5 Stars Out Of 5
A REVIEW OF BIBLICAL ETHICS
November 27, 2014
An Introduction to Biblical Ethics: Walking in the Way of Wisdom. 3rd ed. By Robertson McQuilkin and Paul Copan. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2014. 667 pp. $ 45.00. ISBN 978-0-8308-2818-0.
Whether people know it or not, and whether or not they are willing to admit it, ethical issues are some of the most highly debated issues both in the Christian church and without. For church goers, almost every single sermon and small group study will, given enough time, turn to ethical subjects how should we live our lives in light of what the Bible says. For those who are not church goers the subject is just as important, and is discussed in political campaigns, during lunch break, at the barbers shop, and just about anywhere people take the time to stop and think. It should be of the utmost importance, therefore, for Christians (minimally those who accept the Bible as the word of God and seek to model their lives after it) to be able to make wise ethical choices in their daily lives, and be able to (biblically, at least) defend those choices. This fact is why An Introduction to Biblical Ethics by Robertson McQuilkin and Paul Copan is so important. There have been many books written on moral philosophy (ethics), probably more than books can be read in one lifetime. I would suggest that if you, as a Christian, are only going to read one book, in your entire lifetime, on Christian morality, then it should be this book. I am not saying that you shouldnt read other books on the subject, nor that this book is perfect in every aspect. I am saying that the approach taken in this book provides such a broad introduction to the subject of biblical ethics that it is the ideal book for a person who wants to be able to understand the issues, but does not have the time to read a pile of books on the subject. In this book review I will begin by noting, as usual, the purpose of the book, its approach to ethics, and the general positions that the authors seem to hold concerning ethics. I will then provide an overview of the subjects covered in each chapter, and will finish by noting (or repeating) the relative worth of this book.
The main text for this book was originally written by Robertson McQuilkin, and then edited expanded by Paul Copan. The purpose of this book, and its approach to ethics, is to deal with ethical issues that are treated in Scriptures, as well as those which are met in contemporary life, by starting from, and remaining true to, the moral teachings of the Bible. They assume, unless it is explicitly mentioned in the Bible, that the Bibles teachings are morally normative. The book is essentially based around the Ten Commandments, and a number of issues which do not necessarily fall under the Ten Commandments are covered along the way. One of the interesting elements of the book is that on a couple of occasions McQuilkin and Copan disagree on how to properly understand the biblical answer to a moral question. When this happens they each present, and support, their respective positions. They also do their best to not impose any ethical system on scripture (p. 23). This being said they hold to a form of Divine Command Theory (p. 69-70) in which they deny deontology (p. 88, 123), and affirm a form of virtue theory (p. 88, 91, 123-132). They argue that mans motivation for doing good should be his love for, and devotion to, God (p. 89). Finally, they claim that the standard for humanity is the divine nature, to which we are supposed to conform (p. 219).
I will not be giving an overview of the content, due to the length of the book, but I will explain how the book is structured. The book is divided into two main sections. The first main section is divided into 5 parts and 11 chapters. The second main section is divided into 6 parts and 23 chapters. The book is introduced with a preface and introduction, and concludes with a short afterword, endnotes, and indexes of proper names, subjects and scripture references. Each of the main chapters ends with a list of books for further reading on the subject covered in the chapter. This book has been created, quite evidently, so that the interested reader will be able to easily find the subjects that he/she is looking for, as well as further references for advanced study in each of the subjects approached. As far as the contents of the book are concerned, the first main section sets down foundational considerations for a profitable discussion of biblical ethics. The second main section turns to the task of applying the scriptures to ethical issues. It is in the second main section that we see the application of the 10 commandments to ethical concerns.
All in all this is an exceptional introduction to biblical ethics. It is as complete an introduction as one could wish for. Keeping in mind that it is intended as an introduction to the subjects that are treated, and considering its size, no one should be disappointed by the fact that some of the subjects are not treated as thoroughly as one would like. I would highly recommend this book as the academic standard for any course on Biblical Ethics. Every Christian pastor, lay-person, Apologist, Theologian and Philosopher should have this book in their personal library.