This is a brief book review on an ethics book that I recently finished. Stanley Grenz has been one of my favorite theologians for a few years now. Ever since I was introduced to his systematic theology work, Theology for the Community of God, he is a writer that I heartily endorse. Grenz passed away in 2005, but you would do well to find and buy his work. Especially Theology for the Community of God, it is absolutely incredible and so much easier to read than most systematic theology books.
This blog post is not for his theological work, but for his ethical work, The Moral Quest. I found this book to be quite helpful in building a foudational Christian ethic. Since I hold to the belief that our theology shapes our ethics, I find myself to be in full agreement with the conclusions and basis of The Moral Quest. As a matter of fact, if you want a good explaination why that it the case, consult chapter 7. It builds a theological ethic around central biblical teachings about God. The book does not begin in chapter 7 though.
He opens in chapter 1 with a brief introduction into the study of ethics. Mainly he discusses the main terminology and thoughts that guide ethical discussion. This was meant to be a textbook of sorts, so while many may be tempted to skip this first chapter (it is the most difficult to read) I would recommend spending some time getting familiar with the language most ethicists use. The next 5 chapters deal with various ethical agendas that have been formulated over the centuries. He starts with the ancient Greek philosophers, Plato and Aristotle, moves to Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Martin Luther, before finishing with modern ethicists and their various systems. While this may not interest you, it is interesting to note how these thinkers and their beliefs have shaped and are currently shaping so much talk in realms of social justice and present day ethics. Many of the ideas we hear from “controversial” speakers and teachers are ideas that were first formulated by ethicists and theologians mentioned here. Grenz gives great summaries into these systems of belief and practice.
Grenz really shines in the book when he is explaining his ethical agenda through his understanding of the Trinity, relationships, and love. All three are intertwined and they shape a proper view of God in Grenz’s opinion. The picture he paints is one that is easy to understand and beautifully wholistic in its approach. Understanding the Trinity through a relationship of love guides our relationship with God, each other, and the earth. This forms the backbone of his ethical thought, and I find it to be a great system to base our ethical practices. Let me throw out a word of warning. If you are interested in reading about all the various ethical debates with arguements both for and against them, this is not your work. Grenz bases his ethical system on theology, and leaves us as readers to apply both to whatever situation we find ourselves.
All in all, I give this book high regards though it is reading that is not for everyone (though it should be). If you are more interested in a theological study of ethics, I highly recommend this book because it is biblical and wholistic to the plan and purposes of God and how we are to live them out in this world. It will also be very informative if you wish to read up on all the theological developments up to its publcation date, 1998. If this is reading that does not suit you, then grab his Theology for the Community of God. Frankly, everyone just needs that book on their reference shelf.