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Common Callings and Ordinary Virtues

Christian Ethics for Everyday Life

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Every day we do commonplace things and interact with ordinary people without giving these activities and interactions much thought. This volume offers a theological guide to thinking Christianly about the nature of ordinary, everyday life. Ethicist Brent Waters shows that, when we engage them faithfully, our mundane activities and relationships are actually vitally important expressions of love for neighbors, friends, spouses, parents, children, strangers, and fellow citizens. We live out the Christian gospel in the contexts that define us and in the routine chores, practices, activities, and social settings that give ordinary life meaning. It is in those contexts that we discover what we were created for, what we were made to be and to become.


Part One: Theological and Moral Themes
1. Creation, Incarnation, and Resurrection
2. Calling and Vocation
3. Virtue and Vice
4. Ritual and the Ordering of Time and Place: On Belonging
Part Two: Everyday Relationships
5. Neighbors
6. Friends
7. Spouses
8. Parents and Children
9. Strangers
10. Citizens
Part Three: Everyday Activities
11. Work
12. Housework and Homework
13. Manners
14. Appearance
15. Eating
16. Leisure
Postscript: On the Good of Being Boring


"Much of Christian ethics is concerned with the decisions we should make concerning the great issues of life and death. In this wise and richly pondered book, Brent Waters reminds us that most of our lives are taken up with the mundane routines of everyday living, and that it is here that Christian discipleship forms us in the habits that enable us to flourish. Whether or not you dislike household chores as much as he does, these timely reflections may well open up a path to glimpsing God's glory right there amidst the dishes."

Robert Song, professor of theological ethics, Durham University

"Waters gives us a lucid and theologically rich account of the centrality and power of the ordinary in moral life as Christians understand it. In particular, he offers insight into the deformations that ensue when the framing realities of God's extraordinary love are lost, so that meaning must be injected by artifice and hyperbole into the everyday acts and relationships that are intended as the school of charity."

Sondra Wheeler, professor emerita of Christian ethics, Wesley Theological Seminary

"Brent Waters is one of the most insightful theologians I know, and his new book Common Callings and Ordinary Virtues is no exception to what we've come to expect from him--sound theology, relevant to important aspects of real life. This time Waters brings his theological acumen to bear on the so-called mundane aspects of everyday life. He shows the formative power of the 'dailyness' of life to shape us and enable us to become more Christlike. I highly recommend this work, in which Waters's characteristic insight is applied to an area of life that we might not have thought very deeply about in the past, though we surely will now."

Scott Rae, dean of faculty and professor of Christian ethics, Talbot School of Theology

"I hope Brent Waters will take no offense when I say that this book could not have been written by a young man. Wide-ranging in the topics it takes up, the fruit of much reading and much living, simultaneously respectful and politically incorrect--it cannot fail to provoke thought about the shape of a life well lived."

Gilbert Meilaender, senior research professor, Valparaiso University

The Author

  1. Brent Waters

    Brent Waters

    Brent Waters (DPhil, University of Oxford) is the Jerre and Mary Joy Stead Professor of Christian Social Ethics at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois, where he also directs the Jerre L. and Mary Joy Stead Center for Ethics and...

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