Books & Bibliography and Biblically Inspired Ethics
Michael W. Austin and Douglas Geivett, eds. (Eerdmans: Dec. 20, 2011), 296 pages.
In this volume university professors — experts in theology and philosophy — explore what Being Good looks like on a practical level. Coming from a distinctively Christian perspective, the authors all believe that every Christian should try to embody the moral and intellectual virtues that Christ alone perfectly displayed. The chapters — on faith, open-mindedness, wisdom, zeal, hope, contentment, courage, love, compassion, forgiveness, and humility — include several discussion questions. Contributors: Michael W. Austin, Jason Baehr, Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung, R. Douglas Geivett, David A. Horner, William C. Mattison III, Paul K. Moser, Andrew Pinsent, Steve L. Porter, James S. Spiegel, Charles Taliaferro, David R. Turner.
John Dickson (Zondervan: May 2011), 208 pages.
Dickson defines humility as "the noble choice to forgo your status, deploy your resources or use your influence for the good of others before yourself," such that a "humble person is marked by a willingness to hold power in service of others." (p. 24). By this definition you can see that humility starts from a position of dignity, strength, and a healthy sense of my own worth and abilities. Unlike humiliation, which can be thrust upon me by others, humility is a choice I make willingly. And humility is social, more about how I treat others than about how I think of myself. Bob Sutton has written that the best test of a person's character is how he or she treats those with less power. Dickson argues that humility is important for leadership because humility is persuasive. Humility unlocks the door to referent power. "We are more attracted to the great who are humble than to the great who know it and want everyone else to know it as well." (p. 69). He quotes Aristotle's belief that character is the controlling factor in persuasion: "We believe good-hearted people to a greater extent and more quickly than we do others on all subjects in general and completely so in cases where there is not exact knowledge but room for doubt." (p. 139). We trust the humble more than the proud to act in our best interest. Dickson also argues that humility is generative, a powerful key to learning and growth. Pride is the engine of mediocrity because the proud think they have "arrived" and have nothing left to learn, certainly not from you and me. ~ Bret L. Simmons at Amazon.com
Stuart C. Hackett (Wipf & Stock Publishers: Mar 2009), 414 pages.
Stuart Hackett's The Rediscovery of the Highest Good, originally handwritten in spiral notebooks, is a masterwork of philosophical ethics that guides readers through 2300 years of discourse on the issue of morality, from Plato through Kierkegaard and Nietzsche. "It is the destiny of every human person to decide," Hackett opens. "Whether our choices are genuinely free or inevitably determined, invariably trivial or occasionally momentous, carelessly settled or reflectively reasoned, at least in one sense all this makes no difference: for the one thing about which persons have no choice is that we unavoidably and necessarily must choose, and cannot therefore escape our responsibility to do so." ~ Product Description
Paul K. Moser, ed. (Cambridge University Press: Oct 20, 2008), 248 pages.
What, if anything, does Jesus of Nazareth have to do with philosophy? This question motivates this collection of new essays from leading theologians, philosophers, and biblical scholars. Part I portrays Jesus in his first-century intellectual and historical context, attending to intellectual influences and contributions and contemporaneous similar patterns of thought. Part II examines how Jesus influenced two of the most prominent medieval philosophers. It considers the seeming conceptual shift from Hebraic categories of thought to distinctively Greco-Roman ones in later Christian philosophers. Part III considers the significance of Jesus for some prominent contemporary philosophical topics, including epistemology and the meaning of life. The focus is not so much on how "Christianity" figures in such topics as on how Jesus makes distinctive contributions to such topics. ~ Product Description
Arthur F. Holmes, 2nd edition (IVP Academic: Jan, 2008), 150 pages.
