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...