BRICOLAGE AND THE PURITY OF TRADITIONS: Engaging the Stoics for Contemporary Christian Ethics


Elizabeth Agnew Cochran is Associate Professor of Theology at Duquesne University. She is the author of Receptive Human Virtues: A New Reading of Jonathan Edwards's Ethics (Penn State University Press, 2011) and is currently completing a book manuscript exploring the Stoic tradition's significance for Christian ethics.


This essay is a response to C. Kavin Rowe's critique of my 2011 argument that certain dimensions of Roman Stoic ethics are at work in Jonathan Edwards's moral thought. Rowe raises questions about the act of selectively retrieving ideas from a philosophical tradition to support constructive work in another tradition. I argue for the importance of acknowledging how Christian thought has been shaped by what Jeffrey Stout describes as moral bricolage, the selective retrieval of ideas from various traditions, and I contend that this bricolage can continue to be a fruitful means through which Christian ethics engages external traditions. Moreover, the importance of Stoicism's retrieval in early modern philosophy makes the work of eighteenth-century theologians such as Edwards a particularly valuable resource for exploring the plausibility of Christian engagement with the Stoics.