With over 60,000 copies in print since its original publication in 1984, Ethics has served numerous generations of students as a classic introduction to philosophical ethics from a Christian perspective. Over the years the philosophical landscape has changed somewhat, and in this new edition Arthur Holmes adjusts the argument and information throughout, completely rewriting the earlier chapter on virtue ethics and adding a new chapter on the moral agent. The book addresses the questions: What is good? What is right? How can we know? In doing so it also surveys a variety of approaches to ethics, including cultural relativism, emotivism, ethical egoism and utilitarianism all with an acknowledgment of the new postmodern environment. Features: 1) Introduces various ethical systems, 2) Contrasts a Christian ethic with other ethical systems, 3) Deals with contemporary moral dilemmas, 4) Includes a new chapter on the moral agent, 5) Features adjusted and updated arguments and information to reflect the current philosophical landscape.
Christopher Hitchens (Twelve Books, Hachette: May 1, 2007), 307 pages.
Hitchens, one of our great political pugilists, delivers the best of the recent rash of atheist manifestos. The same contrarian spirit that makes him delightful reading as a political commentator, even (or especially) when he's completely wrong, makes him an entertaining huckster prosecutor once he has God placed in the dock. And can he turn a phrase!: "monotheistic religion is a plagiarism of a plagiarism of a hearsay of a hearsay, of an illusion of an illusion, extending all the way back to a fabrication of a few nonevents." Hitchens's one-liners bear the marks of considerable sparring practice with believers. Yet few believers will recognize themselves as Hitchens associates all of them for all time with the worst of history's theocratic and inquisitional moments. All the same, this is salutary reading as a means of culling believers' weaker arguments: that faith offers comfort (false comfort is none at all), or has provided a historical hedge against fascism (it mostly hasn't), or that "Eastern" religions are better (nope). The book's real strength is Hitchens's on-the-ground glimpses of religion's worst face in various war zones and isolated despotic regimes. But its weakness is its almost fanatical insistence that religion poisons "everything," which tips over into barely disguised misanthropy. ~ Publisher's Weekly
Scott B. Rae (Zondervan Publishing House: December, 1995)
This Christian introduction to ethics familiarizes both seminary and secular university students with basic processes of ethical decision-making. Updated with a new chapter on the ethical issues involved in genetic technologies.
Robert Merrihew Adams (Oxford University Press: May 2002), 424 pages.
Renowned scholar Robert Adams explores the relation between religion and ethics through a comprehensive philosophical account of a theistically-based framework for ethics. Adams' framework begins with the good rather than the right, and with excellence rather than usefulness. He argues that loving the excellent, of which adoring God is a clear example, is the most fundamental aspect of a life well lived. Developing his original and detailed theory, Adams contends that devotion, the sacred, grace, martyrdom, worship, vocation, faith, and other concepts drawn from religious ethics have been sorely overlooked in moral philosophy and can enrich the texture of ethical thought. ~ Product Description
William Spohn (Continuum International: September 1, 2000), 238 pages.
What does Jesus have to do with ethics? There are two brief answers given by believers: "everything" and "not much." While evangelical or fundamentalist Christians would find authoritative guidance in the words and commands of Jesus as recorded in the New Testament, many mainstream Christian ethicists would say that Jesus is too concrete or narrowly particular to have any direct import for ethics.In this book, Williams Spohn takes a middle way, showing how Jesus is the "concrete universal" of Christian ethics. By forming a bridge from the lives of contemporary Christians to the words and deeds of Jesus, Jesus' story as a whole exemplifies moral perception, motivation and Christian identity. In addition, Spohn shows how the practices of Christian spirituality — specifically prayer, service, and community — train the imagination and reorient emotions to produce a character and a way of life consonant with Christian New Testament moral teaching. ~ Product Description
Donald W. Shriver Jr. (Oxford University Press: Jan 15, 1998), 304 pages.
The author, president emeritus of Union Theological Seminary, has produced a work that deserves close scrutiny. The casual reader is likely to conclude that Shriver is addressing, in some flight of fancy, the oxymoronic. After all, political forgiveness seems patently absurd, especially given the history of the 20th century-not to mention our contemporary culture of violence. However, while recognizing that forgiveness is a morally complex concept, Shriver argues that it reaches beyond the realm of the personal to the arena of political ethics. He contends that forgiveness is (or at least should be seen as) an indispensable element in politics and that it is an essential ingredient in our attempt to construct a proper political ethics. Not everyone will be persuaded by Shriver's attempt to make forgiveness the cornerstone of a political ethic; nonetheless, his argument should not be ignored. ~ Library Journal
The Moral Vision of the New Testamant Community, Cross, New Creation, An Introduction to New Testament Ethics
Richard B. Hays (Harper San Francisco: September 1996), 528 pages.
