Tijdschrift voor Theologie vol:51 issue:1 pages:47-60
In view of the present diversity and fragmentation within theological ethics, this article proposes the perspective of ‘theological anthropology’ as an integrating focus for the discipline as a whole. Using the traditional triptych ‘creation, salvation, eschatology’, some fundamental moral theological challenges in the context of contemporary culture are presented. The first part of the article explores how to articulate that human beings are created in the image of God within the personalistic tradition as well as the renewed natural law approach. Given the current emphasis on the concrete history and particularity of human beings – which is in line with a general cultural focus on the recognition of difference – it is proposed that the first fundamental ethical challenge is the search for universality. A brief comparison of recent issues on natural law in Communio and Concilium points to the need of a complex dialogical process, oriented toward discovering shared realities and links that reveal the interconnectedness between the self and the other. In the second part it is indicated how the classical discourse on sin and grace is partly replaced by an ‘ethics of the victim’, in which vulnerability and transcendence are key terms. This turn to the victim opens up important perspectives for moral theology; however, in the present context of a ‘culture of fear’ it may foster new forms of legalism. As a fundamental challenge, the retrieval of the critical potential of ‘grace’ for moral theology is proposed. This would offer an alternative for the negative anthropology, which is implicit in influential secular and religious ethical trends that focus on security and control. A theology of grace would stimulate a climate of trust and freedom instead of fear and suspicion. The future model for ethics would not be crisis management, but the art of improvisation (S. Wells), understood as a dynamic process of encountering new and unexpected goodness. The whole article is written in an eschatological key. The fundamental intuition is that the Good is not a priori given, but a promise present, waiting in the concrete realities human beings share.