Listening To Virtue’s Voice: The Connection Between Ethics And Apologetics -- By: Michael Mckenzie

Journal: Journal of Christian Apologetics
Volume: JCA 01:2 (Winter 1997)
Article: Listening To Virtue’s Voice: The Connection Between Ethics And Apologetics
Author: Michael Mckenzie


Listening To Virtue’s Voice:
The Connection Between Ethics And Apologetics

Michael Mckenzie1

Epistemological and Other “Meeting Grounds”

Just east of the Cascade Mountains in the middle of Washington State lies the beautiful Kittitas Valley. Now occupied by Central Washington University and the city of Ellensburg, the valley is dotted with irrigated farmlands and pastures. Further out, the farms give way to large cattle ranches, which themselves straddle the pine-covered foothills of the Cascades.

Before whites settled the land, the valley had been known from time immemorial as a great “truce ground” by the various Native American peoples of the area. It was centrally located for both the Salish-speaking coastal tribes and Sahaptian-speaking tribes of the and country east of the Cascades, and Indian trails criss-crossed it from all sides. Its verdant nature (still evident today), its plentiful game and camas roots, and its temperate summer climate made it famous as the one place where all tribes—even those traditionally at war with each other-could put aside their weapons and disputes, and gather to dance, sing, race their horses, dig camas roots, and swap stories. Age-old quarrels would be forgotten, ancient feuds suspended at this meeting ground. The different tribal dialects the which were so often barriers to tribal intercourse were temporarily merged into a common language utilized by all during their stay at the Kittitas Valley …

Christians who desire to implement Christian values or principles in the secular ethical square face bleak prospects.2 On the one hand, to use Biblical passages and teachings in doing bioethics (or any applied ethics) is to run the very real risk of being dismissed in our pluralistic society. Such thinkers (identified as “Scriptural Ethicists”) purchased their specific directives at a very great price. On the other hand, those on the other extreme (James Gustafson for one) were so eager to “translate” biblical values into the accepted vernacular that one could legitimately wonder about the connection to a specific religious tradition at all.3 Acceptability

was there, but little religious flavor or direction. Is there indeed no choice between irrelevancy and fatal ambiguity?

There is yet another shoal to be navigated. Jeffrey Stout (Ethics After Babel) and Alasdair MacIntyre (After Virtue and Whose Justice? Which Rationality?) have made an imposing case that there really is no tradition-free vantage point from which to d...

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