Biblically Inspired Ethics
N.T. Wright (HarperCollins Publishers: March 2010), 307 pages.
How do you develop a character suited for God’s Kingdom? Practice, practice, practice. That, in a nutshell, is the message of this volume on building Christian character by Wright, a prodigiously prolific Bible scholar and Anglican bishop of Durham, England. In arguing for “this new vision of virtue, which is a vision of Jesus Christ himself,” Wright carefully explores such classical exponents of character as Aristotle. He also acknowledges the existence of other notions of encouraging behavior-based rules, duty, or being “true to oneself.” Drawing on scriptures from Genesis to Revelation, Wright asserts that true transformation comes through the work of the Holy Spirit and through worship, mission, and “following Jesus.” As the habits of virtue grow, the church community will become the royal priesthood it is meant to be, anticipating (one of the author’s favorite words) God’s coming new world. A follow-up to Wright’s Simply Christian and Surprised by Hope, this solid volume will appeal to Christians who appreciate biblical interpretation that hews to tradition but incorporates an emphasis on contemporary social justice as an element of Christian virtue. ~ Publishers Weekly
Mark C. Murphy (Cornell University Press: August 2002), 224 pages.
In the first book wholly concerned with divine authority, Mark C. Murphy explores the extent of God's rule over created rational beings. The author challenges the view-widely supported by theists and nontheists alike-that if God exists, then humans must be bound by an obligation of obedience to this being. He demonstrates that this view, the "authority thesis," cannot be sustained by any of the arguments routinely advanced on its behalf, including those drawn from perfect being theology, metaethical theory, normative principles, and even Scripture and tradition. After exposing the inadequacies of the various arguments for the authority thesis, he develops his own solution to the problem of whether, and to what extent, God is authoritative. For Murphy, divine authority is a contingent matter: while created rational beings have decisive reason to subject themselves to the divine rule, they are under divine authority only insofar as they have chosen to allow God's decisions to take the place of their own in their practical reasoning. The author formulates and defends his arguments for this view, and notes its implications for understanding the distinctiveness of Christian ethics. ~ 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
Tim Muehlhoff and Todd V. Lewis (InterVarsity Press: March 2010), 219 pages.
Whether setting about to love our neighbor, to settle a dispute, to share in the suffering of others or to speak up on behalf of the marginalized, we inevitably must engage in communication. And what could be more natural, more human, than communication? But we all learn quickly enough that good communication is not always natural. There is much to learn from Scripture and from the academic study of human communication. Tim Muehlhoff and Todd Lewis are able guides, aiding us in understanding the broad field of human communication in Christian perspective. Here they offer readers a vital assessment of the power of words, perspective-taking, persuasion and conflict management — all in an effort to improve our abilities to communicate forgiveness and shape the world we live in for the good. Special attention is focused on the place of Christians as counterpublics — those who offer alternative perspectives to the dominant voices in society. ~ Product Description
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.
The Quotable Bertrand Russell (ed. Lee Eisler, Buffalo, NY: Prometheus, 1993), p. 118.
The fundamental defect of Christian ethics consists in the fact that it labels certain classes of acts 'sins' and others 'virtue' on grounds that have nothing to do with their social consequences.
God in the Dock (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1970)
Christianity claims to give an account of facts — to tell you what the real universe is like. Its account of the universe may be true, or it may not, and once the question is really before you, then your natural inquisitivenes must make you want to answer. If Christianity is untrue, then no honest man will want to believe it, however helpful it might be: if it is true, every honest man will want to believe it, even if it gives him no help at all. As soon as we have realized this, we realise something else. If Christianity should happen to be true, then it is quite impossible that those who know this truth and those who don't should be equally well-equipped for leading a good life. Knowledge of the facts must make a difference to one's actions.
John Hare, presented at Baylor University (April 2002).
Hare summarizes his talk as follows: "I have been defending a divine command theory of the right. The version I have been defending is that of Duns Scotus. In this version we distinguish between the two tables of the law, or the two great commandments Jesus gives us. The first, we say, is necessary. God has to order us towards loving God. The second is contingent, and is the route God has chosen for us to reach our final destination, which is union with God. I have then replied to two objections to this view. First, there is the objection that divine command theory makes morality arbitrary. The reply is that the route is not arbitrary because it does lead to our destination. The second objection is that divine command theory makes morality infantile. The reply is that if there is a God who knows what is good for all of creation, then it is not infantile to follow the commands of such a being, but excellent good sense." Also see, "Can We Be Good Without God?".
Kathryn Tanner (Cambridge University Press: December 2009), 322 pages.
Through the intensely intimate relationship that arises between God and humans in the incarnation of the Word in Christ, God gives us the gift of God's own life. This simple claim provides the basis for Kathryn Tanner's powerful study of the centrality of Jesus Christ for all Christian thought and life: if the divine and the human are united in Christ, then Jesus can be seen as key to the pattern that organizes the whole, even while God's ways remain beyond our grasp. Drawing on the history of Christian thought to develop an innovative Christ-centered theology, this book sheds fresh light on major theological issues such as the imago dei, the relationship between nature and grace, the Trinity's implications for human community, and the Spirit's manner of working in human lives. Originally delivered as Warfield Lectures at Princeton Theological Seminary, it offers a creative and compelling contribution to contemporary theology. ~ Product Description
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
F. LeRon Shults and Brent Waters, eds. (Eerdmans Publishing Company: June 2010), 236 pages.
This book brings together leading theologians and ethicists to explore the neglected relationship between Christology and ethics. The contributors to this volume work to overcome the tendency toward disciplinary xenophobia, considering such questions as What is the relation between faithful teaching about the reality of Christ and teaching faithfulness to the way of Christ? and How is christological doctrine related to theological judgments about normative human agency? With renewed attention and creative reformulation, they argue, we can discover fresh ways of tending to these perennial questions. ~ Product Description
A Natural History of Religion (1757), Part XV.
