Archives For Ethics


Phil Kenneson

Here is the fifth of the audio recordings from the Slow Church Conference that we hosted last month here at Englewood Christian Church. (The sixth and final recording will be posted next week.)

Previously posted talks from the Slow Church conference:

Our aim for the conference was to foster conversation around the work of several key theologians whose work inspired the Slow Church book that John Pattison and I wrote.

[ Download a FREE sampler of the SLOW CHURCH book here… ]

Phil Kenneson is Professor of Theology and Philosophy at Milligan College in Eastern Tennessee.

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Thinking Theologically about Water

A Feature Review of

Just Water: Theology, Ethics, and the Global Water Crisis

Christiana Peppard

Paperback: Orbis Books, 2014
Buy now:   [ Amazon ]   [ Kindle ]
Reviewed by Myes Werntz
As I read Christiana Peppard’s timely and thoughtful Just Water: Theology, Ethics, and the Global Water Crisis, Texas is currently turning toward its long, brutal summer. Last year, despite ample rainfall, a number of growing regions throughout the state made the news because of what, to many, had seemed to be an impossible question—that drinking water from the aquifers beneath the cities was running short. As Peppard points out, fresh water—an unsubstitutable feature of every ecosystem —remains less than 2.5% of all available water in the world, and yet, it is treated as an endless commodity. But just the same, fresh water—one of the invisible, most taken-for-granted aspects of creation—is taken for granted, harvested at unsustainable rates worldwide. It is how to think and act about this global necessity that Peppard proposes to unpack in her volume.
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Moral Ground - K.D. Moore and M.P. Nelson, Eds.Haunted by a Future

A Review of

Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril

Kathleen Dean Moore and Michael P. Nelson, Editors

Paperback: Trinity University Press, 2011
Buy now: [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]

Reviewed by Gregory A. Clark

Moral Ground is haunted by a future.

The editors, Moore and Nelson, begin their introduction with an analogy.  Dinosaurs continued to feed and care for their young even while an asteroid tumbled toward the earth.  When that asteroid crashed into the earth it began a chain of events that undermined the various species of dinosaurs.  So also, we (where “we” means the human species) potential dinosaurs that we are, continue our life as usual while the equivalent of an asteroid, climate change, bears down upon us.  We all ought to be haunted by the future.

But, Moore and Nelson point out that analogy is not necessity.  We are not there yet. We have three things the dinosaurs lacked: (1) a warning, (2) an imperative, and, for now, (3) a future. Let’s look at Moore and Nelson’s position on each of these points.

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Annemarie Kidder - Ultimate Price A Brief Review of

Ultimate Price: Testimonies of Christians who Resisted the Third Reich

Annemarie Kidder.

Paperback: Orbis Books, 2012.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]

Reviewed by C. Christopher Smith

Conversations about Christian ethics, and particularly ones that address questions of war and violence, if they go on long enough, will eventually come to the question: What about Hitler? All too often Christians are plagued in such conversations by their narrow imaginations about how the church should respond to a tyrant like Hitler – i.e., by backing the full military force of the nation-state.   The strength of Annemarie Kidder’s new book Ultimate Price: Testimonies of Christians who Resisted the Third Reich is that the stories it contains stretch our imaginations about the sorts of options that are available as Christian responses to a regime like the Third Reich.

The book begins with stories that are familiar: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Franz Jäggerstätter and Sophie Scholl (who some readers may be familiar with as a result of the 2005 documentary Sophie Scholl: The Final Days, a scene from which has been used on the front cover of Kidder’s new book).  Also included are Alfred Delp, S.J., Jochen Klepper, Bernhard Lichtenberg and Rupert Mayer, S.J.  Each person’s story is told primarily through their own words, with an introduction by Kidder.  The pieces are mostly short, and can feel a bit disjointed in places, but overall they come together in a vibrant mosaic that bears witness to the truth and justice of Christ.

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More Apotropaic Arboreal Adventures:
A Response to Parler
By Paul Martens

Paul Martens RespondsThis response is directed at the longer ebook version of Branson Parler’s review.

