“Ethical Instruction and the Churches”
Benson, George “Ethical Instruction and the Churches.” Religious Education 69, no. 5 (1974): 568–78.
Benson laments that amidst a “gigantic movement towards crime,” (569) churches have relinquished their traditional role of ethical instruction and teaching the Mosaic law, to be replaced by attention to social action, psychological (Freud) and philosophical theories. Benson analyzes the curriculum material of different faith communities and finds four overlapping approaches to ethical instruction: 1) indirect, 2) hard-sell, 3) integrated, 4) Jewish (decision-making grounded in Jewish tradition). The indirect values approach fosters students’ self-awareness and social commitment. The hard-sell approach teaches ethical responsibility in an assertive and direct manner as in Southern Baptist material. Christian Scientists and Mormons fall into the integrated approach—somewhere “between ethical absolutism and ethical avoidance,” or maintaining “a balance between questions of personal character, faith, and social responsibility” (574). Benson quotes DeWitt John: “From the viewpoint of the Christian Scientist … the solution does not lie either in viewing men as sinners or in reducing moral standards to a merely relative level. It lies in showing the individual that he can meet the demands of honesty, humanity, compassion, temperance, because it is in accord with his real nature to do so” (The Christian Science Way of Life, 185).
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