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Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context Hardcover – February 17, 2003

4.2 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Working out of a self-confessed blend of baptistic traditions, but including interpretive secondary materials from a broad range of different church traditions and scholarly perspectives, Glen Stassen and David Gushee creatively construct a Christian ethics modeled on an ethics of virtue. This model of virtue ethics is firmly grounded in the centrality of Jesus' proclamation of God's reign and its correlate moral teachings gathered in the Sermon on the Mount. The result is a rendition of Christian ethics that is focused on the cultivation of a person’s virtuous character-in-community, and that is ecumenical in tone, experiential in nature, and salient in granting ethical insights, perspectives and guidance on contemporary moral issues. This book merits widespread use as a textbook for courses in Christian ethics in universities, colleges and seminaries, as well as a study guide for church-based educational programs desiring to engage class members in an informed and serious discussion of Christian moral life." (Murray W. Dempster, President and Professor of Social Ethics, Vanguard University, Costa Mesa, California)

"Kingdom Ethics is a wonderful contribution to the community of Jesus' disciples. Guided by the dominant theme in Jesus' proclamation, the authors teach us that the issue is not the relevance of the kingdom of God to us but our obedient participation in its continuing activity. They accomplish this with accessible scholarship, perceptive cultural criticism and practical wisdom. Moreover, they manage the nearly impossible feat of introducing students to the range of issues in Christian ethics without losing the kingdom as the key to following Jesus. Kingdom Ethics should become an indispensable resource for discipleship in congregations, colleges and seminaries." (Jonathan R. Wilson, Professor of Religious Studies, Westmont College)

"This book is one I return to again and again. Stassen and Gushee have provided a clear and fruitful biblical framework for each contemporary issue. The exploration of various points of view is insightful and always gives me perspective―sometimes troubling, sometimes confirming. Kingdom Ethics is like a set of biblical and ethical spectacles to see through the fog of media and ideological distractions." (Suzii Paynter, executive coordinator of Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Christianity Today, January-February 2015)

"This is an important book for our times, when many Christians are once again looking to Jesus as someone who has something of unique significance to say about human life. For more than a century he has been regarded as someone to be right about, in one way or another. But his detailed teachings have for long not been taken seriously, within the church or out. They have been regarded as simply nothing essential to faith or to life. But he became the force he has been in the world precisely because those who initially took him seriously understood that who he is was a conclusive reason for regarding his specific teachings as the key to turning their concrete existence into a life in the kingdom of God--the only life suited to the human soul. The relevance of faith in him for the world of today and tomorrow will depend on those identified as his people reclaiming that same understanding of what it means for him to be Savior and Lord." (Dallas Willard)

"Kingdom Ethics is distinctive in the way that it takes biblical perspectives seriously. Rather than letting contemporary issues and agendas limit the number of biblical texts that are considered relevant for ethics, it allows the Bible itself to define what matters most in contemporary life. While it doesn't shy away from arguing that particular actions or practices should be made illegal, it is far more interested in helping us understand why people should not desire them in the first place. Even better, it constantly encourages the reader to keep in view the kingdom vision that majors in constructive alternatives rather than mere ethical condemnations. All who are serious about glorifying God by the life they live will benefit greatly from reading this book." (John F. Kilner, Ph.D., President, The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity)

"Kingdom Ethics is a profound call to Christian discipleship based on probing, incisive and illuminating reflection on the Sermon on the Mount. This is a very important book--a major contribution that provides a radically unique, compelling way of doing Christian ethics grounded in the teachings and practices of Jesus--and deserves to be used across denominational and cultural boundaries. I particularly hope that it will get serious attention from Asian American congregations as they seek to become faithful and prophetic communities of sojourners in the North American context." (Joon-Sik Park, E. Stanley Jones Associate Professor of World Evangelism, Methodist Theological School in Ohio)

