Book Recommendation – Christian Ethics: An Introduction to Biblical Moral Reasoning by Wayne Grudem.

I’ve been waiting for this volume for some time because there are few books on Christians ethics that I would immediately recommend. As a Christian and teacher of Theology, I’ve long wanted an easy-to-read but technically in-depth guide that covers a broad range of relevant, contemporary issues delivered in well-written, easy to understand language and which, most importantly, is biblical faithful. That set of requirements is met comfortably by Wayne Grudem’s latest work on Christian ethics. It is simply the best book of its type that you can buy.

Many will be familiar with Dr Grudem’s Sytematic Theology. One of its best features is the clarity of language. For whatever reason, writers on systematics haven’t always exhibited the greatest skill in writing but Grudem’s work is a class apart in this aspect. The same easy-to-read style is found in Christian Ethics and, as with Systematic Theology, the clarity is coupled with precision and accuracy in the use of terms and definitions. That’s not easy to accomplish. Often, less skilled writers (including me) will sacrifice readability for accuracy. On the other hand, one can easily make the mistake of avoiding technicalities to the extent that vagueness and imprecision clouds the truth. It’s rare to find a writer who can match readability with accuracy and in this, Grudem is one of the most gifted.

Another similarity this book has with Systematic Theology is the organisation of chapters into specific units, each covering a particular topic. Therefore, one doesn’t need to read it front-to-back for it can be used as a reference book as well. Topics covered are exhaustive, as can be seen from the contents page provided by the publisher here. But by way of example, and in no particular order, here are some questions that Grudem deals with on various ethical topics:

Is it ever right to lie? Is it wrong to work on Sundays? How can husbands have a leadership role in marriage if men and women are equal in value before God? What is the right relationship between church and state? Does the Bible support monarchies, or does it favor some sort of democracy? Is it ever right for the government to put a criminal to death? Is it right for nations to have nuclear weapons? Is it right for a Christian to own a gun? What about abortion in the case of rape or to save the life of the mother? Should the law allow doctors to perform euthanasia when a patient requests it? What should we think about sleep, vaccinations, organic foods, tattoos, and circumcision? Is it wrong for a couple to live together prior to marriage Why is viewing pornography wrong? If a divorce is granted for biblically legitimate reasons, is remarriage always allowed? How should we evaluate the claims of certain people that they are “transgender”? Is all monetary inequality morally wrong? How much of our income should we give to the Lord’s work? Does the Bible teach us that it is always wrong to charge interest on a loan? 

Grudem’s theology is best described as reformed evangelical and Christians from that perspective, or from conservative viewpoints generally, will find much in agreement with this book. It takes courage to discuss some of the matters contained, but Grudem is willing to tackle difficult topics head-on and is respectful and courteous in assessing opposing views. I certainly found his arguments consistently persuasive and academically rigorous.

One downside to the book is the noticeably US-centric material. For example, the chapter on drugs and alcohol begins with a lengthy introduction giving statistics on alcohol abuse, all of which are from the US. So we learn that 10% of US children live with a parent with alcohol problems; that in 2014, 31% of US driving fatalities were linked to alcohol; and that 88,000 people a year die from alchohol-related deaths in the US

Similarly, the chapter on divorce and remarriage offers more American statistics: in 2014 there were 813,862 divorces and that the number of US couples getting married has fallen from 10.6 marriages per 1000 people in the 1980s to 6.8 marriages per 1000 people in 2009-2012. Elsewhere, we learn that in 2013, the US Department of Agriculture estimated that the total cost of raising a child from birth to high school graduation was $245,340. Such statistics won’t resonate as much for readers in another countries and cultures. (As an aside, given this is an academic book touching on social sciences, the data is somewhat outdated for a 2018 publication.

But these are minor quibbles. The rest of this worthy tome is biblically faithful, well-written, and both a joy and a challenge to read. This will be useful for bible college or seminary students taking introductory classes in Christian ethics, but it’s also well suited for Christians interested in how to think about living lives that reflect the ethical values of the Bible.

Dr Andy Cheung teaches Theology at King’s Evangelical Divinity School.

Book recommendation: Redeeming Money by Paul David Tripp

Redeeming Money: How God Reveals and Reorients Our Hearts by Paul David Tripp

Over the past week, I’ve enjoyed and reflected upon Paul David Tripp’s recently published book, Redeeming Money: How God Reveals and Reorients Our Hearts. This is a book I’m happy to recommend and I hope that it reaches a wider audience.

Redeeming Money is a book for Christians about how to understand money in a Biblical context. It’s not a book about finance, so there’s nothing about how to invest wisely or how to budget appropriately. But this book is still practical albeit in a somewhat different way: the author teaches us how to think about money in way that reflects what Scripture teaches. As the author notes, Jesus talked about money a lot. How then, should Christians understand God’s intentions for our use of it?

