The First Christian Ethicist?
Moral teaching in the early church, i.e. during the first millennium, was developed in relation with local customs and, not infrequently, in reaction to religious heterodoxy. In general, there was no shared, systematic approach to ethical living and decision-making established until the Middle Ages, when centres of learning began to appear in Western Europe. Scholasticism got its name from the ‘schools’ where this learning took place. This was also the time when more religious orders began to appear and to work out programmes to train their new recruits. From this fertile ground, some of the greatest names in the Christian theological tradition emerged, one of whom came to be known as the ‘Angelic Doctor’. Thomas Aquinas made an invaluable contribution to theology in general, but the question we are now going to ask is whether he also needs to be recognized as the initiator of Christian ethics.
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