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Posted March 9, 2006

Book: The Oxford Handbook of Theological Ethics
Edited by: Gilbert Meilaender and William Werpehowski
Oxford University Press, New York, 2005, pp. 546

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

The Oxford Handbook of Theological Ethics is an authoritative and compelling guide to the practical and theoretical issues that concern and shape the discipline. Thirty of the world’s most distinguished specialists provide new essays in order to offer a survey of and analysis of the subject. As this is a Handbook of theological ethics, its essays deal not only with the standard topics of ethics — the goals we ought to seek, the actions we ought to do, the sort of people we should seek to be — but more particularly with the shape moral life takes for those who seek to live as Christians. Ethics is, therefore, first placed firmly within the Christian theological tradition, in which thought and action can never be neatly separated. Four sections then explore the sources of Christian moral knowledge (scripture, divine commands, church tradition, reason and natural law); the structure of the Christian life (vocation, virtue rules, responsibility, death); the spirit of the Christian life (faith, hope, love); and the spheres of the Christian life (government, family, economy, culture, church). The final section of the Handbook contains essays discussing and evaluating certain scholarly works that have in the past been influential in offering (different) visions of how best to structure the field of theological ethics. Unlike any other book now available, the Handbook’s unrivaled breath and depth make it the definitive reference work for all students an academics who want to explore more fully essential topics in Christian ethics.

An Excerpt from the Book:

Christians and Family

The death of unconstrained patriarchy, the end of the status of wives and children as chattel, and the prohibition of child labor hardly signal that family life in the twenty-first century America is now morally safe. Where once we faced the temptations associated with hardship and poverty, we are now surrounded by the more insidious temptations afforded by comfort and affluence. American culture offers a full range of corruptions, shaped by its distinctive features of consumer capitalism and technological self-confidence. Marriage is now explicitly a life-style choice, an economic strategy, and courtship is more and more overtly conducted in a marketplace complete with advertising, both veiled and direct. In similar vein, we are offered a thousand subtle abuses of parental power by which we can make our children means to our ends, the vindication of our self-worth, or th vicarious fulfillment of our thwarted desires. Their methods range from the expensive grooming provided children of the rich in private academies, to the various uses of genetic tests and techniques to ensure that the children born to those who can afford these interventions will be desirable and rewarding. Luther’s children of God entrusted to our care’ are readily converted into one more category of the possessions by which we mark our achievement of the American dream, and demonstrate our success in the economic competition that so pervades our consumer society by purchasing for them every advantage.

Now, as in every age, ‘sin crouches at the door’ of the household, and we need the full range of our moral and spiritual resources to recognize and resist it. It is in the heart of the family, as we confront spouse and sibling, son and daughter, so nearly images of ourselves, that the true otherness of the other — their final belongings to God and not to us — is hardest to see, and hardest to honor. Only when our own hearts are converted, only when our natural loves are disciplined by charity and reordered to the priorities of disciples, can we learn to see and to turn from all the subtle distortions of family life. These take their particular shapes in the matrix of a particular society, but this does not make them either new or less potent. It only makes them harder for us to recognize.

Table of Contents:

Part I Dogmatics and Ethics

1. Creation and ethics
2. Redemption and ethics
3. Eschatology and ethics
4. Ecclesiology and ethics
5. Divine grace and ethics

Part II Sources of Moral Knowledge

6. Scripture
7. Divine commands
8. Tradition in the Church
9. Reason and natural law
10. Experience

Part III The Structure of the Christian Life

11. Vocation
12. Virtue
13. Rules
14. Responsibility
15. Death

Part IV The Spirit of the Christian Life

16. Faith
17. Hope
18. Love: a kinship of affliction and redemption

Part V Spheres of the Christian Life

19. Christians and government
20. Christians and family
21. Christians and economics
22. Christians and culture
23. Christians and the Church

Part VI The Structure of Theological Ethics: Books that Give Shape to the Field

24. Ernst Troeltsch’s The Social Teaching of the Christian Churches
25. Anders Nygren’s Agage and Eros
26. Kenneth Kirk’s The Vision of God
27. H. Richard Niebuhr’s Christ and Culture
28. Reinhold Niebuhr’s The Nature and Destiny of Man
29. John Mahoney’s The Making of Moral Theology
30. Catholic Social Teaching