Christian Ethics: A Book Review
By Brandon Brown
In the introduction to his book Christian Ethics, Dr. Tim Gaines states; "The question, then, is how we’ll go about the work of ethics. We need to consider whether we’ve considered why we do what we do. We need to ask about the kind of character we want to be forming in the midst of our everyday lives." This is the crux of ethics and the approach to an ethical life. Ethics drives our morals, motivations, and actions as they are in our core being.
Much like the little book from H. Ray Dunning Reflecting the Divine Image, Gaines Ethics discusses ethics as the core element to holiness within Wesleyan-Holiness traditions. Explicitly, ethics is a way to align ourselves with God. "While there are a number of ways to approach the topic of Christian ethics, my goal in this book is to treat ethics as a call to align ourselves with what God is doing to make creation new." It is this practical vision of ethics within relationship and community which makes this book different from many Christian ethics discussions.
Comparing this to my old favorite on ethics from Dunning, it is smaller than many books but packs a beautifully powerful punch. For example, the description of Wesleyan tradition which Gaines shows believes in a transformation of ethics in which God is active; "Summed up, the message of the Wesleyan tradition is that God is redeeming the world in a way that allows us to do more than muddle through life doing the bare moral minimum." Ethics transformed by God into holiness is the message of Wesleyan-Holiness theology and doctrine.
After showing how ethics within a Wesleyan framework can be transformed and worked out in the community of the Church, Gaines then takes us through seven "discernment dialogues." These dialogues examine several topics within an ethical lens and help show how we can work out the ethical transformation of those topics including, sexuality, economics, environment, and politics. It is in these dialogues that Gaines differentiates this from a typical ethics book. Here we find the tools to have dialogue which have the potential to help break us out of the dualistic nature of most contemporary discussions. I am tempted to say that Gaines takes us through a middle way of ethics.
I highly recommend this book and consider it a must have on ethics, joining Dunning's Reflecting the Divine Image on any shelf.