At the center of Christian libraries, personal or professional, one will often find a massive volume of systematic theology. For years if one could only obtain one, it has been the work by Wayne Grudem that most solid Christians sought out to fill that role. With the publication of Christian Ethics, Grudem may have the opportunity to fill another prominent role on the bookshelves of Christians.
Ethics is a notable aspect of the Christian life, making up the center of many of the practical conversations that we have with one another. Defining Christian ethics as “any study that answers the question, ‘What does the whole Bible teach us about which acts, attitudes, and personal character traits receive God’s approval, and which do not?’ This definition not only guides the entire book, but allows Grudem to differentiate between these two prominent books noting that Systematic Theology teaches what God wants us to believe and know while Christian Ethics is the application of that theology by demonstrating what God would have Christians do. This is not meant to be a comprehensive book to cover the history of ethics, types of ethics, or the entire theology of the Christian life. Yet, the author does well to cover much ground by following the structure of the Ten Commandments in the following way:
Part One: Introduction (chapters 1-8; sets the background, definitions, and discussion of ethics)
Part Two: Protecting God’s Honor (chapters 9-13, following commandments 1, 2, 3, 4, & 9)
Part Three: Protecting Human Authority (chapters 14-17, commandment 5)
Part Four: Protecting Human Life (chapters 18-27, commandment 6)
Part Five: Protecting Marriage (chapters 28-33, commandment 7)
Part Six: Protecting Property (chapters 34-41, commandment 8)
Part Seven: Protecting Purity of Heart (chapter 42, commandment 10)
Just a reading of the headings demonstrates the comprehensiveness and intensity of this book. With this division, Grudem covers the topics that many Christians face today in their own lives and the questions that arise from a confrontational society. Therefore, one will see chapters about abortion, homosexuality, war, euthanasia, capital punishment and government. However, the author also is certain to include very personal topics including speech patterns, God’s will, self-defense, health, infertility, work, rest, and the heart.
One of the major superiorities of Christian Ethics is Grudem’s definition of ethics automatically orients the rest of the teachings in the book towards God’s definition and standards and away from man’s personal inclinations. Furthermore, because of the breadth, Christians will find this resource helpful and advantageous. In my own life, there are some specific areas in which I have been assessing what a biblical view is on those specific topics. Yet, apart from finding some articles here and there to help me navigate those issues, I have been unable to find complete books or comprehensive materials dealing with those topics, yet Grudem has included them here. In that regard, this is a tremendous book.
There are a couple of notes to make. In my reading, I did not find anything concerning or out of line with the biblical text. Grudem is reasonable and rational. However, as we should do with any author, pastor, and preacher, I would caution readers against blindly accepting Grudem’s materials. This is not because he seems untrustworthy in this material; quite the contrary. But, we should follow his arguments through the Bible in order to ensure that we are not being misled. This is simple diligence in maintaining the integrity of the word and the integrity of our own testimony and behavior. Additionally, my commitment is to read through the books that I review here on this blog. This particular book is 1300 pages though, and so while I spent much time reading through the book time did not permit me to read every sentence and word.
Costing over $40 (for either a physical copy or an ebook) many will be hesitant to invest such money on a book. That is understandable, however, that money is well placed as this is a book that should make it into the library of all Christians. I am certain that as we seek to confront cultural crises and personal proclivities, it is a resource that will be well-utilized during one’s lifetime.
To purchase a copy of the two books by Wayne Grudem mentioned in this review, click the following links:
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for the purposes of review. However, my review was not influenced in any way by the author, publisher, or any other person associated with this book and it is the result of my own reading of the book.