"Stassen and Gushee provide a book on Christian ethics that is both 'deep and wide.' It is deep in its focused attention on Jesus as the defining reality and continuing source for Christian living. It is wide in two ways. It is wide in its focus on both the teachings and practices of Christ. Second, the majority of the book is given to a creative search for how the life of faith, informed and inspired by the life of Christ, can find expression across the spectrum of contemporary moral challenges and conundrums. From bioethics to gender role, politics to worship, and more, this book will inspire and inform those who take being Christian seriously." (Daniel B. McGee, Professor of Christian Ethics, Department of Religion, Baylor University)

"The most basic question of ethics is not, How should we live? but rather, To whom do we belong? This important book tackles both of these questions in the light of discipleship-based biblical faith. Both David Gushee and Glen Stassen are activists as well as theorists, and this book reflects their passion for following Jesus even when it means swimming against the stream. Not all will agree with every solution proposed here, but no one can ignore this contribution to the evangelical conversation." (Timothy George, dean of Beeson Divinity School of Samford University and executive editor of Christianity Today)

"Many Christians in America have accommodated themselves to the values of a secular culture, either acquiescing to a materialist/consumerist ethos (on the ideological right) or a relativist 'I'm OK, you're OK' ethos (on the ideological left). Kingdom Ethics is a clarion call to the church to be the body of Christ on earth, to live incarnationally and be as unique today as Jesus was in his day. Stassen and Gushee have reclaimed the centrality of Jesus and his teachings for the distinctiveness of the Christian and the church in the modern world. They have written an exciting book that clearly and concretely demonstrates the Christian ethos is not some kind of quixotic idealism but is truly a radical but practical way of living. At a time when Christians everywhere are asking 'What would Jesus do?' Stassen and Gushee have provided searching answers to the moral questions of the day. Kingdom Ethics is an outstanding contribution to the field that should be read by every serious Christian." (Dr. Carlos R. Piar, Professor of Religious Studies, California State University Long Beach)

"With Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context, Stassen and Gushee invite us to confront anew the radical nature of Jesus' teachings as set forth in the Sermon on the Mount--teachings that often rub modern sensibilities the wrong way--yet teachings that are indispensable for Christian moral consciousness. The book challenges us to consider the Christian ethical life as one oriented to this message of the kingdom--a way of life characterized by prayer, passion and fidelity to specific practices consistent with the will of God, or as they put it, 'holistic character ethics.' Readers will find the discussion of such practices in their view of the Christian moral life to be informed, energetic and engaging." (Samuel K. Roberts, E. Hervey Evans Professor of Theology and Ethics, Union Theological Seminary-Presbyterian School of Christian Education, Richmond, Virginia)

"Groundbreaking, current, biblical, simply superb." (Ronald J. Sider, President, Evangelicals for Social Action, Professor of Theology and Culture, Eastern Seminary)

"Gushee and Stassen make a compelling case for how the way of Jesus and his teachings in the Sermon on the Mount (in continuity with the prophet Isaiah) are normative for Christian life and practice. The general reader will appreciate the concrete, practical relevance and breadth of inquiry on issues like war and peace, sexuality, marriage and divorce, gender roles, race, economics, and the care of creation. The book will become a benchmark for the guild of scholars in Christian social ethics for the way it creatively engages the diversity of methodologies and perspective in our discipline with the question of what we do with Jesus." (Duane K. Friesen, Professor of Bible and Religion, Bethel College (KS))

"Kingdom Ethics reaffirms and deepens the challenge raised a generation ago by John Howard Yoder to bring Jesus back into Christian ethics. This is an impressive book, scholarly yet accessible, wide-ranging yet consistently returning to the moral and theological vision of Jesus for guidance. There is much to learn from its careful construction of a kingdom-based character ethics, its clear-sighted approach to the methodology of Christian ethics and its intelligent examination of contemporary ethical issues. If ever there was a time the Christian community needed to recover the moral meaning of following Jesus, this is it, and Kingdom Ethics will go a long way in helping us do so." (Christopher D. Marshall, Tyndale Graduate School of Theology, Auckland, New Zealand)

"Kingdom Ethics promises to become a cherished resource for a diverse audience of modern readers who hunger for the recovery of the ethics of Jesus for our times. Because of its balanced approach to theory and application, this book works equally well as a textbook for teaching and as a guidebook for living." (Cheryl J. Sanders, Professor of Christian Ethics, Howard University School of Divinity, Senior Pastor, Third Street Church of God, Washington, D.C.)

