Community, Liberalism & Christian Ethics, by David Fergusson. New Studies in Christian Ethics. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1998. 219 pp. $59.95 (cloth). ISBN 0-52149678-0.
IF POLITICS MAKES FOR STRANGE bedfellows, communitarian ethics, inasmuch as it is a political theology, must share that same bed. In this short survey, we encounter the New Testament, Barth, George Lindbeck, the Pope, Stanley Hauerwas, moral philosophy, and Alisdair MacIntyre. Fergusson is clearly influenced by MacIntyre not only on content but on methodology as well. This is truly an interdisciplinary work.
Fergusson stakes out what he considers a Barthian position for the communitarian element in his project. "The knowledge and service of God within the church . . . shape the moral perception, motivation, commitment, and seriousness of the Christian life" (p. xi). The liberal element is reflected in the claim "that theology has some stake in philosophical arguments for moral realism and that, within pluralist societies, the church can recognize common moral ground-thus making common cause with other forces, agencies, and movements-even in the absence of common moral theory" (ibid.). Fergusson sees liberalism and communitarian ethics as sharing certain tenets basic to any open society: freedom of expression, toleration, state neutrality, and individual choice. …