CE 2505
Spring 2005 Carol Robb, SFTS
Tu, Fri: 11:00 to 12:30 crobb@sfts.edu
Office hours: Tu, Fri: 1:30 to 3 415-451-2870





An introduction to the discipline of Christian ethics, and to the literature of environmental ethics. We will approach the question of how to act responsibly and ecologically using public policy, philosophical, and theological perspectives. The focus issue this semester is this: FOOD.


This course satisfies the SFTS requirement for an elective in ethics, and also the PSR requirement.





The following objectives will guide our work through the semester, and should serve as the basis for evaluation of the usefulness of the course requirements and the whole course experience.

a. To use the tools of discourse in the discipline of ethics: articulate the strengths and weaknesses of the major modes of moral discourse, exercise critical judgment of the grounds for moral claims, practice engaging in speech for the public square.
b. To show a facility in the use of the language and concepts of ethics in the context of a particular issue of relevance to the ecology today.

c. To become conversant with theological language that helps the church reflect on ecological matters.

d. To develop the skills of argument: the ability to state one’s own stance, give reasons, acknowledge different points of view, and give reasons why those points of view are not compelling—all skills that members of worshipping communities could contribute to social debate on matters in conflict.

e. To give evidence that you can develop an independent position on a particular issue relevant to the course, and argue it.

f. Develop at least an early stage praxis of ecological living, and document new skills you have acquired to enrich that praxis of living more lightly on the earth.





    * Regular reading of the daily assignments, and informed participation in class discussion of the assignments. Several learning strategies will be used in our class sessions, but none of them will be productive without your prior preparation of the reading. Because some people’s default position is to verbalize easily, and other people’s default position is to quietly observe the proceedings, new learning for you may involve encouraging the silent to speak, or it may involve taking courage to speak up. Whatever, the goal is to create a learning environment where we can be stretched by new perspectives, and deepen our deliberations. To that end, one discipline we will use in this class is this: On those inevitable days when we have not been able to do the assigned reading, come to class, but do not participate in the discussion. The code word for “I am not prepared” is “Today I need to Pass.” This requirement will help you document you are achieving all the course objectives. (25% of grade)

    * Participation in the design and implementation of a class project. The project this class will choose is up to you, and will depend on the prior experience we bring into the class. Since the purpose of the project is to teach ourselves something new about how to take responsibility for ecological living, it is oriented toward practical skills. The purpose of the project is NOT to teach others. It is to teach ourselves. A very short reflection paper will allow you to document your new skills in living lightly on the earth. (25% of grade)

    * A midterm exam, in class, Tuesday, March 29. I will prepare study questions for this exam, and ask you to write answers to the questions and bring them to class for your use during the midterm exam, and turn them into me after, along with the in-class portion of the exercise. (25% of grade.) This requirement will allow you to document you are learning to use the major tools of discourse in ethics, in the context of ecological concerns.

    * A final paper. Due May 13. More than one model of paper may be appropriate. The main model is to argue a stance with respect to an environmental issue, consistent with objectives d. and e. in the section above. However, other models may be more useful for the kind of research you need to do. Along with the production of the written paper, you will be asked to communicate your research in a brief (9 or 10 minutes) but exciting way to your classmates. The paper should be 12 to 15 pages in length. You are encouraged, but not required, to work on this writing project with others in the class, (in groups not to exceed 3 members) and it is due May 13. The paper format should be consistent with Kate Turabian’s Guide to Writing of Term Papers and Theses, which includes the style acceptable to the JAAR, per seminary policy. (25% of grade)

    * We will use the inclusive language policy of SFTS and the GTU for verbal and written language about human beings and about God. This is a skill in the preparation of leadership for the churches, and also arguably consistent with the attempt to live with ecological integrity.

    * Because life in theological education involves whole persons, who have multiple important commitments, some of which require attention at the same time, deadlines for exams and papers are sometimes difficult to meet. I have found the best way to honor those multiple commitments and at the same time be fair to those who make sacrifices to meet the class deadlines is this: If you feel you need to request a small extension, negotiate with me about that first. If I agree to offer a small extension, your grade will be docked ½ point per day the paper is late (i.e. from a B to a B-).

    * Students with special needs should confer with me at the beginning of the class to make arrangements for how you will document that you have fulfilled the requirements for the course.



RELEVANCE OF COURSE TO HABITS AND SKILLS: This course should be relevant to students’ efforts to develop the habits of personal integrity, a sense of the impact of cultural and political situations on life and thought, a sense for grounding theology in practical reality, and hermeneutical responsibility in the interpretation of Scripture and all communication. Additionally, it should help students demonstrate skills relevant to leading in ethical witness to society and articulating the global witness and mission of the church. It may also help students prepare for non-congregational ministries.



William Baxter, People or Penguins, the case for optimal pollution (New York: Columbia, 1974).

Lester Brown, Who Will Feed China? World watch Institute.

Andrew Linzey, Animal Gospel, Westminster/John Knox Press

Lisa H. Newton, Ethics and Sustainability: Sustainable Development and the Moral Life ( Upper Saddle River: Prentice-Hall, 2003)

Paul W. Taylor, Respect for Nature: A Theory of Environmental Ethics (Princeton: Princeton University, 1986)

Lynn White Jr., “The Historical Root of the Environmental Crisis”

What is not prepared as a hand-out for you has been requested for the Reserve shelf (2 hour reserve) at the SFTS branch library.





Feb 1 Introduction to the course and to each other. In what ways is food a moral issue? Also address the question: What makes something right?


Feb 4 William F. Baxter, People or Penguins, Ch 1 and 2

Feb 8 Baxter, Ch 3 and 4

Feb 11 Baxter, Ch 5

Feb 15 Paul W. Taylor, Respect for Nature, Ch 1

Feb 18 Taylor, Ch 2

Feb 22 Taylor, Ch 3

Feb 25 Taylor, Ch 4

Mar 1 Taylor, Ch 5

Mar 4 Taylor, Ch 6

Mar 8 Lisa H. Newton, Ethics and Sustainability, Ch 1

Mar 11 Newton, Ch 2

Mar 15 Newton, Ch 3

Mar 18 Review. I pass out Study Questions.


Mar 29 Study Questions Due. In class writing exercise.


Apr 1 Lynn White Jr., “The Historical Roots of the Environmental Crisis”

Apr 5 Lester Brown, Who Will Feed China? Forward, Ch. 1-4

Apr 8 Brown, Ch 6, 9, 10

Apr 12 Shannon Jung, Food for Life, Preface, Ch 1 - 3

Apr 15 Jung, Ch 4-5

Apr 19 Jung, Ch 6-7

Apr 22 Andrew Linzey, Animal Gospel, Intro, Ch 15, 1,2,3,4

Apr 26 Linzey, Ch 5,6,8,9,10

Apr 29 Linzey, Ch 11,12,13,16

May 3 Construction of Food Ethics Continuium

May 6 Writing Day, No Class

May 10 Students present Precis of Papers (15 minutes)

May 13 Students Present Précis of Papers (15 minutes). Papers Due.