Quick review: Joined-up life

  • Sumo

Joined-Up Life: A Christian Account of How Ethics WorksJoined-Up Life: A Christian Account of How Ethics Works by Andrew Cameron

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book.

Each chapter is written to be clear in its own right, and Cameron invites readers to dip into whichever topic interests us. I chose to read right through, however, and can recommend this approach. Though each chapter does stand, there is a clear sense of building the overall argument from chapter 1 to chapter 47.

There are seven sections. Awareness notes common approaches to ethics. Unawareness uncovers factors too often overlooked as we decide what’s right and wrong. Jesus versus ethics explores the various way the Bible’s message, centred on Jesus, shapes ethics. Five things that matter is where Cameron constructs his ‘unified field.’ Living our lives brings biblical input into contact with an approach not as popular now as it was historically: character or virtue. Life packages looks at some broad life situations (singleness, marriage, work, …). Six hotspots gets into some of the particular issues that often are controversial points of revelation for our differences of opinion.

In this short review it would be neglectful to quickly pass by Cameron’s unified field. His book, I believe, has two parts: constructing the unified field, then employing the unified field. What is it?

In my understanding, the unified field is a set of interconnected inputs for ethical thinking. There is not ‘an answer’ or ‘a single approach’ to ethics – life is more complex and nuanced than that. Therefore ethics is, likewise, more complex.

The elements of the field are these:
Creation: God made things with an order that we can (partially) perceive or learn
Jesus-shaped community: the work of Jesus creates a group of his people dedicated to living a better way, devoted to being in relationships that are shaped by God’s ways
The new future: history has a goal, set by God. This reality will last, and is to impinge on present life
God’s character: God himself has patterns of right and wrong that become normative for his people
Commands: commands are not ‘the’ ethical method. Yet God’s commands give us a quick insight into each of the above four elements

This field is a most helpful way to focus our approach to ethical questions. They do not neglect the major story arc of the Bible – the unfolding of the Saving Lordship of Jesus. Instead, they honour this story arc enough to see how the story of Jesus changes everything in our own story.



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