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Classics, Ancient History, Religion and Theology

Photo of Professor Esther D. Reed

Professor Esther D. Reed

BA (Hons), PhD (Dunelm)

Professor of Theological Ethics


01392 723249


Esther D. Reed joined the Department of Theology and Religion 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). She is President of the UK Society for the Study of Christian Ethics Sept 2018-August 2021.

Esther's research and teaching are broadly in theological ethics and moral philosophy, with particular focus on un)just war reasoning and weapons control, prospects for jus in silico, and the future of military ethics. 

She has particular research interests in

  • (Un)just war reasoning in the 21st century
  • The ethics of moral injury
  • Deterrence in an age of unpeace
  • Ethics and artificial intelligence
  • Theology and criminal justice
  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer
  • Theological ethics as biblical hermeneutics

She has 'lead' supervised 15+ research students to successful completion of PhDs, and 5+more to Masters by Research and MPhil awards. She open to talking with prospective students about their areas of interest.  

Esther's book The Limit of Responsibility: Engaging Dietrich Bonhoeffer in a Globalizing Era (T & T Clark, August Bloomsbury 2018) was published recently.  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. 

Esther has given numerous invited lectures including for the University of Bonn, the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences; XII International Bonhoeffer Congress in Basel; New York Seminary; and University of Leuven. 

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My research life began with a study of the political theology of Dorothee Soelle. Her work inspired me to study the pathologies of the modern era through the lens of G.W.F. Hegel's construal of the master/slave dialectic and theory of recognition. After completion of the PhD, I concentrated on relations between Hegel and Schleiermacher and on some of Schleiermacher's early political writings and hermeneutic theory.

The journey then became a more focussed study of the systematic theological foundations of Christian ethics and moral reasoning. The Genesis of Ethics: On the Authority of God as the Origin of Christian Ethics (2000/2002) is a response to the challenge of radical, post-Christian feminists that the authority of God is the problem of Christian ethics not its answer. Using Mikhail Bakhtin's idea of authoring, the book explores connections between divine authoring and authority. Christian ethics is understood in terms of the answerability of God's Word.

The Ethics of Human Rights: Contested Doctrinal Problems (2007) offers an account of 'right', 'rights' and 'Christ the measure of natural rights' that seeks to support Christian people who use human rights instruments in diverse practical and legal contexts. Following Dietrich Bonhoeffer's starting point for discussion of natural rights, namely, Ecce Homo! 'Behold the Man' (Jn 19:5), the book argues that neither antagonism nor indifference are the only options available to Christian people in dialogue with, or working with, secularist approaches to human rights. A tropological reading of Genesis 9:1-17, God's covenant with Noah, is developed as a means of asking how the bible challenges, directs and gives substance to critical Christian engagement with human rights discourse.

Written at a time when many secularist theorists seem variously unable or unwilling to denounce torture as wrong, Theology for International Law (2013) offers a systematic engagement with contemporary issues of international law and its relevance for modern theology. Christian theology is familiar with questions about the relation of church and state, divine and human law, but little attention has been devoted to questions of international law. This book discusses challenges to classic just-war thinking from so-called fourth generation warfare, peoples and nationhood within divine providence, the ethics of territorial borders and the militarization of human intervention. 

The Limits of Responsibility: Engaging Dietrich Bonhoeffer in a Globalizing Era (2018) addressed the problem that Christian ethicists are ill equipped to think about questions of responsibility that extend beyond a tightly drawn agent-act causality nexus. The discipline is familiar with the topic of consumption where implications for action lead fairly directly to the need for lifestyle changes respect to food and clothing, whether or not to travel, whether to buy books electronically, renovating furniture rather than buying new, and such like. This book is about moral reasoning when relationships between agent, act and its consequences are often untraceable. 

Esther's interest in the practical meaning of responsibility and accountability is now focused on new weapons technologies and accountability for the taking of human life.  "For Truth, Lies and New Weapons Technologies: Prospects for Jus in Silico?" (2021) is available OpenSource from

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  Christian ethics, political theology and practical theology   Research topics currently (or recently) supervised and co-supervised     The Problem of Moral Ambivalence: Revisiting Henry Sidgwick’s Theory of Rational Benevolence as a Basis For Moral Reasoning, with Reference to Prenatal Ethical Dilemmas   'World view' as a key for non-specialist teachers of RE   An Examination of Prevalent 21st Century Models of Community Engagement by the Black Churches   Moral Disengagement, Hope & Spirituality: Including an empirical exploration of combat veterans   Theological Praxis of Emerging Churches in America   How Thomas Arnold’s Christian convictions shaped his view of what makes a good education, with reflections and applications for the twenty-first century   John Wesley's theology of liberty and human rights discourse in the Methodist Church GB Theology of fear in Thomas More   The theology and practice of teetotalism in early Methodism   A new natural law critique, with particular reference to Robert P. George   Experiences of NHS chaplaincy   Missional churches in the UK   Theological Praxis of Emerging Churches in America   The Theology of Miroslav Volf     A Theology of Disability    Women in 19th and 20th Century America: Religion and Reform     Research Topics Supervised Elsewhere   The Passions and the Moral Life   Religious and Ethical Motifs in the Novels of George Eliot   An Historical and Theological Analysis of Korean Fundamentalism   Topics in Feminist Theology

