Skip to main content

My new book! Faithful Living: Discipleship, Creed, and Ethics

I’m a little late flagging this up here, but my book Faithful Living: Discipleship, Creed, and Ethics was released by SCM Press in December 2019 — a little bit earlier than expected (and hopefully in time for a few last-minute Christmas presents!). The basic premise of the book is a bit of a thought-experiment: I am interested in the kinds of decisions and actions that may be inferred or implied for those who believe and regularly recite the Nicene Creed. I don’t pretend this is an exhaustive moral commentary, nor that the basic approach isn’t without some qualification, but I do try and join the dots between the confessional substance of the Christian faith (with which many worshipers are familiar because of liturgical confession) and the every-day choices that most Christians are required to make. It comes from the conviction that doctrinal commitments implicate our moral lives. The blurb summarises it as follows:
How can the things we do and say in Church impact our lives and shape the decisions we make on a daily basis? What kind of life is implied for people who believe the things that Christians believe?
Faithful Living attempts to think through these questions and considers the formational impact worship can have on Christian ethics, and therefore on the lives of Christian disciples. It focuses on one of the Church’s regular practices, reciting the Nicene Creed, and offers an ethical commentary on the Creed’s key ideas and themes, challenging Christians from all traditions to think through their faith in order to live faith-fully before God. In so doing, it seeks to hold Christian belief and practice (what are often more formally called doctrine and practice) together. Each chapter addresses one clause from the Creed, attending to its theological meaning, before turning to the ethical implications associated with it. Topics include community, food, politics, disability, suffering, hope, discernment, and catechesis

I am very grateful to the Bishops of Lancaster and Kensington, Rt Revd Dr Jill Duff and Rt Revd Dr Graham Tomlin respectively, for their generous endorsements of the book, as well as Professor David Clough, Professor of Theological Ethics at the University of Chester, UK, for his. The fact that bishops and professors were asked by the publishers to endorse it says something about the nature of the argument: it straddles both the academy and the Church, marshalling insights from academic theology in service of the community of the faithful. I try to bring my experiences as both a parish priest and a seminary teacher into constructive conversation too, showing how the Christian life is resourced by theology (even if, in the end, it is a pneumatic life - as I argue in ch.8). As the sub-title suggests, my focus is the theological and practical sustance of discipleship, and the way in which the more obviously identity-conferring commitments we make in worship and credal confession have radical implications for the rest of our lives. Worship in general, and credal confession as a particular part of that, forms and shapes us by orientating us Godward. So, as the blurb suggests, I spend some time in each chapter overviewing the theology of each of the major claims of the Creed (and sometimes discussing competing theological accounts of the Creed’s meaning), before asking about its implications for our lives beyond gathered worship. The aim is to try to make some practical suggestions about the kinds of decisions and actions Christians might undertake, and point to the wider resources available to help with that. The chapters are as follows:

Nicene Creed 8

1. Ethics by Implication 9

2. ‘We Believe in God’: Community and Morality 29
3. ‘Maker of Heaven and Earth’: Consuming Our Fellow Creatures 51
4. ‘In One Lord, Jesus Christ’: Political Responsibility 75
5. ‘Conceived of the Holy Spirit, Born of the Virgin Mary’: Disability and Humanity 95
6. ‘Suffered Death and was Buried’: Suffering 116
7. ‘On the Third Day He Rose Again’: Hope and Moral Vision 132
8. ‘The Lord and Giver of Life’: The Holy Spirit and the Christian Life 148
9. ‘Communion of Saints, Forgiveness of Sins’: The Church and Practical Catechesis 165

Each chapter concludes with some discussion questions, making the book suitable for thoughtful small groups in local churches as well as undergraduate seminars in university and seminary contexts. These questions also include suggestions for further reading. I am hoping this will be a useful resource for ongoing conversation since it is definitely not an exhaustive commentary or final argument on the topic. Its originality comes from treating liturgy and worship as a meaningful resource for moral deliberation. 

In keeping with the overall concern for worship and the formation of the moral self, my current writing project is a follow-up volume focused more specifically on liturgy, taking the different parts of a service of Eucharist and treating them in much the same way as the clauses of the Creed here. Watch this space for more on that...

Popular posts from this blog

What Do You Call a Group of Theologians?

I think the answer should be "an argument", but perhaps that's unfair. I can test my theory this next week, which sees the start of the annual Society for the Study of Theology (UK) conference on the theme of Holy Writ? (The question mark is very suggestive). It looks really good, and the list of plenary speakers is great: Alex Samely (Manchester); Morwenna Ludlow (Exeter); Henk van den Belt (Amsterdam); Walter Moberly (Durham); Anthony Thiselton (Nottingham); Hugh Pyper (Sheffield). The conference lasts several days and is convening this year at York University. I hope to be able to blog a few thoughts from the conference and some info about the plenary sessions, but I shall be presenting a paper at one of the themed seminars on Wednesday afternoon on the interpretation of Barth's ethics of responsibility so may be a bit distracted until then. So watch this space for more info...

Barth on defining the authority of scripture, and issues in the Anglican communion

Barth is notorious, particularly amongst evangelical scholars, for his view of the authority of scripture. He is right, I think, to argue that scripture's 'authority' is relative to the authority of Christ. This is precisely why his threefold definition of the Word does not privilege scripture, but acknowledges its principal witness to the 'wordiness' of Jesus (John 1 - a passage of which Barth was very fond). Where I think his approach to scripture becomes more complicated, and difficult to understand, is in passages relating to moral authority, such as this one: All biblical imperatives - and we do not say this to impugn the authority of the Bible but to define it - are addressed to others, and not to us, and they are addressed to others who differ greatly among themselves, to the people of Israel in different situations, to the disciples of Jesus, to the first Christian churches of Jews and Gentiles. Their concreteness is that of a specific then and there...This

Getting by without God?

I am now a few years into the life of an ordained minister, and have been taking some time over the last couple of weeks to reflect on the things that have happened, and to revisit some of what I thought was going to happen. This has been a complicated affair, but helpful. As part of my reflections I have been rereading a book by John Pritchard, now bishop of Oxford, which I read when I was exploring my own sense of vocation to ordained ministry. It is called "The Life and Work of a Priest" (London: SPCK, 2007). I was caught short a bit this week when I read the following description: I once went on retreat and was met by a little bundle of holy energy who showed me to my room. I thought I better start in prayer but as I knelt before a crucifix in the room I began to feel worse and worse. I realised that I needed to do a lot of soul-searching. I knew that over the years I had accumulated quite a lot of experience of priestly ministry. I knew about pastoral ministry and missio