The book aims to answer key questions that students and the general reader may have about Christian ethics. The most common approach to the subject is usually to adopt a 'string of beads' approach, going through key subjects such as: scripture, natural law, virtue ethics; other ethical theories and so on. This is practical in terms of structuring ethical courses, but often leaves students struggling to see how the subject ties together, what is distinctive about Christian ethics and particularly why Christians disagree amongst themselves. This book adopts a narrative and 'concentric ring' approach, giving the overall picture right from the start, and expanding out from there, giving progressively more detail which can then be fitted into the overall picture, so that the initial picture can be seen more and more clearly.An overall picture of Christian ethics is given in Chapter 1, with key historical and theological issues also being introduced. Themes related to these issues are reinforced and developed in Chapters 2 and 3. The ground is then prepared for these to be integrated and contrasted with more contemporary ideas and developments in Chapter 4.
Having focussed on differences (which also helps to further clarify the subject outline) in Chapters 3 and 4, Chapter 5 focuses on similarities, whilst still giving more insight into some differences. The topic of natural law is picked up again, and linked to issues of pluralism, whilst also serving as a basis for deeper discussion of both social justice, and global, medical and sexual issues.These are discussed in Chapters 6 to 8 where differences among Christians will be brought out in terms of the principles already explained, as also differences with non-Christian perspectives are referred to. The end of Chapter 8 links into Chapter 9 with an emphasis on the connection between the material and the spiritual. Chapter 9 explores this in terms of Christian spirituality seen in part as accessing the presence of the Spirit. Pastoral issues, including issues of suffering are commented on, before a sketch is given of the relationship between Christian ethics and Christian hope for the life to come. Finally, some signposts for further reflection and reading are given."
Continuum's Guides for the Perplexed" are clear, concise and accessible introductions to thinkers, writers and subjects that students and readers can find especially challenging - or indeed downright bewildering. Concentrating specifically on what it is that makes the subject difficult to grasp, these books explain and explore key themes and ideas, guiding the reader towards a thorough understanding of demanding material.
With glad and generous confidence in the distinction of Christian ethics, Austin guides his readers into this subject. The simplicity and clarity of his style hold many points for deeper thoughtful reflection, and one senses too, for the reader to be moved towards a fuller humanity through what is absorbed here. -- Susan F. Parsons * Studies in Christian Ethics * This timely book ... appears in the famous book series 'Guides for the Perplexed', which always include essays of high level and incontestable quality. In sum, Austin's Christian Ethics: A Guide for the Perplexed is an excellent book that can be appreciated as well by ethicists and non-scholars as well. * Theological Book Review * How does one write an introductory text without being overly reductive, on the one hand, or unnecessarily bogging down the reader with finer points, on the other? Victor Lee Austin admirably navigates between these twin pitfalls in this useful and concise volume ... Austin writes clearly and cogently with an eye towards the practical and pedagogical ... [A]n accessible introduction for the beginner in Christian ethics or Catholic moral theology. -- Travis Pickell University of Virginia, USA * Theology * Our goal in life is to become as fully human as God would like us to be... For those of you who want to try to live a more fully human life and to understand the purpose of Christian ethics, I do recommend this book. -- Robert Kent * Today's American Catholic * Provides a fine approach to Christian ethics and reviews the Christian moral life, using many biblical references to chart the evolution and meaning of Christian thoughts on justice, how to succeed as a human being, and more. Philosophy and theology blend in a fine story packed with insights and perfect for collections strong in scholarly assessments of Christian belief based on a blend of analysis and Biblical passages -- James A. Cox * The Midwest Book Review * 'Austin's Guide is a rare combination: a broad, sophisticated introduction to the vast universe of Christian ethics, but one that is energized by a constant stream of engaging prose and arresting examples. The text is even-handed and truly comprehensive in its scope, avoiding privileging any one school of ethics. And Austin's eye for the extraordinary in the ordinary shines especially in the final chapters on the moral challenges of friendship and disability.' - David Cloutier, Mount St. Mary's University, USA. -- David Cloutier 'Austin has done a great service for the "perplexed" by offering an accessible, conversational, and cogent introduction to Christian ethics. The text is comprehensive and simple, without at all being simplistic. Those knowledgeable in the field will discern how carefully Austin presents Christian ethics, in a manner informed by - even if not weighed down by - current scholarship. Those unaware of such research can trust they encounter in this book a reliable and trustworthy guide to the Christian moral life, a true scholar who invites his readers to understand the Christian life as not only accessible (through terms like friendship and good sense) but also as attractive and vivifying.' - William C. Mattison III, The Catholic University of America, USA. -- William C. Mattison III Austin's guide is valuable for its opening chapters and could be a good starting point for a study of Christian ethics as virtue ethics. -- Cathriona Russell, Trinity College, Dublin * Modern Believing *