This is an amazing book — solid scholarship and well thought-out interpretation delivered with a sense of urgency and sincerity. If you are at all interested in Ethics or the state of New Testament scholarship, this book is an absolute necessity. Hays sees distinct (though overlapping) tasks in the process of "doing ethics" and is able to explain and apply them clearly. His emphasis on seeing ethical questions through the "focal lenses" of Cross, Community and New Creation is a wonderful guidepost for anyone concerned with faithful, Spirit-driven scholarship. He stresses that an "integrative act of the imagination" is required to be able to apply the Scripture to our world and suggests methods for achieving it. Hays analyzes five theologian/ethicists in light of his approach (including Barth, Hauerwas, and Schussler-Fiorenza) and, in doing so, further clarifies how his approach can be used by others. The final section of the book applies Hays' approach to contemporary issues. Partly because of his obvious authority in Greek and New Testament scholarship, and partly because of his honest, passionate approach, his conclusions are bold and very persuasive.
Miroslav Volf (Abingdon Press: 1996), 336 pages.
Life at the end of the twentieth century presents us with a disturbing reality. Otherness, the simple fact of being different in some way, has come to be defined as in and of itself evil. Miroslav Volf contends that if the healing word of the gospel is to be heard today, Christian theology must find ways of speaking that address the hatred of the other. Reaching back to the New Testament metaphor of salvation as reconciliation, Volf proposes the idea of embrace as a theological response to the problem of exclusion. Increasingly we see that exclusion has become the primary sin, skewing our perceptions of reality and causing us to react out of fear and anger to all those who are not within our (ever-narrowing) circle. In light of this, Christians must learn that salvation comes, not only as we are reconciled to God, and not only as we "learn to live with one another," but as we take the dangerous and costly step of opening ourselves to the other, of enfolding him or her in the same embrace with which we have been enfolded by God.
Peter Kreeft (Servant Publications: May, 1990), 218 pages.
Peter Kreeft has written a great little book for all those who are tired of hearing 'it's not so black and white'. Kreeft does an excellent job of explaining, simply and clearly, that right and wrong are objective - regardless of whether or not it is easy or makes someone happy. Kreeft also clears up some moral misconceptions like 'if it doesn't hurt anyone else, then it's ok' and 'the end justifies the means'. Also included in this book is an excellent discussion, scientifically based, on why abortion is objectively wrong (such as the fact that science has always defined a fetus as another human life, science has never been able to come up with a concrete time limit on so-called viability, and that a fetus has a distinct human genetic code that is separate from it's mother's). While in reading this book Kreeft does spend some time talking about God and his Christian faith, his arguments are philosophically and scientifically sound across the religious spectrum. Regardless of a reader's religion/athiesm, Kreeft's logic applies. While Kreeft argues that morality comes from God, he also demonstrates that one need not know that or believe in God to understand and use objective morals. ~ Tammy L. Schilling
Norman L. Geisler (Baker Academic: Sep 1, 1989), 336 pages.
An introductory presentation of Christian ethics, where the Bible is taken as the authoritative text for discussing issues such as homosexuality, abortion, war/civil disobedience, and other similar ethical issues. "This book is the most current of Geisler's books on ethics and incorporates many of the points of previous works such as Ethics: Alternatives & Issues, Options in Contemporary Christian Ethics, and The Christian Ethic of Love. The book is, as the title suggests, a presentation of Christian ethics, so the Bible is taken as the standard text for discussing certain issues such as homosexuality, abortion, war/civil disobedience, and other similar ethical issues. But scientific and rational arguments are also used in addition to Biblical exposition to reach conclusions." ~ Cameron B. Clark @ Amazon.com