Review: Kingdom Ethics-Part 1

Kingdom Ethics

Authors: Glen H. Stassen and David P. Gushee

Hardcover: 540 pages

Publisher: InterVarsity Press

ISBN: 978-0-8308-2668-1

InterVarsity Press

Amazon

This book is just two long for one review, so I will be reviewing it in four parts.  Today’s review will be on Section I and Section II.

The problem, according to Stassen and Gushee, is:

Christian churches across the theological and confessional spectrum, and Christian ethics as an academic discipline that serves the churches, are often guilty of evading Jesus, the cornerstone and center of the Christian faith.  Specifically, the teachings and practices of Jesus-especially the largest block of his teachings, the Sermon on the Mount-are routinely ignored or misinterpreted in the preaching and teaching ministry of the churches and in Christian scholarship in ethics. (11)

This book is an attempt to rectify this problem.

Section I:

This section seeks to “establish the biblical framework for [the authors] treatment of Christian ethics…and begin to apply that framework.” (17)  They begin by looking at the meaning behind Jesus’ declaration that the Kingdom of God is at hand.  Next, the authors discuss virtues.  The authors then conclude this section with a discussion on “Holistic Christian Ethics”.

Chapter two was a particularly strong and powerful chapter.  This is the chapter where the authors discuss virtues.  What made this chapter so memorable was the authors treatment of the Beatitudes.  It is here that the authors lay out each of the nine Beatitudes, offer their interpretation and briefly expand on them and in the process, tackle some of the tricky language in each of the Beatitudes before giving a “nutshell” statement of what the Beatitude says.  Questions that are discussed include:

  • “What does it mean to be ‘poor in spirit’?”
  • “What is mourning?”
  • “What is righteousness?”
The challenging part of this chapter is the authors offer an interpretation of the Beatitudes that is different from what some pastors preach (at least I found it different than what I hear in the Lutheran church).  Some might find it difficult to hear a differing interpretation.

Section II:

In this section, the authors looks at several questions concerning the methodology of Christian ethics.  They begin by looking at authority and Scripture.  Next, they look at moral norms.  Finally, the authors discuss transforming initiatives.

The chapter that stood out in this section was the chapter on moral norms (moral convictions).  The authors begin by laying out four levels of moral norms and how moral judgments are made at each level.  The authors also look at the issues and problems surrounding placing an emphasis on one of these levels and how this emphasis can affect the way one reaches a judgment.  The authors also discuss the difficulties involved in discussion judgments with others, especially when one is talking at one level (ie. the rules level) and the other is talking at a different level (ie. the principles level).

Overall, I though this was a solid opening to the book.  With the background information out of the way, we can no move on to the rest of the book and looking at specific issues in ethics and the authors treatment of the issues.

Disclaimer:

I received this book free from InterVarsity Press.  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.”

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One thought on “Review: Kingdom Ethics-Part 1

  1. Pingback: Sermon of the Mount, via Aristotle | Unsettled Christianity

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