From Christ to the World: Introductory Readings in Christian Ethics

From Christ to the World: Introductory Readings in Christian Ethics

From Christ to the World: Introductory Readings in Christian Ethics

From Christ to the World: Introductory Readings in Christian Ethics


This is a single volume that effectively introduces students to the full breadth of the discipline of Christian ethics. This reader captures the range of timely issues related to ethics but not at the expense of essays that show the theoretical foundations of the field. Part One examines the sources of Christian Ethics--Scripture, tradition, philosophy, and science. The norms, forms, and contexts of Christian moral theories are reviewed in Part Two. The final section discusses contemporary questions about human sexuality, medical practice, the use of force, economic justice, ecological responsibility, and more. Relevant biblical readings and a series of case studies accentuate the text.


The three editors of this volume were colleagues at Hope College during the academic years 19841987. Although we are each trained in Christian ethics, we differ in our interests, our understandings of Christian ethics, and the ways in which we teach Christian ethics. These differences led to many happy and healthy discussions during those three years and to many rich disagreements.

In the midst of our disagreements, we discovered unanimity on at least one point. There is no anthology which does what we think needs to be done in an introductory course in Christian ethics. While there are several fine collections of readings in Christian ethics, each focuses upon only a part of what needs to be discussed in introductory courses in Christian ethics.

There are introductory readers in Christian ethics which focus on particular moral problems, but students who are introduced only to issues frequently fail to appreciate the theological issues at stake in the very strategy someone adopts to address an issue. Christian ethics is not just about deciding but about deciding how to decide. Attention to specific ethical issues belongs in an introductory course and in an introductory reader, but we believe that ethical issues are best addressed when attention is also given to the resources and strategies for Christian moral discernment and judgment.

There are also texts which direct the student’s attention to readings in the history of Christian ethics. We applaud these efforts and agree that some familiarity with the Christian tradition of moral reflection — some attention to Scripture, to individuals like Clement of Alexandria, Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, and Calvin, and to movements like monasticism, the radical reformation, and the social gospel — is critical for an adequate introduction to Christian ethics. But sometimes the tradition is handled as if it were only of antiquarian interest. We believe that if the tradition is engaged at the same time contemporary issues are engaged, both the tradition and the discipline can be seen by students as valuable and exciting.

We have put together a collection of readings which will engage students in reflection upon concrete moral problems, disciplined by attention to some of the basic issues of Christian ethics and enriched by consideration of some of the finest minds in the Christian tradition. We have collected readings which will expose students to a wide diversity of voices in Christian ethics, past and present, and to the complexity of the discipline of Christian ethics. We have, in short, constructed an anthology which we believe will draw students into the exciting discipline of Christian ethics. We hope our readers will agree.

Finally, we should note and thank some of the undergraduates who have been our students and our assistants and intimately involved in the production of this volume. From Hope College, David Johnson, Timothy Verhey, Melanie Waldron, Alene Weber, and Rameen Zahed reviewed early drafts of the chapters, and made perceptive criticisms and suggestions. From Valparaiso University, Andrew Fields and Michael Kessler assisted in the preparation of biographical information.

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