Ecclesia and Ethics

Moral Formation and the Church

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Editor(s): 
Edward Allen Jones III, John Frederick, John Anthony Dunne, Eric Lewellen, Janghoon Park
  • New York, NY: 
    Bloomsbury T&T Clark
    , May
     2016.
     232 pages.
     $120.00.
     Hardcover.
    ISBN
    9780567664006.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.

Review

Ecclesia and Ethics stems from a global web conference on the church and ethics organized by students at the University of St. Andrews (Scotland) in 2013. The web conference format allowed the conference to include presenters and attendees from around the world. 

While the book appears in the T&T Clark Biblical Studies series, the contributors include not only biblical scholars, but also theologians, ethicists, and missiologists, both established scholars like Michael Gorman, N. T. Wright, and Stanley Hauerwas, and also students at the masters and doctoral levels. 

The first part of the book includes essays on the biblical-theological foundations of ecclesial ethics. First, Dennis P. Hollinger seeks to root ecclesial ethics in creation while not opposing creation and redemption. Second, Gorman argues that for Paul, the cross not only reveals the identity of Christ, but also the identity of God and the church, declaring that the church should have a cross-shaped, or a cruciform, existence. Third, Brian Rosner focuses upon Paul’s identification of the church as temple in 1 Corinthians in connection with Paul’s moral exhortations within the letter, especially those related to purity and the worship of God. Last, Mark D. Baker draws on Paul’s letter to the Galatians to advocate for a perspective on ecclesial ethics that avoids legalism and moral relativism, and instead is centered on God.

Part 2 focuses on virtue ethics and moral formation within ecclesial ethics. In dialogue with Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas, Hauerwas focuses on bodies, habits, and desires in the development of virtue. There he notes that “the task of Christian ethics is not to promote a virtue ethic, but to show how the virtues are in service to growth in human friendship with God” (75n13). Wright then follows by arguing that Paul’s modified virtue ethic is situated within his inaugurated eschatology.

Part 3, by far the longest section of the volume, is mainly devoted to exegetical papers on particular biblical texts. The authors in this section not only seek to provide close readings, but also to show how these texts can be applied within the contemporary church. Nijay Gupta begins the section by arguing that while the term mathētēs is only used in the Gospels and Acts, the concept is present in Paul’s language, although expressed in the language of kyrios /doulos. Next, Sungmin Min Chun utilizes the Gideon-Abimelech narrative (Judges 6–9) in order to critique the ethical failings of ministers and churches in South Korea, including sexual and financial scandals and an overemphasis on numbers. Third, Mariam J. Kamell analyzes discussions of pride, desire, and humility in the communal life of the church in James. Fourth, John Frederick uses Paul’s discussion of the powers to discuss the ambivalence of online media (especially blogging) in relation to Paul’s cruciform ethic and the moral formation of the body of Christ. Fifth, Aaron C. Manby argues, through engagement of Tertullian, Origen, and Cyprian, that the early church was “absolutely pacifist” (166) and seeks to discern the relevance of the early church’s stance for the contemporary church. Sixth, Michael Rhodes discusses how the New Testament authors reappropriate various Old Testament texts—such as the manna narrative (Exodus 16), Jubilee (Leviticus 25), or the tithe-meal (Deuteronomy 26)—in discussing economics and the church’s common life (e.g., Acts 2, 4; 1 Corinthians 10–11). Douglas A. Hume then concludes the volume by providing a narrative ethical reading of Acts 2:41–47 and 4:32–35 that can speak to the Moral Therapeutic Deism prevalent in North America.

The essays in Ecclesia and Ethics cover a wide range of topics and biblical texts and respond to different cultural situations, but each of the pieces discuss ethics with an eye toward the church and moral formation. While the cost of the volume likely makes it unusable as a textbook, libraries would benefit from having this book in their collections. Professors could also utilize individual chapters for biblical studies or ethics courses.

About the Reviewer(s): 

Shaun C. Brown is a doctoral candidate in Theological Studies at Wycliffe College at the University of Toronto.

Date of Review: 
September 12, 2018
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Edward Allen Jones III is Assistant Professor of Bible at Corban University, USA. 

John Frederick is a faculty member of the College of Theology at Grand Canyon University, USA.

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