"Kingdom Ethics is an excellent demonstration of how helpful it is to orient Christian moral reflection around Jesus' teachings and emphases. The authors' sustained engagement with the structure and substance of the Sermon on the Mount allows its grace-based guidance to speak powerfully to contemporary questions and concerns. Working adeptly with the Scriptures, Christian tradition and contemporary data, Stassen and Gushee have crafted an exceptional book. The chapters shine with insight and clarity. Complex issues are handled with careful analysis and pastoral sensitivity; the result is an ethics text that is courageous, thought-provoking and life-giving." (Christine D. Pohl, Professor of Social Ethics, Asbury Theological Seminary)

"When two of today's leading evangelical Baptist ethicists team up, we would naturally expect a book that views the Christian ethic as our response to Jesus' call to discipleship... Drawing from the narrative approach and the focus on virtue or character ethics indicative of contemporary moral thinking, Stassen and Gushee engage with a wide range of formidable ethical questions, doing so, however, with Jesus' ethical teaching in the Sermon on the Mount always close at hand." (Stanley J. Grenz, Distinguished Professor of Theology, Baylor University and Truett Seminary)

"Stassen and Gushee provide an exceptional guide through the thickets of the vexing ethical dilemmas thrust on us by our contemporary age. Their work is informed by solid biblical scholarship, up-to-date scientific insights and astute analyses grounded in the teaching of Scripture. Creative, comprehensive and lively, it is certain to give readers a more profound understanding of Christian ethics and ethical reasoning. " (David E. Garland, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Professor of Christian Scriptures, George W. Truett Theological Seminary)

"An invaluable teaching and preaching resource to help the church improve its disciple-making efforts." (Light & Life, July/August 2010)

From the Author

IVP: Kingdom Ethics has been quite a collaborative project for you. How did you two happen to connect around this project?

David Gushee: Glen had the original idea while we both were teaching in our short stint together at Southern Seminary, from 1993 to 1996. As I recall, he had already written up a proposal and presented it to IVP before asking me to join him as coauthor in late 1995. Over the ensuing six years of research, writing, conversation, editing and reediting, the book developed into an extraordinarily rich collaborative piece that extended far beyond what I, at least, ever imagined it could become.

Glen Stassen: Well, I was so impressed with Dave's outstanding book Righteous Gentiles of the Holocaust and so pleased with our collaboration in an article for Sojourners, "Disciples of the Incarnation," that when Dave expressed interest I jumped at the chance. Glad I did!


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 538 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic; y First edition edition (February 17, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0830826688
  • ISBN-13: 978-0830826681
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #109,313 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
"The church confesses that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah...God incarnate...the Savior...Lord of the Church and of the world...center not only of the Christian faith, but also...of the universe itself... Here is the problem. Christian churches across the theological and confessional spectrum...are often guilty of evading Jesus, the cornerstone and center of the Christian faith."
With those words, Glen Stassen, professor of Christian Ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary, and David Gushee, professor of Moral Philosophy at Union University challenge us to reflect on and reform the way we live as disciples of Jesus Christ. Kingdom Ethics is not a light, how-to approach to making moral decisions. It is a serious look at how the church in general, and Christians specifically, have ignored significant parts of the Gospel in our leap from Jesus' birth to his death and resurrection. Beyond diagnosis of that problem, Stassen and Gushee invite us to reflect on the way we make and discuss moral decisions and to examine a pattern that follows Jesus' moral discourse.
The first third of the book deals with a method and approach to Christian ethics based within Jesus' proclamation of the Kingdom of God. More specifically, they ask us to focus on the Sermon on the Mount for both content and pattern of Christian moral reflection. The last two-thirds of the book applies this method to contemporary issues.
I found their critique of contemporary Christian moral reasoning insightful and sadly true. Yet, Stassen and Gushee not only show us how we got to a place where we ignore our primary source for living, but they offer us a way out.
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Format: Hardcover
Like many of you, I was reared in the Christian faith. Saved at 5. Baptized at 8. First special music at church around 13. Won a preaching award at 14. Went off to Christian university at 18.