Particularly noteworthy in this book is Tripp’s approach of looking at the bigger picture of human nature and God’s work of redemption. This is not simply a discussion on the parts of the Bible that discuss money (of which there are plenty, e.g. 1 Timothy 6:10). Instead, Tripp takes both a wider and deeper approach. For example, he begins by setting out the premise that understanding money requires thinking properly about one’s identity:

You can’t understand money if you don’t understand who you are, and money is one of the principal ways you demonstrate who you think you are. There is no better indicator of the identity you have
assigned to yourself than the way you use money. Why does one person proudly throw money around? Why does another person use her money to buy all the cultural markers of success? Why is
that neighbor of yours so proudly vocal about his charity? Why has yet another person never been able to stay out of debt? Why does that couple quietly give away such a big portion of their income? Why is your friend so gripped with money fears? Why does she struggle with envy and embarrassment whenever she is around her wealthy friends? Why does he try to hide the fact that he grew up in poverty? Why did Jesus talk about this topic more than any other? Why is money such a big deal? Why are some of us never satisfied, even though we have so much money, and why are some of us content with so little? The answer to all these questions is identity.

And from there, Trip begins a most helpful Bible study on how God wants us to see ourselves, how we so often fall short, and how God redeems us. This becomes the pattern of the book: that the way we think about money isn’t to be treated in isolation, as if money is a special category of its own, quite apart from the rest of life’s concerns. Rather, the way we think about our needs and desires, and our willingness to seek after Christ and follow his example, affects all aspects of our lives, including how we handle money. In short, financial matters always concern the heart. Focus on getting your heart right and you have the right basis to proceed.

From that essential platform, Tripp deals sensitively on matters that will be helpful to many. There are useful sections on debt and generosity, and on greed and envy. There is encouragement and advice for those with little money and those with plenty. There is a refreshing honesty in the author’s own personal examples of temptation and struggle. All of this is presented with careful and accurate exposition of Scripture, which is characteristic of the author.

I am a fan of Paul Tripp’s writings and this work, as with so many of his writings, provides both a profound understanding of human nature as well as thoroughly reliable exposition of Scripture. It would be hard to imagine any Christian who would not gain from this book. This is indeed a book to be treasured, for it points us towards Jesus while teaching us to use money for his glory. Spend your money wisely and buy this book.

Note: This book would be very helpful for individual use but would also be suitable in church small groups. There are questions at the end of each of the ten chapters for review and reflection, along with associated Bible passages for further study.

Dr Andy Cheung teaches Biblical Studies and Theology at King’s Evangelical Divinity School.

British Values?

I wonder how many readers of this college’s blog will have been worried by the instability left in the wake of the UK General Election last Thursday (8th June2017)? And I wonder how many are similarly worried by the tack the media are taking with respect to the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) who are to work with the Conservative party in trying to govern the UK?

The minute this uneasy alliance was proposed, commentators in the media (notably the BBC and Channel 4 of course) were raising their holier-than-thou shrill voices about these ‘unpleasant people’ (DUP), many of whom are ‘against same-sex marriage’ and ‘homophobic’; ‘against abortion’ and have members who believe that ‘Creationism should be taught in schools’. All things, we are continually told, which do not fit in with our ‘British Values’. Read more »

KEDS MA Student Presents Paper at Hawarden Seminar

The following comes from one of our MA students, Anthony Royle. It sounds like quite an experience and we hope the account, in Anthony’s own words, will be an encouragement to you in your own studies.

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Last Thursday (6th April), I had the privilege of presenting a paper at the annual Hawarden Seminar on the NT use of the OT at Gladstone’s Library in North Wales. The seminar is headed by Susan Docherty (Newman University) and has some of the most prominent scholars in the field (Steve Moyise, anyone?) in attendance. My paper was based on my MA thesis entitle “The Vorlage of Paul’s Citation in Ephesians 5:14”. It was my hope to present the paper and receive feedback that would help me before my final submission. The benefits of attending and presenting at a conference such as this are invaluable. I thought I would like to share 5 benefits of presenting a paper or attending a conference with my fellow MA students and encourage you to submit abstracts to like mannered seminars. Read more »

Ex KEDS Student Publications

Former KEDS student Dr Mike Lowis has published three new books. Mike (whom many KEDS students will know through the college forum) writes:

Each of the books was inspired and informed by the KEDS studies. (Students) may have seen my Forum postings in the past, where I have encouraged them to consider making the most of their academic research and assignments by writing papers, articles or books. It was certainly satisfying for me to do so. Because my books are written in an academic style, the readership will probably be mostly students, clerics, and others who are comfortable with this type of investigative, theological writing.

Details of the books can be found via the following links:

The Gospel Miracles: What Really Happened
Ageing Disgracefully, with Grace: Enjoying Growing Older
Euthanasia, Suicide, and Despair: Can the Bible Help?

Gender Inclusive Language and God

I wonder whether you’ve read the recent news about those within the Church of England who wish to begin addressing God as ‘She’? Of course, this is no new idea; the femininity of God is suggested in a small number of places in scripture, and occasionally, cults have arisen which emphasise God’s feminine nature. (1) In this case, a group which meets at Lambeth Palace with the snazzy name of the “Transformations Steering Group”, is calling for a rethink on language about God and is seeking to have changes made to the liturgy; changes which are, in some places, already taking place on an informal basis, with ‘He’ being changed to ‘She’ for example, when talking of, or addressing, God. The Daily Telegraph on 31st May, 2015 notes that ‘Hilary Cotton, chair of Women And The Church (WATCH), the group which led the campaign for female bishops, said the shift away from the traditional patriarchal language of the Book of Common Prayer is already at an “advanced” stage in some quarters.’ (2) Read more »