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Copyright Notice: Any articles made available for download are for personal use only. Any other use requires prior permission of the author and the copyright holder.

| To Appear | 2024 | 2023 | 2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | 2000 | 1999 | 1997 | 1996 | 1995 | 1994 |

To Appear

  • Reed E, Sorkin A. A Theology for International Law: A Conversation with Esther D. Reed on Global Community, Christian Responsibility, and Love of Neighbor. Interviewer: Anton Sorkin, Journal of Christian Legal Thought, volume 13, no. 1, pages 49-58, article no. 49. [PDF]


  • Reed E. (2024) Accountability for the Taking of Human Life with LAWS at War, Ethics & International Affairs, volume N/A, pages N/A-N/A.
  • Reed ED. (2024) Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Limits of Responsibility in a Globalizing Era, 2016 International Bonhoeffer Congress, Basel, 7th - 8th Jul 2016, Dietrich Bonhoeffer in einer globalen Zeit / Dietrich Bonhoeffer in a Global Era.
  • Reed ED. (2024) Just War Reasoning in an Age of Risk, New Blackfriars, volume 96, no. 1062, pages 206-222, DOI:10.1111/nbfr.12119. [PDF]


  • Reed ED. (2023) Accountability for the Taking of Human Life with LAWS in War, Ethics & International Affairs, volume 37, no. 3, pages 299-308, DOI:10.1017/s0892679423000308. [PDF]
  • Reed E. (2023) Rebooting Military Ethics from Moral Injury, Crucible.
  • Peterson A, Reed ED, Loades A, Cherry S, McClure BJ, Moberly J, Chaplin D, Cherry S, Reddie A, Ramsay N. (2023) Book Reviews, Modern Believing, volume 64, no. 3, pages 275-345, DOI:10.3828/mb.2023.20.
  • Reed ED. (2023) Sin, evil, and global inequality/ies, The Routledge Companion to Christian Ethics, 122-137, DOI:10.4324/9780429345081-12.








  • Reed E. (2015) Scott R. Paeth, Exodus Church and Civil Society: Public Theology and Social Theory in the Work of Jürgen Moltmann, Political Theology, volume 12, no. 4, pages 621-624, DOI:10.1558/poth.v12i4.621.
  • Baldwin R, Davie G, Selby P, Reed E, Skotnicki A, Nelstrop L, Herrick V, Atkinson D, Nixon D, Worthen J. (2015) Reviews, Modern Believing, volume 56, no. 1, pages 69-102, DOI:10.3828/mb.2015.8.
  • Reed ED. (2015) Introduction, Studies in Christian Ethics, volume 28, no. 4, pages 385-390, article no. 1, DOI:10.1177/0953946814565978.
  • Reed ED. (2015) Wealth and Common Good, Together for the Common Good, SCM.
  • Reed ED. (2015) In Defence of the Laws of War, Studies in Christian Ethics, volume 28, pages 298-304, DOI:10.1177/0953946814565314.
  • Freathy R, Reed E, Davis A. (2015) The Art of Bible Reading: A New Approach, REToday, volume 32, no. 2.


  • Reed E, Impey R, Smith G, Grobien G, Hollowell A, Reader J, Taylor S, Knowles S, Mathijssen B, Brierley M. (2014) Reviews, Modern Believing, volume 55, no. 4, pages 385-451, DOI:10.3828/mb.2014.46.
  • Reed ED. (2014) Peace Ethics in an Age of Risk, Studies in Christian Ethics, volume 27, no. 1, pages 63-78, DOI:10.1177/0953946813509339.
  • Reed ED. (2014) Book Review: Carys Moseley, Nations and Nationalism in the Theology of Karl Barth, Studies in Christian Ethics, volume 27, no. 3, pages 360-362, DOI:10.1177/0953946814530239e.
  • Reed ED. (2014) Tax and International Justice.
  • Freathy R, Reed ED, Davis A. (2014) The Art of Bible Reading: A Narrative Approach, Dialogue Australasia, volume 32, pages 1-3.
  • Freathy R, Reed E, Davis A, Cornwall S. (2014) The Art of Bible Reading in Religious Education: Teacher Edition and CD-ROM.
  • Freathy R, Reed E, Davis A, Cornwall S. (2014) The Art of Bible Reading in Religious Education: Student Edition, Kevin Mayhew.






