Reviews on Resources for Biblical and Theological Studies


Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Nov• 04•16

Jones, E. Allen, et.a. (eds.) Ecclesia and Ethics: Moral Formation and the Church. New York: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2016. ISBN: 9780567664006. Pages: 212.


This volume is the outcome of a series of webinars organized by a group of Ph.D. students in University of Saint Andrews (Scotland) in 2012. Though fifty scholars presented papers, only 13 of the papers are selected for publication in this volume. They are divided into three sections as: Part I, ‘Biblical-Theological Foundations for Ecclesial Ethics’; Part II, ‘Virtue Ethics, Character Formation, and Ecclesial Ethics’ and Part III, ‘Exegesis and Application—Scripture and the Praxis of Ecclesial Et.hics.’ Unlike many other anthologies of this kind, most of the titles of the articles are explicit.

In the first article, Dennis P. Hollinger argues that creation is the starting point for any discussion on ecclesial ethic. So, goes on to explore five paradigms from the creation narrative that provides frameworks for ecclesial ethics. In the same section, Michael J. Gorman moves to the New Testament in his article titled ‘The Cross in Paul: Christophany, Theophany and Ecclesiophany.’ He ventures to establish that the Cross of Christ is not only the revelation of the identity of Christ, but also of God and of the Church.

Brian Rosner’s essay also has to do with Pauline thought—‘The Church as Temple and Moral Exhortation in 1 Corinthians.’ He zeroes down on the Temple imagery in the Corinthian correspondence to explore its significance for Paul’s moral exhortations.

The last article in the first section also has to do with Pauline moral theology: ‘Learning from Paul: Centred Ethics that Avoid Legalistic Judgementalism and Moral Relativism.’ Mark D. Baker begins with his own struggles as a Christian in deciding ethical boundaries. First of all, he surveys the situation in Galatia that Paul dealt with in the epistles. Then using inights from the work of missionary anthropologist Paul Hiebert, he seems to conclude that churches are not supposed to build fences around them but dig wells so that people can drink from the ‘well of Jesus.’ He actually calls not to think in terms of strict water-tight categories as ‘us’ and ‘them’, and the like.

The second part, ‘Vritue Ethics, Character Formation, and Ecclesial Ethics’ has two articles. The first is by Stanley Hauerwas—‘Habit Matters: The Bodily Character of Virtues.’ This describes how Thomas Aquinas developed Aristotle’s idea of habit. The second article comes from N.T. Wright titled, ‘Paul, Ethics and the Church.’ This in fact is based on Wright’s own book ‘Paul and the Faithfulness of God.’

The third part, ‘Exegesis and Application—Scripture and the Praxis of Ecclesial Ethics’ has seven articles. In the article titled ‘Did Saint Paul Take up the Great Commission?: Discipleship Transformed into a Pauline Key’ Nijay Gupta suggests that discipleship is not the only way to express Christian obedience. Writing as an insider S. Min Chun suggests that all is not well with the Korean church. The article, ‘An Ethical Reading of the Story of Gideon Abimelech for the Korean Church’ is about a number of scandals that the Korean churches faced in the recent years.

Mariam J. Kamell attempts to provide a picture of the community relationship in James 4:1-12 in her article, ‘Pride and Prejudice: Community Ethics in James 4:1-12.’ John Frederick’s article is quite interesting as he deals with the issue of Christian blogging in the light of Paul’s vision of morality. The title is explicit: ‘Discerning, Disarming and Redeeming the Digital Powers: Gospel Community, the Virtual Self and the HTML of Cruciform Love.’

Similarly, the title of the eleventh article is also self-explanatory: ‘De Manibus Gladius Corporalis Ablatus Est: Absolute Pacifism in the Early Church and Its Relevance in the Twenty-First Century.’ Another article based on Old Testament is the last but one by Michael Rhodes titled—‘Follow Us as We Follow Moses’: Learning Biblical Economics from the New Testament’s Appropriation of Old Testament Narratives, Practices and Liturgies.’ His main argument is that New Testaments appropriation of the Old Testament themes regarding wealth and prosperity is indicative of the relevance of Old Testament ethics for contemporary Church. The detailed title of the last article makes its intent explicit: ‘You will Fill Me with Joy in Your Countenance: Engaging the North American Ecclesial Context with a Narrative Ethical Reading of Acts 2:41-47 and 4:32-35.’ Hume makes the Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD) the central focus of this article.

The wide spectrum of themes, approaches that this volume presents is what makes it valuable. Equaly important is that the volume presents a wide range of established scholars as well.

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