The arena of Christian ethics is a complex one. Every day the world barrages us with new situations and our faith demands a response. Today I’ll be reviewing How Should I Live in This World? by R.C. Sproul, an entry in the Crucial Questions series.
The question of Christian ethics is a perennial one. This is not because the Bible or the Christian faith changes, but because the world that confronts us changes. New technologies, new philosophies, and other new circumstances often force us to rethink our presuppositions and reevaluate our Christian response.
This entry in the Crucial Questions series serves as a primer for this practice. Sproul begins by discussing the field of ethics, what it is and how it functions. He explains concisely that ethics is the philosophical discipline of right behavior. Although slightly different from morals, the brevity of this book (and this post!) does not allow for a distinction between the two. He also briefly discusses the parallel errors of legalism and antinomianism, explaining that both are perversions of the Gospel.
Once Sproul has laid the groundwork, clarifying that although God’s Word is black and white, that reality exists in an array of shades, he moves on to specific moral questions facing the reader.
The three questions he addresses are as follows:
- The State’s Power to Wield the Sword (Capital Punishment and War)
In each chapter he explains the moral question, and provides both philosophical and exegetical support for his response. Although his responses are unsurprising, he also provides some introductory comments regarding why someone might disagree with him. His answers are short, and thus might leave someone looking for an in-depth treatment unsatisfied. However, someone who picks up a 100 quarter page booklet and wants an in-depth treatment should probably look elsewhere from the onset.
He closes the book with a general discussion of the Christian conscience. This serves as a sort of catch all chapter, to try to address the other ethical questions he did not cover in depth. While it did not contain anything that I think was wrong, I think that the space could have been better used to address another specific topic. Seeing that this book was published in 2009, well after the onset of the Gay Rights and Same Sex Marriage movement, I was surprised and disappointed that this book did not contain a chapter on human sexuality and gay marriage.
Overall, this was a helpful book that makes a good introduction to the subject. It would be a great booklet to give to a new Christian, as a part of a catechesis group, or as a Sunday School group.
Please note: Reformation Trust / Ligonier Ministries has provided me with an electronic version of this book for review purposes, and will be providing me with a hard copy edition in exchange for this review. They do not require positive reviews, nor have they edited or modified this review in any way.