Mapping the Landscape
of Christian Ethics
A Review of
Augustinian and Ecclesial Christian Ethics:
On Loving Enemies
D. Stephen Long
Hardback: Lexington Books, 2018
[ Amazon ] [ Kindle ]
Reviewed by David W. Opderbeck
Steve Long has a talent for seeing a way through tensions between competing movements in contemporary theology. In his 2014 book Saving Karl Barth: Hans Urs von Balthasar’s Preoccupation (Fortress Press, 2014), Long addressed the debates over natural theology and the analogia entis that still divide Protestant theology in a Barthian key from Catholic theology sympathetic to von Balthasar. As Long showed in that book, while there are real differences, contemporary theology can benefit from insights from both of these great thinkers, even as Barth and von Balthasar benefitted in their own lifetimes from their personal friendship.
Now, in Augustinian and Ecclesial Christian Ethics, Long takes up a related set of differences in Christian ethics, between “neo-Anabaptists” and “neo-Augustinians.” The “neo-Anabaptists” – or, as Long comes to refer to them, the “ecclesial” ethicists, are represented by John Howard Yoder, Stanley Hauerwas, James William McClendon, and others who have taken up their work. The “neo-Augustinians” are represented by Oliver O’Donovan, John Milbank, Eric Gregory, Charles Mathewes, Jennifer Herdt, and others who are more sympathetic to the “Augustinian realism” of Reinhold Niebuhr. In many ways, the ecclesial ethicists represent the Barthian side of Saving Karl Barth, while the neo-Augustinians represent the von Balthasarian side (though O’Donovan is perhaps a Barthian Augustinian).