The nature of Christian marriage

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In this chapter, we need to substantiate what this thesis is presupposing by defining key terms. On defining terms in a thesis, Hofstee mentions that this part is crucial because “it makes it absolutely clear to the reader what the researcher means whenever there is any possibility of misunderstanding” (2006:88). The definition of terms helps in building a common understanding and eliminates any misunderstanding between the reader and the researcher. The definition of the operational terms is conducted within the theoretical framework that guides the thesis (section 3.3). Definitions look to build a common premise as stated by Hofstee (2006:88).
The terms that are defined and discussed below are as follows: theological ethics, Catholic moral theology, the human person, the human person as a moral being, a traditional African view, traditional African ethics, marriage and the family, family and society, and culture.

Theological ethics

This research is conducted within the discipline of theological ethics. It is essential to delineate first what theological ethics is in order to create a common premise and understanding. This explanation demonstrates how theological ethics relates to theology in general and how it differs from philosophical ethics. It locates the academic endeavours of this research.
Theological ethics is a branch of theology, while philosophical ethics is a branch of philosophy. Given the strong influence of both theological and philosophical thinking in the work of Thomas Aquinas, writers often speak of Catholic moral philosophy and/or Catholic moral theology (Mahoney 1987:77). Both moral theologians and moral philosophers deal with issues of right or wrong, good or bad, but several philosophical approaches make no reference to God or a deity. Not all philosophical ethics is atheistic, but there is a tendency to study it without any particular reference to a deity, especially since the Enlightenment in Europe. What ties theological ethics to moral philosophy, is that both disciplines are concerned with morality. A question then arises: what is morality? Morality refers to that aspect or dimension of human experience where we recognise a distinction between good and evil, right and wrong. This human dimension enables us to realise the good that ought to be done, and the evil that ought to be avoided. We identify this existential phenomenon emerging from within and in our relationships. Morality is not imposed from without, but emerges within, tied to our nature. In Catholic moral theology, this is called the natural law, our participation in the eternal law of God.
It has become common in theological ethics to distinguish between moral goodness and rightness. The former refers to the person and the latter to the actions of the human person. Gula (1989:12) concurs with the above point when he writes that “morality in the strict sense pertains to the person, to character. Actions are moral only in a derived or secondary sense because the person expresses herself/himself in actions” (Gula 1989:12). Since morality pertains to the human person, a sub-section of this chapter is dedicated to defining the human person.
Theological ethics and philosophical ethics are both academic disciplines or sciences and, as such, they aim at a methodical analysis of that aspect or dimension of human experience where we recognise the good that ought to be done and the bad that ought to be avoided. Their methodology is one of rational reflection. Nonetheless, each science has its own history, though they significantly share a common vocabulary and language. Theological ethics as a scientific study intends to address issues that confront society by making reference to the Bible, Christian tradition and God. The Catholic tradition also listens to the voice of the Magisterium, statements from the authority structure of the Church. In this sense, ethics becomes a living, a dynamic reflection and an analysis of a particular situation in the light of the living Word of God (Kretzschmar 2001:282).
Furthermore, theological ethics and philosophical ethics are both anthropological, because morality is about the human person and what it means to be human. Ethics is about being (character) and doing (conduct). Morality, as Vatican II defines it, studies the nature of human persons and their actions (Pontifical Biblical Commission 2008:93).16 This anthropological aspect of morality links these two disciplines with other human and social sciences. Anthropology and ethics are connected by their interest in customs and culture. Ethics is the explication and evaluation of conduct and customs according to certain rational standards and, in the case of Christian ethics those standards are the living Word of God, the Bible. The interest of ethics lies in the discernment of values and why there are such values and whether they are adequate as a measure of what it means to be human. Ethics as a normative science is concerned rather with evaluating how society, economy, and political institutions should work for the betterment of human beings in relation with one another. However, morality is distinguishable from the other human and social sciences by its language. The basic sets of words in morality are: good and evil; right and wrong. Christian ethics claims that a good person is the one that lives and abides by the Christian imperatives.
Theological ethics is underpinned by making reference to God in its methodical and conclusive assertions. It further states that God is the source of all morality because God is an objective, transcendent referent for morality. On the other hand, many modern philosophical ethical approaches endeavour to be autonomous. This poses a problem because there are issues that are meta-ethical: the nature of the human person, the purpose of human life, the source and destiny of morality. Secular philosophical ethics will not address these realities, because they are transcendental realities.
Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) is a major figure in the history of philosophical ethics. His ethical theory is found mainly in two of his works: Critique of Practical Reason and Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals. His approach to ethics is often described as “autonomous”, that is, within the limits of reason alone, without any recourse to divine revelation. His ethics is defined as deontological, because he considered duty as the cornerstone of morality. He rejected interest or inclination as the motivation sufficient for grounding the moral life. For example: I may not feel like doing X; I may not consider it in my own interest to do X. Nevertheless, it remains my duty to do X (Peschke 1993:82). Kant rejected the consideration of consequences as the criterion for determining our course of action. This led him to formulate the classical distinction between the hypothetical and the categorical imperatives. On the inadequacy of the categorical imperatives, Peschke writes, “ethics of values goes beyond the purely formal principle of the categorical imperative by maintaining the existence of moral values with concrete content. These values are thought of as some sort of ideal entities, somewhat like Plato’s ideal forms” (1993:85).17
The hypothetical imperative takes the following form: If I want A, then I ought to do B. This means that my doing B is dependent upon on me desiring A. The Categorical imperative, on the other hand, always obliges. It takes the following form: I ought to do C. This means that it is my duty to do C. The categorical imperative is a purely formal principle of morality. It does not tell us what we should do. Instead, it tells us that an act is immoral if it cannot be made into a rule for all human beings to follow. Therefore, we can conclude that for Kant the human person is the source of moral obligation, and hence he dismissed revelation as the source of moral law. This was contrary to the earlier teachings of Thomas Aquinas who upheld that only God is the source of moral obligation. For Thomas Aquinas, human beings are the immediate source of morality and he called this participation (Te Velde 1995:14).
Theological ethics should speak in a comprehensive manner to the secular world. Only in this manner can it achieve its purpose of challenging people’s lifestyles and ideologies in the light of Dei Verbum (the Word of God) (Mahoney 1987:304). This thesis examines South Africa’s post-1994 attitude towards morality and values. From this perspective, morality cannot be divorced from faith. Even if theological ethics wants to address a broad spectrum of people, it cannot exclude faith. John Paul II in his encyclical letter Veritatis Splendor warned about any dichotomy, which may exist between theological ethics and faith, as dangerous. The Pope saw this as a “serious and destructive dichotomy…representing one of the most acute pastoral concerns of the church amid today’s growing secularism” (VS, 88). Without faith, the Church runs the risk of simply becoming a secular NGO.
Theological ethics locates itself within the framework of Jesus’ teaching about the kingdom of God. A study of theological ethics enables us to understand Jesus as the standard and norm of morality. It is only in relation to Jesus Christ that we see the horizon, the extent of the meaning of morality and of the demands of Christian discipleship. The central categories of Jesus’ ethic are the justice and perfection of God (Mt. 6:33). This vision of Jesus should shape our moral character and conduct by our dispositions. The paradigm of theological ethics is not some abstract system, but is a conversion to the person of Jesus Christ.
As an academic discipline, theological ethics enables us to probe systematically the causes and consequences of family breakdown. This analysis is influenced by Catholic moral theology and is based on the Church’s tradition and magisterial teachings. In addition, Protestant theological, and human and social science perspectives are considered in order to assist in evaluating and enhancing the Catholic Church’s teaching on ethical issues. Curran reminds Catholic theologians that “theology itself has a pastoral dimension and is not merely a scientific discipline” (1982:24). The endeavours of this research take this reminder seriously.

