Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Moral Action and Christian Ethics

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Moral Action and Christian Ethics

Article excerpt

Moral Action and Christian Ethics. By Jean Porter. New Studies in Christian Ethics. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1995. xvi + 235 pp. $54.95 (cloth).

Here is an instructive book for Anglicans who wish to follow Hooker, and the broadly Catholic tradition of natural theology, by shaping a Christian ethics with reference to the world and human life within it. It should also interest those looking for a reasoned middle ground between approaches featuring the analytical clarity of rationally derived norms, and those which focus on cases and situations as the generative source for norms. To these readers and others, Jean Porter offers a thoughtful study of rationality and moral action in Christian ethics. Though the author says she finds the line between philosophy and theology to be somewhat ambiguous, and commends what each can offer the other, some readers may conclude that the concerns of theology are not as well represented as those of philosophy.

Three principal issues structure this addition to the series New Studies in Christian Ethics. First, Porter provides some reflection on method in ethics, making a case for the continuing significance of Thomas Aquinas's contribution to moral thought. Second, she presents a study of Aquinas's view of moral rationality, with a view to helping us move from generic moral concepts (such as murder) to the correct description of specific kinds of human acts (such as euthanasia). Finally, she offers a study of Aquinas's theory of the virtues, to see how it functions as a bridge between the development of goodness in moral character and goodness in the sphere of moral action. Porter closes by indicating the way in which, with development of Aquinas's concepts, this approach to virtue and human action might undergird effective social criticism, thereby moving to overcome an individualism sometimes associated with Thomistic ethics.

Public discussion of ethics amongst Anglicans frequently displays a want of refinement and subtlety. With so much concern about issues, attention to methodology, except perhaps with respect to biblical hermeneutics and ethics, has generally languished. …

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