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The Moral Theology or Casuistic Tradition

David H. Smith


This article begins with an autobiographical section reporting on the author’s intellectual trajectory as an ambivalent and developing casuist. Smith then goes on to discuss characterizations of the Anglican moral theology tradition of casuistry and the forms of casuistry popular today in practical ethics. In Smith’s view this moral theology tradition is committed to initiating and sustaining conversation among persons about the liberties and demands of a Christian life—and to provoking that conversation within our own souls. He maintains that the pastoral orientation and willingness to listen to custom and diverse sources of moral insight that is characteristic of Anglican moral theology should enable the church to maintain a vital ethic in many different cultures and traditions. Smith advocates the use of a modern form of casuistry by Anglican moralists; his own version is based in the theology of H. R. Niebuhr and the writings of Kenneth E. Kirk. The essay draws on earlier writings about casuistry and Kirk by the author.

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