Dr Esther D. Reed

Associate Professor

BA (Hons), PhD (Dunelm)


Extension: 3249

Telephone: 01392 723249

Director of the Network for Religion in Public Life http://www.centres.exeter.ac.uk/nrpl/

Esther D. Reed joined the Department of Theology in 2007. Previously, she taught for ten years at the University of St Andrews including one semester as the visiting O'Connor Professor at Colgate University, NY (Spring 2007).

Her current research projects include:

1. The Limits of Responsibility: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Christian Ethics in a Globalizing Age

Responsibility is not a new topic in Christian ethics but too many accounts are delimited to the immediately personal. What’s needed in Christian ethics is a theologically informed theory of responsibility capable of grappling adequately with the new features of the problem of responsibility and reformulating the concept in ways that

  • exceed agent-causality-consequence definitions that presuppose tight causal links between the agent’s actions and their effects
  • face the temptation to relinquish the question of responsibility because, amidst the realities of globalization, the consequences of one’s own actions appear vanishingly small
  • reckon with the unintended or unknown negative effects of actions on phenomena elsewhere
  • make space for the additional concepts needed for the exercise of responsibility today: uncertainty, risk, solidarity, institutions, the future
  • reverse the agent-act-consequence sequence to an understanding of responsibility that originates in You, that is learned from Christ and neighbor. 

Juridical notions of responsibility that begin from the self are becoming difficult to sustain as linear connections to distant others and far away harms are increasingly untraceable. Thinking with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and with an applied focus throughout the proposed book in industry-scale mining, this book makes an argument for a Christologically-informed post-liberal approach to the meaning of responsibility that

  • sees the deconstruction of (elements of) predominant modern liberal notions of personhood and responsibility as heir to prophetic biblical tradition
  • understands responsibility less like an object or attribute possessed by self-reflective, competent, unitary agents, and more like a existential condition rooted in our very nature
  • takes seriously the etymology entailed in the prefix re- which gives a general sense of ‘back’ or ‘again’ thereby modifying ‘spond’ from the Latin spondēre meaning to bind, promise or covenant, that is, understands responsibility as inherently relational
  • recognises that Christian ethicists and political theologians will not be equipped to face the most difficult and complex questions of religion and morally responsible global citizenship without renewed attention to what it means to be church globally.

2. Peace Ethics in an Age of Risk

In a follow-up to Theology for International Law (T and T Clark, 2014), Esther is exploring further what the gospel of peace might mean for Christian theological engagement with international law.  Themes of Military Violence, Economic Violence and Cultural Violence structure the work-in-progress. Particular attention is paid to thinking with and about the global poor in ways that do not render ‘the other’ somehow different from ourselves.  Her current work brings Augustinian rhetorical analysis to bear upon the ethics of targeted killing. The claim is that Augustine’s discussion of (in)ordinate loves still has relevance in the liberal, democratic ‘West’ where the dominant discourse is not a passion for glory but security in the face of transnational risks. Three ‘disordered’ loves are identified: the animus dominandi; disorder and lawlessness; and the elevation of one principle so high that regard for it distracts from wider considerations. Using criteria derived from Augustine’s analysis, questions are asked about the economics, legal regulation and politics of targeted killing. 

3. A Taxing Question: Why Pay?

As part of Christian Aid's tax campaign, has contributed to work on the morality of taxation and tax avoidance.  Download the report here http:// http://www.christianaid.org.uk/resources/churches/tax-for-the-common-good.aspx

4. Narrative Theology in Religious Education

Esther is working with Rob Freathy, Graduate School of Education, to develop a pedagogy of Religious Education (RE) based upon a narratival framework informed by both narrative theology and narrative philosophy. Supported by Bible Society UK, their work addresses existing difficulties in how biblical texts are handled within RE, and moves away from a 'proof-texting' approach to the Bible towards one in which pupils are enabled to think about the significance of biblical narratives for both Christians and themselves.  Recently produced syllabus materials are available at: http://www.kevinmayhew.com/the-art-of-bible-reading-teacher-edition-cd-rom.html#.VE4Xm77TafQ