Midwestern Seminary held its annual C.W. Scudder Lectures on Ethics on Feb. 28 and March 1, with the keynote lecturer being one of the school’s past presidents.
Mark Coppenger, who is currently professor of Christian philosophy and ethics at Southern Seminary, served as the third president of Midwestern Seminary from 1995-1999.
“It is a distinct honor to have Dr. Mark Coppenger serving our seminary community during the Scudder Lectures,” said President Jason Allen. “Dr. Coppenger’s legacy here continues on to this very day, especially in the area of faculty hires. There are still professors and administrators serving our seminary who were hired by Dr. Coppenger. We are truly grateful for all he’s done to further Christ’s kingdom and, in particular, for his fine leadership of this institution during his tenure.”
Coppenger noted that the titles of his lectures had somewhat of a country music flair, as he currently resides in Nashville, Tenn. The first lecture entitled, “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Ethicists,” tackled the many difficulties and challengers a potential Christian ethicist can face when interacting within today’s culture.
Among the items he addressed were what he called “the dirty weapons” that people who oppose the Christian ethicists’ views use in making their case; the intimidation that’s being used to sway opinion; the use of phobias to frighten people about ethical issues.
To this last point, Coppenger said the ethics war is “largely fought by giving people creepy names and terrifying them so they run for cover. And I think we may run for cover a little bit too easily and may desire to be thought of well too much. I have to say I’m a little bit worried about that with the Millennials.”
Additionally, the lecturer noted that there can and will be personal ramifications for those wishing to enter the field of Christian ethics. He warned that one’s message as a Christian ethicist can be divisive, but one should not go out of their way to alienate people along the path. He also said there is a possibility that a Christian ethicist could lose friendships over his or her stance. Lastly, he explained that there is a need for Christian ethicists to stick together and support one another in the fight.
“You get embarrassed when you do that, don’t you? When you let somebody be pillared, and you didn’t stick your neck out?”… “There is a time for you to say, I do not care what this does to me…whether I lose this pulpit… or they pass me here,” Coppenger said.
He wrapped up his first talk stating that God knows ethics will be rough. You will be opposed, even possibly unfriended…but there is good news, and that is there is a good reason to be a Christian ethicist.
The second lecture, “Mamas Encourage Your Babies to Grow Up to be Ethicists,” brought encouragement that despite the many difficulties Christian ethicists may face in the modern environment, they possess many tools to enable them to carry out their tasks effectively.
First, Coppenger noted that Christian ethicists have the riches of Scripture, the Holy Spirit, and the body of Christ at their disposal. He explained that it’s comforting to have answers directly from the Word of God. He went on to say, “I feel so badly for people who have to make it up all themselves…”
Coppenger added that Christian ethicists enjoy a “band of brothers” (and sisters), both ancient and contemporary – such as Paul, Amos, William Carey, and Spurgeon – from whom to glean wisdom.
Next, Coppenger said that it is a positive thing to confront the issues head on and deal with them because it opens an important dialogue. Similar to this point is the fact that there is obvious relevance to these issues, and people are “dying for solid answers with solid thinking behind them.”
In wrapping up his lecture series, Coppenger noted that silence, puzzlement and listening are great options when it comes to Christian ethics. He said, “You really do not know everything instantly. It is good to model a certain kind of puzzlement, and then to just be quiet for a while and take a deep breath. That is an option.”
In addition to his role as a seminary professor, Coppenger has authored the books, A Christian View of Justice; Bioethics: A Casebook; and Moral Apologetics for Contemporary Christians. He also is managing editor of the online Kairos Journal.
The Scudder Lectures are held annually on Midwestern Seminary’s Kansas City, Mo., campus with the intent of exploring the biblical basis for dealing with contemporary social challenges and ethical issues. The lectureship honors the late C.W. Scudder, who served from 1975-1981 as administrator of internal affairs, as the institution’s first vice president for business and development, and senior professor of Christian ethics.