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Mere Morality: What God Expects from Ordinary People

Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. / 1987 / Paperback

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Product Description

Is there a morality that shows us how to survive as a humane community? Can we know what God expects of the human family? Is there a morality for ordinary people?

In this book, the author of Sex for Christians and Love within Limits explores the way to moral sanity amid the confusions and crises of contemporary life. We do not, says Smedes, have a "moral map" to mark out the details of our route in advance, but neither are we left to grope and improvise at every step.

The focus of Smedes's study is the commandments--in particular those five of the Ten Commandments which call us to respect other persons: "Honor your father and mother"; "You shall not kill"; "You shall not commit adultery"; "You shall not steal"; "You shall not bear false witness." Each of these commandments pinpoints the moral nucleus of one sector of life in community--family, marriage, property, communication, and the preservation of life itself.

Using these commandments as a basis, Smedes asks three questions: What does God command us to do? Why does he command this? And how can we obey this in the ambiguities and conflicts of real life?

Smedes answers the first question by extracting the simple meaning of the commands. He probes answers to the second question--why?--on the premise that a reasonable Creator commands his creatures only to be what they are and to act in ways that fit their nature as human beings in community. "Moral norms are not alien," claims Smedes, "they conform to our being."

It is in answering how to obey these commandments in ordinary life that Smedes moves from the ancient words at Sinai to the troubled twentieth-century context in which we live. This is not always an easy task. The commandment may signal a clear moral direction, but determining whether and how its absolute fits into each new situation will require patient common sense, tough-minded reason, and devout faith. Such painful struggles, for which Smedes provides eloquent guidance are at the core of responsible moral living.

Product Information

Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 282
Vendor: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
Publication Date: 1987
ISBN: 0802802575
ISBN-13: 9780802802576
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Publisher's Description

Is there a morality that shows us how to survive as a humane community? Can we know what God expects of the human family? Is there a morality for ordinary people?

In this book, the author of Sex for Christians and Love within Limits explores the way to moral sanity amid the confusions and crises of contemporary life. We do not, says Smedes, have a "moral map" to mark out the details of our route in advance, but neither are we left to grope and improvise at every step.

The focus of Smedes's study is the commandments -- in particular those five of the Ten Commandments which call us to respect other persons: "Honor your father and mother"; "You shall not kill"; "You shall not commit adultery"; "You shall not steal"; "You shall not bear false witness." Each of these commandments pinpoints the moral nucleus of one sector of life in community -- family, marriage, property, communication, and the preservation of life itself.

Using these commandments as a basis, Smedes asks three questions: What does God command us to do? Why does he command this? And how can we obey this in the ambiguities and conflicts of real life?

Smedes answers the first question by extracting the simple meaning of the commands. He probes answers to the second question -- why? -- on the premise that a reasonable Creator commands his creatures only to be what they are and to act in ways that fit their nature as human beings in community. "Moral norms are not alien," claims Smedes, "they conform to our being."

It is in answering how to obey these commandments in ordinary life that Smedes moves from the ancient words at Sinai to the troubled twentieth-century context in which we live. This is not always an easy task. The commandment may signal a clear moral direction, but determining whether and how its absolute fits into each new situation will require patient common sense, tough-minded reason, and devout faith. Such painful struggles, for which Smedes provides eloquent guidance are at the core of responsible moral living.

Author Bio

(1921–2002) Was professor emeritus of theology and ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California. Among his many books are Forgive and Forget, Shame and Grace, How Can It Be All Right When Everything Is All Wrong?, Love within Limits, and Mere Morality.

Editorial Reviews

Booklist
"[Smedes'] honest and candid discussions of these knotty contemporary problems make Mere Morality an excellent selection for group study of the Commandments. A valuable addition to church and public library collections."

Journal of Psychology and Christianity
"This book will be a valuable textbook in ethics. It is clear, readable, honest, and practical. . . It is a thoroughly biblical book and includes discussion questions with each chapter. Very useful, pleasant, stimulating."

Clergy Journal
"It is a book that can be highly recommended to concerned Christians who ask, 'What can I be doing to obey God in the movements and ambiguities of my ordinary life?"

Religious Studies Review
"An easily accessible and sensitive introduction to the moral life in contemporary society. . . Recommended for introductory courses in ethics, for laypersons, and for all interested in a refreshing and responsible attempt to bring traditional moral wisdom into conversation with contemporary realities."

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  1. 1 Stars Out Of 5
    August 15, 2009
    Thomas Martin
    Too many errors in this book. Once an author exhibits his lack of Biblical knowledge in his writings then he has lost my trust. Example, see page 13 Mere Morality; direct quote, "Feeling a little hungry, the Master and his men picked and ate some grain growing along the way." This statement is not correct. The Master did not pick and eat grain. Only, his disciples picked and ate grain according to the scriptures. Read Matthew 12, Mark 2, and Luke 6. If you miss the fact that only the disciples picked and ate grain, read the scriptures again. When an author exhibits such a lack of knowledge concerning Biblical truths, then I must question his motives and intentions and use great caution and discernment in all his writings.
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