Introducing Protestant Social Ethics

Foundations in Scripture, History, and Practice

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Despite their rich tradition of social concern, Protestants have historically struggled to articulate why, whether, and how to challenge unethical social structures. This book introduces Protestants to the biblical and historical background of Christian social ethics, inviting them to understand the basis for social action and engage with the broader tradition. It embraces and explains long-standing Christian reflection on social ethics and shows how Scripture and Christian history connect to current social justice issues. Each chapter includes learning outcomes and chapter highlights.


Part 1: Social Ethics and Scripture
1. The Pentateuch
2. Historical, Poetical, and Wisdom Literature
3. Prophets
4. Jesus in the New Testament
5. The Early Decades of Christianity
Part 1 Summary
Part 2: Social Ethics in Christian History
6. Late Antiquity
7. Middle Ages
8. Reformations Era
9. Post-Reformations Era
10. Contemporary Catholic Social Ethics
Part 2 Summary
Part 3: Principles for Protestant Social Ethics
11. Human Dignity
12. Common Good
13. Justice
14. Solidarity
15. Subsidiarity
Part 3 Summary


"In Introducing Protestant Social Ethics, Brian Matz offers an introduction to the broad Christian moral tradition that precedes and lays the foundation for Protestant social ethics. In a unique approach, Matz surveys key biblical social ethics themes, major historical developments affecting social ethics, and then five principles for Christian social ethics--human dignity, the common good, justice, solidarity, and subsidiarity. The book is written at an introductory level but has a comprehensive sweep that will make it of value as a classroom text. I recommend this creative contribution from an emerging voice in Christian ethics."

David Gushee, Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics and director of the Center for Theology and Public Life, Mercer University

"Some attempts to do Protestant social ethics capitulate to secular debates and assumptions about the binary between capitalism and socialism. In this book Matz avoids such pitfalls by presenting a biblically focused, theologically confident social ethic. In this admirably nonpartisan project, thoughtful readers will find themselves doing precisely what Matz describes as the role of the ethicist: listening to God's invitation to change how we see the world and our role in it."

Charles C. Camosy, associate professor of theological and social ethics, Fordham University

"With his characteristically meticulous and thoughtful approach, Matz has produced a work of scholarly achievement and deep reflection on the continued ethical challenges brought about by the inequalities of human life. This important survey identifies how the theme of social ethics is traced through Scripture and the historic responses of Christians who have accepted God's invitation to seek justice in the world. Inviting Protestants to greater facility with the vocabulary of social justice theology, Introducing Protestant Social Ethics is a welcome--and timely--contribution to the field."

Brenda Llewellyn Ihssen, assistant professor of early and medieval Christian history, Pacific Lutheran University

The Author

  1. Brian Matz

    Brian Matz

    Brian Matz (PhD, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven and Saint Louis University) is associate professor of the history of Christianity and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet Endowed Chair in Catholic Thought at Fontbonne University in St. Louis, Missouri. He...

    Continue reading about Brian Matz


"It is clear the content of this work represents the collection of Matz's pedagogical and research expertise engaging the breadth and scope of social ethics. Matz seeks to improve Protestant social ethics while also situating any suggestions within the larger discipline of social ethics, an admirable and ambitions goal. . . . Matz successfully develops a sweeping and helpful introduction to Christian social ethics as a discipline. As a matter of fact, much of Matz's work wonderfully integrates biblical, theological, situational, and philosophical concerns. . . . Introducing Protestant Social Ethics offers a timely and helpful introduction to Christian social ethics. . . . Readers are well served by Matz's clear expertise and teaching experience. In an era where Christians cannot afford to ignore the social realities of our living faith, Brian Matz provides an important contribution to this conversation."

Peter M. Anderson,