Author: Scott B. Rae
Hardcover: 384 pages
When I took Ethics in seminary, we never used an Intro to book. We kind of jumped in, head first, on day way, and never looked back. Looking back on my experience, to some extent, I think that was limiting in some ways. I don’t have a book that I can go back and reference…only my notes…and, quite frankly, I suck as a note taker.
Being somewhat interested in Christian Ethics, I was looking for a good, introductory book to the subject. Something that was clear and easy to use; something that would allow me to easily look up the basic thrust of an argument either for or against a particular issue.
While not officially divided up, there are two main parts to this book. The first part of the book (Chapters 1-4) serve to bring the student to a better understanding of ethics and, more specifically, Christian ethics. The second part of the book (Chapters 5-12) provide the material necessary to begin to think ethically about modern issues such as abortion, war, economics.
There were several features of the book that I found particularly helpful:
- Notes at the end of each chapter. I have to admit, I’m a snob when it comes to footnotes. I absolutely love footnotes and despise endnotes, mainly because I’m lazy. It just takes too much energy to turn to the back of the book when I’m reading to look at the note. I love to look at the notes, but, having to flip back and forth and possibly lose my spot in the process really drives me nuts. At the same time, I also understand that there are costs associated with footnotes vs. endnotes. What we have here, is a suitable compromise. There’s less flipping back and forth between the page I read and the section that has the notes.
- Review questions. I thought this was one of the best features of the book. The questions are geared towards the chapter and making the students expand upon the ideas presented in the chapter.
- Online material to help professors. While not technically a part of the book, I did check out the online material and found it to be quite good. The material ranges from syllabi to pre-made Power Point presentations with the aim of making things just a little bit easier for the instructor of an Introduction to Ethics class.
There was one organizational piece that seemed curious to me, although, in my opinion, the organization flow of the book was not a hinderance in any way. It’s more of a logical flow issue for me. I did not like the placement of Chapter 2 (Christian Ethics) and Chapter 3 (Ethical Systems and Ways of Moral Reasoning). To me, it would have flowed better logically if the chapters were flipped. The discussion, in my mind, should have moved from the Intro to Ethical Systems and Ways of Moral Reasoning to Christian Ethics. But, like I said, the order as is published does not take away from the overall argument of the book.
The chapter that really interested me was Chapter 11: The Morality of War. I am extremely interested in the Just War Tradition and its use. Rae did a good job outlining the two positions used to talk about war (Just War and Pacifism). He spends half of the chapter discussing the two major forms of pacifism before going into the criteria for Just War. I do, however, think Rae was unfair in his treatment of Just War vs. Pacifism. Rae provides little criticism of the Just War Tradition while providing plenty of criticism to Pacifism.
Overall, I found this book to be extremely helpful for my own studies of ethics and thought it is a great textbook for those beginning to study ethics. I don’t necessarily agree with Rae’s position when it comes to issues such as bioethics and reproductive technology. But Rae is faithful to his treatment of the issues. Rae’s writing style is succinct and does not take new students down a road littered with theological jargon. Professors of Christian Ethics should consider this book when deciding on book for their class.
I received this book free from Zondervan. Providing me a free copy in no way guarantees a favorable review. The opinions expressed in this review are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”