Like I said. Reared.

And the type of church I was reared in was what people like to call a "bible believing" church. I don't say that with smirk. I only point that out because as a fundamentalist church we were absolutely committed to the Bible, the authority of Scripture as the foundation to our belief and behavior.

Curiously, though, it wasn't until my 20's that I realized a significant portion of the Bible was missing from my "bible believing" upbringing. I mean a pretty significant portion. As in the teachings of Jesus portion. Sermon on the Mount? Missing. Parables? Gone. In fact I can count on two hands (a generous estimate, by the way) the amount of sermons I heard growing up on the Kingdom of Heaven. Even when I did hear a Kingdom sermon, it was a Tim LaHay Left Behind style sermon, where the Kingdom was relegated to a distant land and time in the future. Way beyond and well far away this time and space.

What this communicated to me--both symbolically and literally--was that the teachings of Jesus weren't for now. That the ethics of the Kingdom that Jesus constantly talked about and taught and gave glimpses of in word and deed weren't meant for me now, but instead were for a time down the road.
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I am a practicing Christian and I was introduced to this book as part of a Sunday School class a few years ago, and it is the ONLY Sunday School reference that I have ever gone back to consistently. Having said that, I primarily refer to the sections addressing contemporary issues (there is a chapter on abortion, just war theory, euthanasia, environmentalism, etc. -- it runs the gamut of important, politically charged topics). While I don't agree with their conclusions in every case, I believe the authors have done an OUTSTANDING job of aproaching each of the topics from multiple perspectives, complete with both Biblical and secular evidence supporting their case. As an example, I would offer up their point on abortion. The bottom line is that the authors feel that FAR MORE emphasis should be placed on preventing the causes of unwanted pregnancies (WWJD), as opposed to investing so much (wasted) energy participating in (what I believe to be) very un-Christianlike and counter-productive attacks against the pro-abortion crowd. I wish every policy-maker read, and seriously contemplated the points that these authors have attempted to make in this book. The only warning I would make is that this is really a scholarly (i.e. seminary) text. That is why the first 1/3 of it is a little tough to get through at times. But even if you bought it for the policy-related issues, it is money very well spent.
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Very solid stuff, although it's very dry and reads like a commentary. It's always hard for me to pinpoint why some writers are pure pleasure to read, why the style of particular authors draws me to their work, and why the work of others, like Stassen and Gushee, feel more like work. Here, I think the work is worth it, but I wish it was more compelling.

The discussions of the Beatitudes in general are particularly interesting, with some useful insights. For instance, regarding the third Beatitude ["Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth," Mt 5:5, NRSV], they cite another author who "says it would be better to translate the word 'tamed' rather than 'meek,' in the sense that their wills have been tamed by God’s will" (40). And on the sixth Beatitude ["Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God." Mt. 5:8, NRSV] "So the sixth Beatitude means, in a nutshell, blessed are those who give their whole self over to God, who is the only one worthy of the heart’s devotion." 45

A worthwhile commentary on the Beatitudes, the main point is that the Christian's life ought to be completely congruent with Jesus' teachings, in particular, the Sermon on the Mount:

"Christian churches across the confessional and theological spectrum, and Christian ethics as an academic discipline that serves the churches, are often guilty of evading Jesus, the cornerstone and center of the Christian faith. Specifically, the teachings and practices of Jesus – especially the largest block of his teachings, the Sermon on the Mount . . . . Jesus taught that the test of our discipleship is whether we act on his teachings, whether we “put into practice” his words. This is what it means to “buil[d our] house on rock (Mt 7:24).
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