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Why You’re Here: Ethics for the real world by John G. Stackhouse, Jr.

08 June 2018

David Atkinson reads a moral theologian’s view of flourishing

HOW are we to live as God intended? That question is addressed by Professor John G. Stackhouse of the Canadian Christian liberal arts Crandall University.

Adapting it from his other more academic books, Stackhouse offers an accessible guide for the general Evangelical reader to some of the issues encountered in exploring what faithful Christian living means in a world of sin, ambiguity, and compromise.

He begins with the general cultural mandate: God’s calling to every human being to “make shalom”, defined as “global flourishing”. His vision is that human beings have a God-given vocation to work for the flourishing of all creation, and of all relationships, so that, as God’s image-bearers, we share in God’s creative work in cultivating the world that God loves.

Within that general human calling, Christians have a distinctive vocation: to make disciples to be Christ’s agents in the mission of God for the salvation and healing of the fallen world, and to bring it to maturity in “global shalom”. In that sense, every aspect of human living (art and culture as much as worship) is part of discipleship.

The second half of the book then spells out some principles of “normal” Christian living. Hard choices in the ethical borderline, with some examples from politics, finance, and congregational life, need to be geared towards “maximising shalom”.

The North American Evangelical context is clearly dominant: I was surprised to read that “Churches are constructed according to efficiency” — not in medieval Norfolk, they weren’t! And I was sad that the only sentence about Anglicans is a criticism of our “pride” in our “vaunted capacity for inclusion”.

There is good material here, but it is wordy and repetitive, and in places not very rigorous. Despite asking the right questions, overall the book is disappointing.

Dr David Atkinson is an honorary assistant bishop in the diocese of Southwark.

Why You’re Here: Ethics for the real world
John G. Stackhouse, Jr.
OUP £12.99
Church Times Bookshop £11.70

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