[ Click here to read/ download (PDF) ]

CLICK HERE for the shorter version of Parler’s review of:

The Heterodox Yoder

Paul Martens.

Paperback: Cacade Books, 2012.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]

When one writes a book suggesting that an important Christian thinker might best be understood as heterodox, one expects a swift and strong response. In these respects, Branson Parler has not disappointed with his thirty-eight page ebook—The Forest and the Trees: Engaging Paul Martens’ The Heterodox Yoder—that appeared a mere two and a half months after the publication of my The Heterodox Yoder.[1] I sincerely appreciate the conviction evident in Parler’s engagement. Although the length of his review is oddly flattering, it is absolutely clear that his ebook is an energetic attempt to reject my rendering of Yoder:[2] following a brief summary of my argument, it provides a lengthy explication of three central elements of Yoder’s authorship—politics, Christian particularity, and sacraments—that allegedly undermine my argument, ultimately leading to a pithy (and rather brazen) conclusion that not only overturns my application of the proverbial “forest for the trees” imagery but also appropriates and extends my invocation of heterodoxy in order to claim that my reading of Yoder is analogous to heresy.

Parler correctly observes that I view Yoder’s thought as a sort of cautionary tale and that I believe it is important to avoid reducing Christianity to ethics (not, however, because of my experience in Anabaptism but simply because reducing Christianity to ethics is problematic theologically – my experience in Anabaptism has simply illustrated this problem). Yet, Parler also claims that The Heterodox Yoder “only confuses rather than clarifies things” because I do not account for the “whole forest” of Yoder’s corpus (37). At the gracious invitation of The Englewood Review of Books, I offer the following comments of response in order to clarify what I take to be (a) missing from Parler’s analysis; and (b) misleading in Parler’s description of three central elements—very significant trees, to continue the metaphor—of Yoder’s thought.

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We are proud to offer an exclusive excerpt from
John Nugent’s brand new book The Politics of Yahweh,
which will debut at SBL later this month.

Watch for our review before the end of year…

John  Nugent - The Politics of YahwehThe Politics of Yahweh:
John Howard Yoder,
The Old Testament
and the People of God
John Nugent.
Paperback: Cascade Books, 2011.

Back Cover Description

John Howard Yoder is most famous for arguing in The Politics of Jesus that a sound reading of the New Testament demonstrates the abiding relevance of Jesus to social ethics. However, it is seldom acknowledged that Yoder makes essentially the same argument with regard to the Old Testament. Throughout his extensive writings, Yoder offers a provocative interpretation of the Old Testament that culminates in the way of Jesus and establishes the ethical, ecclesiological, and historiographical continuity of the entire biblical canon. In The Politics of Yahweh, presented as a prequel to The Politics of Jesus, John C. Nugent makes Yoder’s complete Old Testament interpretation accessible in one place for the first time.

Nugent does not view Yoder’s interpretation as flawless. Rather, Nugent moves beyond summary to offer honest critique and substantial revision. His constructive proposal, which stands in fundamental continuity with the work of Yoder, is likely to provoke much thought from theologians, biblical scholars, and ethicists. Even at points where readers disagree with some of his and Yoder’s interpretations, they will be challenged to explore new perspectives and rethink common assumptions concerning issues that arise from sustained reflection on the Old Testament.

Excerpt from Chapter Two

Prediluvian Politics

Yoder’s reading of the prediluvian narrative focuses primarily on three characters: Cain, Abel, and Lamech. His analysis of the events surround­ing these men’s lives is crucial to his appropriation of the Old Testament for ethics, ecclesiology, and historiography because in them he further spells out the nature of the fallen human social order and the governing state in particular. Yoder’s starting point is Cain’s murder of Abel.

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“Disconnection Notice

A review of
You Lost Me:
Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church
. . . and Rethinking Faith

By David Kinnaman.

Review by Josh Wallace.

