Meta-theoretical frameworks and theological ethics: bioethical decision-making from a reformed perspective
The overarching aim of this thesis was to investigate and clarify the role played by metatheoretical frameworks and Christian theological ethics in the decision-making practices of Reformed ministers when advising congregation members on bioethical matters. The theory of ethics was dealt with by focusing on those aspects of Reformed epistemology and methodology necessary for ministers to be able to play their pastoral role concerning bioethical decision-making. The focus then moved to the current praxis - based on the feedback garnered through empirical research on how Reformed ministers in the RCSA reflect on and deal with bioethical issues. The application possibilities of this research in practice were then dealt with by proposing a possible model for decision-making practices. Article One argues that postmodern interdisciplinarity provides a more flexible and productive methodological framework for the age-old dialogue between Theology and the Natural Sciences than the more rigid and oppositional modernist disciplinary framework did. The second article explores aspects of interdisciplinarity, arguing that Bioethics as ttie systematic study of specific moral dilemmas implies conjoining a variety of ethical methodologies in an interdisciplinary framework. The theoretical considerations regarding the interface between Theology, Philosophy and Life Sciences are examined, concluding that it is vital to re-examine the theoretical basis of Bioethics as a philosophical grounding or methodology in order to place moral knowledge within a meta-theoretical and epistemological framework. Article Three deals with the theory of ethics and aspects of Reformed epistemology which could enable ministers to play a more informed pastoral role when dealing with bioethical dilemmas. This was done by critically reviewing Reformed epistemology within the context of Christian theological ethics in particular. Placing bioethics within the Reformed tradition, reasoning is informed in a way that acknowledges that concrete answers are not found in the tradition alone, but also in the intelligent use of our unique ability for rational judgment, arguing that grounding bioethical arguments in a specific theological tradition provides more specific, clear, and reliable norms that can be applied consistently and comprehensively to complex situations. Article Four reports on the results obtained from a questionnaire completed by RCSA ministers, and indicate that they are confronted with a vast number of bioethical issues. The distribution and frequency of the various issues indicated in the questionnaire confirm the need to assume a more holistic approach towards bioethics than is presently the case. It also indicates the need for ministers to be well equipped to deal with these dilemmas. It is concluded that recent advancements in biotechnology cannot be ignored or dealt with in a piecemeal fashion much longer by the RCSA or its ministers. The need for clarity and analysis of the principles underlying theories that should guide their decision-making and pastoral care in dealing with bioethical dilemmas is emphasized. There is a need for appropriate courses in Bioethics during initial theological training, and in continuing training through workshops, seminars and short courses to enhance interdisciplinary awareness and allay uncertainties in this dynamic and morally challenging field of human and scientific endeavour.
- Theology