It has been easy for me to slip into the mentality that engagement in ethical issues is not the priority of the Christian individually or the Church as a whole. To be honest, as I consider the past eight years of my Christian life, I can say that most of the time I have spent in seriously pondering the truth of Christianity and its application, I have narrowed in primarily on issues that relate directly to me. To my shame, I admit that I have engaged in little significant ethical reflection in regards to how I am called, as a Christian, to think and interact biblically on moral issues in society.
Evangelical Ethics, by John Jefferson Davis, is a much-needed corrective in my own life and, I would trust, for Christ’s Church as well. In just my first reading, I have been profoundly encouraged to not only engage the significant ethical issues facing the Church, but to not rest content until I understand those issues in light of Scripture. This is not easy work, but it is an essential work. Jesus calls us to be salt and light.
After opening the book with a chapter on decision making, Davis examines eleven major ethical issues facing Christians and the Church today: contraception, reproductive technologies, divorce and remarriage, homosexuality, abortion, infanticide and euthanasia, capital punishment, civil disobedience, war and peace, environmental issues, and genetic enhancement and manipulation. In each section, Davis presents the historical and legal background of the particular issue, providing thick documentation from the relevant sources. He then examines each issue in light of Scripture, bringing the reader to what he considers a clear Biblical position, or, at least, a place where the reader can use the given information to begin to think more clearly about that specific issue.
Davis’ work is also highly accessible. The book itself, not including the end notes, is only 288 pages. It is not an exhaustive treatment of each subject; rather, it is a helpful introduction to the major ethical issues presently facing the church. Though thoroughly researched and documented, Davis’ work is straightforward, clear, and will benefit pastors, scholars and laypeople alike.
Evangelical Ethics has been tested in over two decades of readership and is now in its third edition. Since it was first published in 1985, Davis’ treatment of contemporary ethical problems has been a standard in churches and Christian classrooms. Having read and profited from Davis’ book, I now understand why this is the case. It is well-researched and well-written, and it provides a sure foundation from which to start thinking about these important issues. I highly recommend it.