Original Research - Special Collection: Wentzel van Huyssteen

Do Christian and secular moralities exclude one another?

D. Etienne de Villiers
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 42, No 2 | a2308 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v42i2.2308 | © 2021 D. Etienne de Villiers | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 28 May 2021 | Published: 19 August 2021

About the author(s)

D. Etienne de Villiers, Department of Systematic Theology, Faculty of Theology, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa


The objective of the article was to critique two cognitive strategies used by both proponents of Christian and secular moralities to justify an exclusionary relationship between them, thus contributing to the conflict between them. They are the cognitive strategies of foundationalism and incompatibilism. The objective was also to resume a critical discussion of these two strategies in Wentzel van Huyssteen’s publications. The method followed was, first, to provide a historical reconstruction of the relationship between Christian faith and the secular and, second, a critical analysis of Richard Dawkins’ foundationalist view of secular morality and Stanley Hauerwas’ incompatibilist view of Christian morality. Findings were that influential views of a positive relationship between Christian faith and secular morality are found in history, and that the foundationalist view of Dawkins and the incompatibilist view of Hauerwas are both untenable and contextually inappropriate. This led to the conclusion that there is no justification for the view that Christian morality and secular moralities necessarily exclude one another. The remaining challenge to find an alternative approach that would allow for a more positive relationship between these two moralities and provide guidance on adaptations they need to make was also identified.

Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: The Christian ethical research undertaken in the article drew on research findings in the fields of Christian Ethics, Church History, philosophy, evolutionary ethics and psychology. Research results present Christian and philosophical ethics with the challenge to find an acceptable alternative for the problematic foundationalist and incompatibilist approaches.


Christian morality; distinctiveness of Christian morality; evolutionary ethics; foundationalism; incompatibilism; origin of morality; postfoundationalism; secularisation; secular morality


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