YOU LOST ME - KinnamanYou Lost Me:
Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church
. . . and Rethinking Faith

David Kinnaman.
Hardback: Baker Books, 2011.
Buy now:
[ ] [ Amazon – Kindle ]

In an hour, I’ll be drinking coffee with a nineteen-year-old preacher’s kid who’s finding it hard to connect with his father’s church. Tomorrow I hope to call a good friend from my Christian college days to talk about his new teaching job. He’s drifted in and out of churches over the past five years, never quite finding a place that fits. This morning I read an email from a fellow recent seminary grad wondering whether he can stick with a church position in the midst of deep frustration and disappointment with the way his church embodies Jesus’s good news.

David Kinnaman’s You Lost Me has its roots in stories like these. Thousands of stories. Nearly five thousand interviews with and about eighteen-to-twenty-nine-year-olds in the United States. The project conducted by Kinnaman’s Barna Group stretched from 2007 to 2011, launched eight new social scientific studies, and reanalyzed Barna’s twenty-seven years of interviews and polls for data regarding the youngest generation of Americans and their relationship to the church. You Lost Me reads as a capstone report to this research, distilling it, analyzing, suggesting next steps.

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“Incarnating Christ in our Places

A review of
Where Mortals Dwell:
A Christian View of Place for Today
By Craig Bartholomew.

Review by Chris Smith.

WHERE MORTALS DWELL - BartholomewWhere Mortals Dwell:
A Christian View of Place for Today
Craig Bartholomew.
Paperback: Baker Academic, 2011.
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About a year ago, a friend of mine who has access to a good seminary library, showed me a small stack of books on theology of place that he was in the process of reading.  As I recall, most of the books (including, most memorably, John Inge’s A Christian Theology of Place) were from publishers outside the United States, and I bemoaned to myself that such works were so hard to come by here.  Thus, I was very excited to hear about Baker Academic’s release of Craig Bartholomew’s Where Mortals Dwell: A Christian View of Place for Today.  A few years ago, I had read and appreciated Bartholomew’s The Drama of Scripture (co-written with Michael Goheen), so I was eager to see how he developed a theology of place.  And Where Mortals Dwell did not disappoint.  The book offers a historical approach to the theology of place in three parts, scripture, church history (and the Western philosophical tradition) and the contemporary era – in which Bartholomew broadens his approach from theology to ethics and explores how Christians might be engaged in the good work of placemaking.

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522571: Paul Among the People: The Apostle Reinterpreted and Reimagined in His Own Time

A Review of

Paul Among the People:
The Apostle Reinterpreted
and Reimagined in His Own Time

By Sarah Ruden
Now Available in Paperback: Image, 2011.
Buy now:
[ ]
[ Amazon – Kindle ]

Reviewed by David Anderson.

Paul is one of those writers—and personalities, as we catch glimpses of his own in the epistles and in Acts—that people either love or dislike without much middle ground. But he was a man of his time, just as the Old Testament prophets were men of their time. To understand “where they were coming from,” a reader needs to own at least a basic familiarity with the culture they lived in.

Sarah Ruden’s earlier books are translations of some of the classics of ancient literature: the Aeneid, Lysistrata, and Satyricon. In this short study (a little under 200 pages not counting backmatter) she looks at Paul’s writings on various topics in the light of how these compare to accounts by Greek and Roman authors. For a slightly similar, albeit more scholarly, effort that places more emphasis on contemporaneous historical events (the emperor Claudius’ expulsion of the Jews from Rome, Nero’s early actions as emperor), Neil Elliott’s Arrogance of Nations (Fortress, 2010 reprint ed.) can be highly recommended.

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759352: John Howard Yoder: Spiritual Writings

A Review of

John Howard Yoder: Spiritual Writings

By Paul Martens and Jennifer L. Howell,eds.
Paperback: Orbis Books,2011.
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Reviewed by Daniel M. Yencich

When one thinks of “spiritual masters,” the first name that springs to mind is typically not John Howard Yoder.  There is a certain irony that Yoder would be included in Orbis Books’ Modern Spiritual Masters series.  Yoder’s work, sometimes understood as a dichotomy emphasizing the politics of Jesus rather than his spirituality, is not typically regarded as particularly devotional or “spiritual.”  Such an assessment is probably partly right.  Continue Reading…