, movements, and developments in moral theology and religious ethics.

When Pascal sent his letters to a fictional friend in the provinces, it was to convey his Jansenist objections to Jesuit casuistry as the dominant model for moral theology in the academy and the Roman Catholic church; an opposition which made Pascal’s Provincial Letters popular in a different province of Christianity: seventeenth-century Anglicanism. The return of casuistry was heralded in the 20th century with the rise of bioethics (Albert Jonsen, Stephen Toulmin, James Childress); a rise which has been criticised for leading to a contemporary focus on ‘hard problems’ in medical ethics, encouraging Christian moral theology to stray from its true province(s) (Stanley Hauerwas), while simultaneously making it less provincial (at least in Michael Banner’s sense of quotidian). However, debates in medical ethics have been an opportunity for reflecting on the contribution specifically Christian virtues can make to contemporary concerns in health care (Robin Gill, Joshua Hordern), just as the wider field of theological practical ethics has been informed by reflection on issues in the provinces of sexuality, race, gender, and identity (Margaret Farley, Katie Cannon, Susan Parsons, Elizabeth Stuart, Miguel De La Torre). At the same time, the Anscombe-Foot-MacIntyre re-emergence of virtue ethics in the province of moral philosophy, has furthered questions about the relationship between Christian moral theology and secular liberalism, and whether Christian ethics can be active in the province of the contemporary public sphere (Nigel Biggar, Oliver O’Donovan, Robin Lovin, Eric Gregory, John Milbank, Kathryn Tanner). Moreover, a question about Christian ethics and the public sphere, raises the further question of whether ‘moral theology’ and ‘Christian ethics’ are themselves different provinces, because they comprise different practices and methodological approaches, or because of the way we have tended to interpret leading figures, concepts, and denominations through history (D. Stephen Long, Peter Sedgwick, Charles Curran, Brian Brock, Samuel Wells, Jean Porter, Jennifer Herdt).

This special issue invites submissions on the theme of the provinces of moral theology and religious ethics in any of the senses indicated above. And although Christian moral theology has been used to indicate such provinces, this special issue would also welcome submissions focusing on the provinces of theological ethics in other religions or comparative religious ethics.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word province can mean simply ‘a country, territory, district, or region’, as well as ‘the parts of a country outside the capital or chief seat of government’. Province can also refer to an area under the particular ‘jurisdiction’ of a governing authority, as well as ‘an administrative division of certain countries or states; a principal division of a kingdom or empire, especially one with a distinct historical or linguistic identity’.

Reflecting on the theme of the provinces of (or the provinces within) moral theology and Christian ethics, articles might explore the word provinces in a pejorative sense. Such articles could defend or challenge what they consider to be provincial within contemporary moral theology and religious ethics, whether the concern is with how we approach individual theologians, ethical concepts, practical issues, or intellectual traditions. Articles might also ask why moral theology and religious ethics have sometimes been looked upon as provincial from within particular religions, religious denominations, or other disciplines in theology and religious studies.

Articles might also seek to define the provinces of moral theology and religious ethics by demonstrating in which areas it is or should be active. Here articles could examine how moral theology and religious ethics address a theoretical or practical ethical issue, and whether they can or should do so while employing material from, for example, sociology, ethnography, history, public policy, philosophy.

At the same time, articles could assess whether moral theology and religious ethics are or comprise distinctive provinces, and, if they do, what that means for the discussion of ethical issues between different religions, religious denominations, or the religious and nonreligious.
PeriodJan 2020Jun 2021
Type of journalJournal
Degree of RecognitionInternational