This is a volume in the Theology in a Global Perspective Series. Peter Phan, general editor of the series contributed the forward in which he captures the project of this book: “What is specifically Christian in theological ethics is not a new superstructure of values or a different, larger set of norms added to purely human ethics, but a new vision, making Jesus’ way of seeing one’s own, and acting accordingly.’ (xiii).
It is an excellent, up-to-date textbook in fundamental moral theology. The authors have used literature and personal anecdotes to great advantage, introducing students to (among others) Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Thomas Merton, and Dorothy Day. The text takes a truly global perspective, including sections about morality from other Christian communions and other faith traditions such as Buddhism and Islam. These elements make this a textbook that would break the typical student’s stereotypes about Catholic moral theology and awaken them to the serious global issues we face. I find its greatest strength is the connection it makes between individual and social morality. Morality is presented as a seamless whole under the rubric of love and faithful discipleship.
The contents are comprehensive and well organized. Topics covered include: The Call of Discipleship, The Christian Moral Life and Learning to See; The Treasure We Seek – The Reign of God and the Moral Life; Starting Over Again and Again: Sin and Conversion; The Virtues; Conscience; Love—The Only True Path to Life; the Pascal Mystery and the Moral Life; The Spirit and Moral Discernment and finally The Mission of Public Discipleship.
Scripture is integrated throughout the text. The chapter on learning to see explains the blindness and fantasy of consumerism and the radical call of the parables to see things in a new way. The Chapter on the Paschal Mystery and the Moral Life directly addresses the problem of suffering and of apathy.
Throughout the text the work of contemporary scholars is highlighted. This shows the students that moral theology is not a static science, but a conversation. An example of the authors’ technique is the presentation of how context shapes conscience. First they introduce Enrique Dussel, who “offers a provocative example. He notes that how one understands the moral injunction ‘You shall not steal!’ often depends on his or her social and economic status” (159-60). This is followed by an example from Huckleberry Finn. “Huckeberry Finn is a poignant reminder that before we crow about the supremacy of conscience, we need to examine carefully the moral notions that have informed our conscience.” (161).
My only quibble is that the chapter on love mentions C. S. Lewis’ The Four Loves, but chooses to follow instead Edward Vacek’s scheme, and uses the theology of Anders Nygren on eros and agape without any mention of the alternative understanding of eros and agape found in Deus Caritas Est. This is a significant omission
The academic apparatus helps this work as a textbook. Each chapter concludes with a summary of key points, questions for discussion and a helpful bibliography. There are extensive footnotes and bibliography and a comprehensive index.