Reconceiving politics in a theological framework, Christianity, Politics, and the Predicament of Evil argues for a constructive ethic that affirms both soulcraft and statecraft as essential elements of Christians’ political vocation and specifies the appropriate terms of their relationship.
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:Reviewed by:Introducing Christian Ethics by Samuel Wells and Ben Quash, and: Christian Ethics: An Introductory Reader ed. by Samuel WellsBradley B. BurroughsReview of Introducing Christian Ethics SAMUEL WELLS AND BEN QUASH Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010. 400 pp. $49.95Review of Christian Ethics: An Introductory Reader EDITED BY SAMUEL WELLS Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010. 360 pp. $51.95Whether in a semester-long course or a textbook, the task of introducing Christian ethics generally (...) requires one to choose between various competing priorities. Perhaps the most remarkable feature of Introducing Christian Ethics is that it eschews such choices. Instead of settling for an “either/or,” Samuel Wells and Ben Quash repeatedly push for “both/and.” Their introduction not only traces the historical development of Christian ethics, examining major historical thinkers and elucidating the larger arcs that connect them, but also treats the work of contemporary Christian ethicists. Moreover, on the one hand, the authors develop a typology of ethical thought that distinguishes various strands according to the audience to which ethical reflection is directed—universal ethics (which addresses all people), subversive ethics (which addresses the oppressed), and ecclesial ethics (which addresses Christians). On the other hand, the authors also show how notable representatives of these strands approach matters of contemporary ethical concern. To this, Wells adds a sourcebook that allows for readers to interact further with many of the thinkers treated in the introductory text as well as helps to shed further light upon these three strands of Christian ethics. The scope of the project represented by these two books is thus exceptionally ambitious: it strives to provide a comprehensive overview of the field and organize it according to an innovative typology.Introducing Christian Ethics proceeds in three parts. In part 1, Wells and Quash tell “the story of Christian ethics,” exploring the biblical, historical, and philosophical sources from which Christian ethics has most commonly drawn and offering brief depictions of a vast array of Christian thinkers, including Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Reinhold Niebuhr, and many others. Part 2, titled “The Questions Christian Ethics Asks,” lays out the threefold taxonomy of universal, subversive, and ecclesial ethics, illustrating each with reference to thinkers both historical and contemporary. Finally, part 3 turns to “the questions asked of Christian [End Page 233] ethics,” treating issues of “good order” (including the role of the state and the nature of justice), “good life” (economics, poverty, and work), “good relationships” (friendship, marriage, homosexuality), “good beginnings and endings” (contraception, abortion, euthanasia), and “good earth” (animals, crops ecology). For each of the issues treated in part 3, the authors offer an overview and an account of how thinkers from each of the strands of Christian ethics have addressed that topic.Wells and Quash bring an admirably broad view of the field to bear upon this project. Famous thinkers factor prominently. And yet the book also treats the work of those less likely to appear in introductory texts, such as Germain Grisez, John Mbiti, and Stephen Clark. Whether they are of the renowned or lesser-known, the sketches of thinkers that occur throughout the book are on the whole quite accurate. Although there are places where experts might wish to call out slight mischaracterizations, the renderings are precise enough to serve introductory readers. Wells and Quash’s broadness of vision also includes both Protestant and Roman Catholic thought. Whereas Introducing Christian Ethics focuses primarily upon papal encyclicals as exemplifying the latter, Wells’s introductory reader adds selections from Gustavo Gutiérrez, Margaret Farley, Dorothy Day, and others to help exemplify the complexity of Roman Catholic ethical reflection. Eastern Orthodoxy gets shorter shrift, an observation offered as a note to potential readers rather than a criticism.Even as its comprehensiveness equips Introducing Christian Ethics for use in a variety of ways and contexts, the quest for comprehensiveness appears to be at the heart of some of the book’s infelicities. Attempting to treat so many thinkers and concepts, it frequently moves at a brisk pace, touching upon complex phenomena and abruptly moving on. In many places, the questions the book answers for the entry-level readers at which it aims... (shrink)