Hear the verbal protestations of all men: Nothing so certain as their religious tenets. Examine their lives: You will scarcely think that they repose the smallest confidence in them. The greatest and truest zeal gives us no security against hypocrisy: The most open impiety is attended with a secret dread and compunction. No theological absurdities so glaring that they have not, sometimes, been embraced by men of the greatest and most cultivated understanding. No religious precepts so rigorous that they have not been adopted by the most voluptuous and most abandoned of men. ... Look out for a people, entirely destitute of religion: If you find, them at all, be assured, that they are but few degrees removed from brutes. What so pure as some of the morals, included in some theological system? What so corrupt as some of the practices, to which these systems give rise?
David Instone-Brewer (Eerdmans: June 2002), 368 pages.
To many, the New Testament's teaching on divorce and remarriage seems to be both impractical and unfair. The "plain" meaning of the texts allows for divorce only in cases of adultery or desertion, and it does not permit remarriage until the death of one's former spouse. But are these proscriptions the final word for Christians today? Are we correctly reading the scriptures that address these issues? By looking closely at the biblical texts on divorce and remarriage in light of the first-century Jewish and Greco-Roman world, this book shows that the original audience of the New Testament heard these teachings differently. Through a careful exploration of the background literature of the Old Testament, the ancient Near East, and especially ancient Judaism, David Instone-Brewer constructs a biblical view of divorce and remarriage that is wider in scope than present-day readings. Among the important findings of the book are that both Jesus and Paul condemned divorce without valid grounds and discouraged divorce even for valid grounds; that both Jesus and Paul affirmed the Old Testament grounds for divorce; that the Old Testament allowed divorce for adultery and for neglect or abuse; and that both Jesus and Paul condemned remarriage after an invalid divorce but not after a valid divorce. Instone-Brewer shows that these principles are not only different from the traditional church interpretation of the New Testament but also directly relevant to modern relationships. Enhanced with pastoral advice on how to apply the biblical teaching in today's context, this volume will be a valuable resource for anyone seeking serious answers about married life. ~ Product Description
"Truth Commissions and Judicial Trials" in The Provocations of Amnesty (New Africa Books: 2003) p. 82.
The isolating device of prison guarantees that reconciliation between prisoners and the rest of 'us' remains far out of our minds. The case with amnestied perpetrators is different. Their very presence raises the daily question: can the sinning and the sinned-against achieve a new positive relationship. For the sake of new social harmony, the motto 'forget and move on' has its utilitarian attraction. Bt the motto is deceptive. Forgetting is a tricky business, both psychically and politically. Psychically, Kierkegaard was right to suggest that real forgetting requires real remembering: 'When we say that we consign something to oblivion, we suggest simultaneously that it is to be forgotten and yet also remembered.'
"Truth Commissions and Judicial Trials" in The Provocations of Amnesty (New Africa Books: 2003) p. 63.
Post-modernists know many ways to disparage and eliminate claims to truth in all of these dimensions. If history (as assessment of what actually happened) is infinitely malleable at the behest of the powerful, if moral suppositions about what histories are important to recover, are arbitrary, if personal experience has nothing to do with collective acknowledgment of truth, if human suffering is not accessible to moral judgement at the moment or post facto, and if the facts of history cannot be attributed in some tangible way to human agency, then both judicial institutions and truth commissions are philosophically illegitimate. Such illegitimacy would spell the demise of Christian ethics, of course, for the discipline, with Christian theology, has a stake in the truths of history, in vital distinctions between just and unjust suffering, and in the obligations which persons and societies owe to identify, curb, and remedy wrongs suffered by any of our neighbours.
J.P. Moreland, Westminster Theological Journal 59 (1997), pp. 257-68.
The Old and New Testaments contain a number of passages that in some way or another associate moral obligation with self-interest in the form of seeking rewards and avoiding punishment. Thus, Exod 20:12 says "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you." Jesus tells us to "seek first His kingdom, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you" (Matt 6:33). On another occasion he warns his listeners that at the end of the age "the angels shall come forth, and take out the wicked from among the righteous, and will cast them into the furnace of fire; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matt 13:49-50). Paul states his ambition to be pleasing to the Lord "for we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds. (II Cor 5:10).
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.
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.
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
Charles L. Griswold (Cambridge University Press: September 2007), 268 pages.
Nearly everyone has wronged another. Who among us has not longed to be forgiven? Nearly everyone has suffered the bitter injustice of wrongdoing. Who has not struggled to forgive? Charles Griswold has written the first comprehensive philosophical book on forgiveness in both its interpersonal and political contexts, as well as its relation to reconciliation. Having examined the place of forgiveness in ancient philosophy and in modern thought, he discusses what forgiveness is, what conditions the parties to it must meet, its relation to revenge and hatred, when it is permissible and whether it is obligatory, and why it is a virtue. ~ Product Description • "Rarely has a philosopher offered his fervent students and readers such depth, knowledge and sensitivity as Charles Griswold has done in this volume that deals with one of the most urgent topics facing humankind today." ~ Elie Wiesel