Reviving Evangelical Ethics

The Promises and Pitfalls of Classic Models of Morality

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"Combining appreciation and critique, Wyndy Corbin Reuschling skillfully teases out the particular dynamics at work in the moral thinking of many evangelicals. An important contribution to understanding and strengthening evangelical ethics."--Christine D. Pohl, Asbury Theological Seminary

The classic theories of Aristotle, Kant, and Mill have influenced Christian thought in morality and ethics for centuries. But they can go only so far, writes ethicist Wyndy Corbin Reuschling in Reviving Evangelical Ethics: The Promises and Pitfalls of Classic Models of Morality. In this readable book she introduces and overviews the three classic philosophical schools of ethics: virtue, deontology, and teleology.

While the philosophers' approaches to virtue, duty, and utility have been used widely in forming ethical and moral practices, and are helpful for understanding various dimensions of ethics, Corbin Reuschling argues that they also have limitations from a theological perspective. These theories cannot account for the richness of Christian morality, which involves Scripture, the church, and the development of conscience for increasing skills in moral reflection and ethical deliberation. The author shows how evangelicals wittingly or unwittingly fall into one or another of the classic models without adequate biblical and theological reflection, probes deeply to deconstruct each philosophical approach, and reconstructs a broader, biblically based framework for personal and group ethics. This clear and accessible introductory ethics text will serve college and seminary students well.


Endorsements

"This book honors evangelical commitments to the authority of scripture, to a personal relation with Jesus, and to evangelism. But it challenges some of the ways evangelicals have brought those commitments to bear on Christian ethics, and it suggests better ways, ways that might indeed revive evangelical ethics."--Allen Verhey, Duke University

"Combining appreciation and critique, Wyndy Corbin Reuschling skillfully teases out the particular dynamics at work in the moral thinking of many evangelicals. By carefully analyzing the impact of several moral traditions on evangelicalism, she invites readers into a fuller recognition of the shaping power of scripture and Christian community, and into more robust practices of Christian discipleship. This book is an important contribution to understanding and strengthening evangelical ethics."--Christine D. Pohl, Asbury Theological Seminary

"Evangelical writers in the field of social ethics have for too long given only narrow slices of God's rich and complex vision for how we are to live. By restricting us to a deontological, teleological, or virtue understanding of God's call to ethical living, they have left us to legalisms, to situational ethics, or to an inward focus that ignores the plight of others. At last here is a book that helps us see the limitations of evangelical ethics built on Aristotelian, Kantian, and Millian ethical reflection. These are inadequate for providing a truly biblical vision of Christian moral formation. Corbin Reuschling deconstructs current evangelical approaches to Christian social ethics in order to construct a truly biblical vision of what it is to be a people of God."--Alice Mathews, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

"Reviving Evangelical Ethics offers an appreciative but rigorous critique of the ways that classical moral theory has limited ethics to reflection on the demands of duty, the achievement of certain results, or personal virtue. It is a positive call to obey the fuller moral vision of the Kingdom of God expressed throughout the scriptures and, above all, in the teaching and ministry of Jesus, whose own moral and ethical concerns are often eclipsed by preoccupation with the narrow moral issues thrust to the foreground by evangelical churches' entangling political alliances, or by the battle for individual souls at the expense of a full-bodied engagement with social justice. In this incisive and prophetic book, Corbin Reuschling calls for the deeper development of conscience and moral discernment among Christ-followers through sustained engagement with scripture, intentionally diverse Christian community, and involvement in specific acts of service, all of which help us grow in our awareness of the concerns of those not like us and thus broaden our moral perspective. This important book redefines the boundaries of evangelical ethics in salutarily progressive ways, while raising timely cautions concerning the therapeutic models of spiritual formation that further inhibit the development of the social dimension of Christian ethics."--David A. deSilva, Ashland Theological Seminary

"This is an important book for evangelicals. It seeks nothing less than a fresh, biblical, and formational direction in evangelical ethics. Written by an ethics professor and life-long practicing evangelical, the book carefully assesses common contemporary evangelical stances and points the biblical and theological way forward toward truly evangelical ethics. It is a delightfully written, insightful book and deserves a wide reading."--Robert L. Hubbard, North Park Theological Seminary

"Wyndy Corbin Reuschling's text provides a fresh, insistently self-critical study of the construction of evangelical ethics offered by an evangelical 'insider.' Even in the places where I disagreed with it, her personal honesty and thought-provoking analysis makes this a compelling and timely basic resource on the content of Christian ethics."--Traci C. West, Drew University Theological School


The Authors

  1. Wyndy Corbin Reuschling

    Wyndy Corbin Reuschling

    Wyndy Corbin Reuschling (PhD, Drew University) is professor of ethics and theology at Ashland Theological Seminary. She is the author of Reviving Evangelical Ethics: The Promises and Pitfalls of Classic Models of Morality and has written for...

    Continue reading about Wyndy Corbin Reuschling

  2. Wyndy Corbin Reuschling

    Wyndy Corbin Reuschling

    Wyndy Corbin Reuschling (PhD, Drew University) is professor of ethics and theology at Ashland Theological Seminary. She is the author of Reviving Evangelical Ethics: The Promises and Pitfalls of Classic Models of Morality and has written for...

    Continue reading about Wyndy Corbin Reuschling

Reviews

"Reviving Evangelical Ethics is an important and helpful discussion of the subject. It touches important issues about the nature of Christian ethical tradition and its relationship to classical models of the same. . . . The biblical faith always has to be remade in every generation. Certain themes and resonances remain central, but the outworking of them in changing circumstances is what the ethical task is all about. This book is a good essay on the prolegomena to all this from an evangelical point of view."--R. John Elford, Theological Book Review

"Some of the more engaging elements of this work are those of challenging some common evangelical terms, assumptions, and practices, especially as they reflect (consciously or otherwise) the tendencies to use the three classical models of ethics. There is serious food for thought for any pastor, counselor, or lay leader who recognizes the limited understanding of the ethical practices of much of evangelicalism. The conclusion of the book even has applications of the author's ethical perspectives to preaching, small groups, and service."--William E. Goff, Southwestern Journal of Theology

"An important book in that it reveals the blind spots in evangelical ethical reasoning and calls evangelicals to a richer participation in the moral life. . . . Reviving Evangelical Ethics offers a distinct call of its own--a call that needs to be heeded by all Christians, evangelical or otherwise."--David C. Cramer, Ethics & Medicine

"After reviewing and critiquing each classical theory, Reuschling formulates constructive proposals for making these ethical systems relevant to common Christian believers. . . . Reuschling uses clean prose and knows her classical and Christian ethics. She writes as a believer who is also a scholar. This text should be a welcome addition not only to the libraries of Christian ethicists but also to pastors and preachers who desire to improve their own moral thinking and practice."--Kent Van Til, Calvin Theological Journal