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Catholic moral theology

Catholic moral theology is another theoretical concept that needs to be defined and discussed. It traces its roots to Bonaventure (1221-1274) and Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274). These two great Catholic theologians of the Middle Ages managed to produce a unified Catholic philosophy and theology. However, it was Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787) who made substantial strides in Catholic moral theology (Dewart 1968:104 & Gula 1989:26). What is Catholic moral theology? We have already established that morality is concerned with the value of human acts, why they are wrong, good or morally indifferent. Catholic moral theology is concerned with a similar task. Our working definition of Catholic moral theology is that it is a systematic study of human behaviour from the point of view of revelation and tradition (Smith 2006:14-15). Curran develops this definition when he writes that, Moral theology involves systematic, thematic, and critical reflection on the Christian moral life. Moral theology is an academic discipline. Moral theology is a systematic discipline in the service of the Church … Above all; moral theology must be seen as a constitutive part of Christian theology (1982:63).

1.1 Background and context
1.2 Motivation for doing this research and statement of the research problem
1.3 Aim of the thesis
1.4 Value of the thesis
1.5 The scope of thesis
1.6 The area of study
1.7 Outline of chapters
1.8 Conclusion
2.1 Introduction
2.2 Theological ethics
2.3 Catholic moral theology
2.4 The human person: a moral being
2.5 Traditional African view
2.6 Marriage and the family
2.7 Family and society
2.8 Culture
2.9 Conclusion
3.2 Research problem
3.3 Theoretical framework and literature review
3.4 Research constraints
3.5 Ethical considerations
3.6 Limitations of this research
3.7 Empirical research methods
3.8 Steps of research
3.9 Empirical research tools
3.10 Validity and reliability of the research
3.11 Conclusion
4.2 Marriage from an African perspective
4.3 Biblical and Catholic theological perspectives of marriage
4.4 The nature of Christian marriage
4.5 The purpose of Christian marriage
4.6 Similarities & dissimilarities between African and Catholic views
4.7 Insights from a Protestant perspective
4.8 Insights from the human and social sciences
4.9 The African understanding of the family
4.10 The family from a Catholic perspective
4.11 The family from a Protestant perspective
4.12 Insights on the family from the human and social sciences
4.13 The family and society
4.14 Parenting
4.15 Discipline and the Bible
4.16 Insights on parenting from the human and social sciences
4.17 Toxic parenting
4.18 Conclusion
5.1 Introduction
5.2 The meaning of family breakdown
5.3 Instances of family breakdown globally
5.4 Instances of family breakdown in South Africa and especially in Mariannhill
5.5 The causes of marital and family breakdown
5.6 The consequences of family breakdown
5.7 Conclusion
6.0 Introduction
6.1 The quantitative findings
6.2 The qualitative findings (Interviews)
6.3 Family breakdown: its effects and the role of the family
6.4 Single parenthood
6.5 Fatherlessness
6.6 Conclusion
7.1 Introduction
7.2 Research objectives
7.3 Summary of chapters
7.4 A plan of strategic intervention
7.5 Critique of status quo: the role of the state and the community
7.6 Recommendations
7.7 Conclusion

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