  • Reed ED. (2009) Justice: Rights and Wrongs – By Nicholas Wolterstorff, Conversations in Religion and Theology, volume 7, no. 1, pages 63-70, DOI:10.1111/j.1479-2214.2009.00155.x.
  • Reed ED. (2009) Animals in Orthodox Iconography, Creaturely Theology: On God, Humans and Other Animals, SCM Press, 61-77.




  • Reed ED. (2006) Is Democratic Citizenship Integral to the Commitments of Christian Faith?, The Expository Times, volume 117, no. 7, DOI:10.1177/001452460611700714.
  • Reed ED. (2006) Revelation and Natural Rights: Notes on Colin E. Gunton’s Theology of Nature, Trinitarian Soundings in Systematic Theology, T and T Clark International, 203-215.
  • Reed ED. (2006) Property Rights, Genes and Common Good, Journal of Religious Ethics, no. 1, pages 41-67.
  • Reed ED. (2006) Richard Hooker, Eternal Law and the Human Exercise of Authority, Journal of Anglican Studies, no. 1.


  • Reed ED. (2005) Reform of the House of Lords and Christian Responsibility in a Plural Society, Pathways to the Public Square: Practical Theology in an Age Of Pluralism, Lit-Verlag.


  • Reed ED. (2004) The Future of Christian Social Ethics: Essays on the Work of Ronald H. Preston 1913-2001, T and T Clark International.


  • Reed ED. (2003) Redemption, Blackwell Companion to Theology, Blackwell.


  • Reed ED. (2002) The Genesis of Ethics, London: Darton, Longman and Todd 2000 / Cleveland, Ohio: Pilgrim Press, 2002.


  • Reed ED. (2001) Human Rights, the Churches and the Common Good, Political Theology, no. 1, pages 9-21.


  • Reed ED. (2000) F.D.E. Schleiermacher.



  • Reed ED. (1997) Feeling and Reason: Feminist Notes on the 1821-22 Debate Between Hegel and Schleiermacher, Bodies, Lives and Voices, SAP, 154-187.
  • Reed ED. (1997) Revelation in Philosophy and Theology, Divine Revelation, Darton, Longman and Todd, 156-173.


  • Reed ED. (1996) The Community of Hope, Essentials of Christian Community: Festschrift for Daniel Hardy, T and T Clark International, 281-295.
  • Reed ED. (1996) A Theological Reading of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, with Particular Reference to its Themes of Identity, Alienation and Community, Edwin Mellen.


  • Reed ED. (1995) What is Worship all About?, The Expository Times, no. 3, pages 68-74.


  • Reed ED. (1994) Feminism and love of the ‘Unreal’ God, Modern Believing, no. 4, pages 17-22.
  • Reed ED. (1994) Whither postmodernism and feminist theology?, Feminist Theology, volume 6, pages 15-29.
  • Reed ED. (1994) Pornography and the end of morality?, Studies in Christian Ethics, volume 2, no. 7, pages 65-93.

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External impact and engagement

  • Esther is involved with the 'Art of Narrative Theology in Religious Education' project, which is working to examine relations between narrative theology and Christian ethics in Key Stage 3 RE.
  • Esther has also given workshops on ethics and security, migration and asylum, and theology and international law, together with a consultation on the use of unmanned armed vehicles (drones).

Contribution to discipline

Editorial positions

  • Studies in Christian Ethics (Editor)

Academic society positions

  • Chair of the Board of Studies for the Southern Theological Education and Training Scheme
  • Member of Methodist working groups on Faith and Order and Senior Leadership (2008-11)

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Beyond striving to ensure that my students acquire a solid knowledge base in Christian ethics and political theology, my approach to teaching is driven by the demands of graduate workplace. A senior manager in a large multinational company replied recently to my question about what they look for in a prospective employee. ‘The ability to defend their work. … You’d be amazed how many people ask for extra time when I say that they are presenting the report tomorrow not me’. Mindful of this kind of demand upon graduates, I require of myself clear answers to the following:

  • How do I get my students to a level of performance at which they are competent to be accountable to senior staff or the general public for their own work?
  • How do I facilitate the kind of teamwork that engenders good communication and accountability?
  • How do I help my students experience the need for ‘deep research’ that stretches their self-expectations and develops a range of research competencies?
  • What kinds of risk should I encourage my stusdents to take in order to prepare for them for graduate employment? 

Facing these questions means that the teaching encounter should challenge me, as well as my students. I must provide the conditions in which students can develop the knowledge base and skills toolkit with which to investigate the intrinsic interest of the subject matter. I must use classroom opportunities to help students realize their educational potential. 

Modules that have taught recently, or contributed to, include: 

  • Philosophy of Religion and Christian Ethics (THE1106)
  • Theology and Criminal Justice (THE2199/3199)
  • Military Ethics in Christian Perspective (THE2023/3023)
  • The Ethics of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (THE2204/3204)

Modules taught

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