Morals Matter

Having a firm understanding of the varying ideas of morality throughout our culture and the culture of others is essential to living in our globalized society. This is just what Moral Theology aims to do. With an emphasis on Catholic teaching, Dr. Hippler starts with the most basic moral questions, such as “is there a moral law?”, and as the year progresses, he tackles more specific and divisive issues. The class covers such a broad range of topics that some call him “a philosophy teacher disguised as a religion teacher”.

In 2006, Dr. Flanders, desiring a class to give students a deeper understanding of morality, requested a C.S. Lewis focused Moral Theology class. Dr. Hippler began by adding The Screwtape Letters and Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis to the curriculum. Over time, St. Thomas Aquinas was added to the curriculum as well. The new class texts help to advance Dr. Hippler’s main goal as a theology teacher, to “help students see the moral law from God”. Reading St. Thomas’ letters in defense of Christian doctrine also help students learn to think argumentatively and critically.

St. Thomas, a church doctor fundamental to our current understanding of christian theology

To keep the class fast-paced and exciting, Dr. Hippler bases the class off of student input. Over the years, Dr. Hippler has realized students seem to benefit the most from reading C.S. Lewis and has adjusted his course to allow for more readings from Lewis. Along with Lewis, students generally enjoy discussion on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”. Dr. Hippler enjoys teaching the class about the basics of American law and the moral implications of civil disobedience.

The first unit of the year focuses on how all cultures have some shared sense of morality. Dr. Hippler uses the Illustrations of the Tao, a collection of cross-cultural moral beliefs from C.S. Lewis’ Abolition of Man, to show the similarities between various cultures’ sense of morality. The initial debate over whether or not a natural law exists always confuses and interests students, motivating many students to do additional research and debating outside class.

C.S. Lewis, the backbone of the Moral Theology class

Moral Theology’s mission is to educate students about the most fundamental beliefs that define the culture of our current and past world. In the words of senior, Thomas Lanterman, “Moral Theology is such an important and influential class”. T.J. goes on to say, “[Moral Theology] sets the standards for how to lead a moral life, an important lesson to learn, that many schools don’t teach.”