Rawlings School of Divinity


Doctor of Philosophy in Theology and Apologetics (PhD)


Benjamin Shaw


supererogation, Navy, Chaplain, ethics, core values, military, humility, hospitality


Ethics in Religion | Religious Thought, Theology and Philosophy of Religion


Members of the US Navy subscribe to common values outlined in the Sailor’s Creed, a shared dictum of foundational ideals that burdens all persons within the organization to follow. Honor, courage, commitment, excellence, and fairness are explicit organizational values written therein that codify the standard values expected of all Sailors regardless of rank or other designators. For Christians serving in the US Navy, how can they present the tenets of the Gospel in a manner appropriate, and legal, for a professional, secular work environment such as the military but are consistent with the biblical imperative to give a defense of Christianity to all who ask (1 Peter 3:15)? The answer lies in what John Rawls calls supererogatory acts, those actions in which there is no moral obligation to perform, and are above and beyond the standard ethical behavior the Navy expects; these are not only extraordinary acts of heroism but simple and small occurrences of humility and hospitality. Common moral intuition may lead any Sailor, Christian or not, to perform supererogatory acts but a follower of Christ can intentionally use these actions as part of a greater apologetic approach. In the language of public theology, the paper explores the Heart Before Head method, a combination of Blaise Pascal’s psychological apologetics and evidential apologetics, a two-step method that first appeals to an individual’s heart, the seat and center of human emotion, volition, and will, before moving to historical evidences for the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.