Thursday, February 03, 2005

Improvisation by Samuel Wells

The title theme of the Jan-Feb 05 issue might be curious to some. What does "Christian Ethics: the drama continues" mean? First, the way we conceive of ethics is important. For instance, when I proposed this idea to Rubel Shelly and Mike Cope last Fall, I said, "What do you think of doing an issue that asks the question, 'What is morality?'" Rubel wrote back and said, "Yes, let's do an issue on ethics." Do you see the simile?

But that's also where we often get confused. Ethics does not mean morality in only the sense of clean sexual living. And morality, for that matter, doesn't mean only that either! Morality and ethics is a broad experience of understanding what is good and right in every endeavor, and in Christ the effort is not a selfish one where good is determined individually by how much one benefits. Instead, when we are doing ethics for the church we are called to a higher authority not for the sake of divining and cognition but for the sake of understanding who God is so that we can know who we are.

We have included several articles that explain this better than I can. Ron Highfield's and Lee Camp's articles help introduce these ideas. I'm reading a book right now called Improvisation: The Drama of Christian Ethics by Samuel Wells. The book is about the process that we as Christians go through to understand who God is and what our Christian tradition is and in knowing those well, we can work on our feet through the changes that come our way in culture. The metaphor of improvisation is intriguing to me, and I'm in the process of deciphering it right now, so I'll not say much more but I'm curious if you've read it and want to talk about it with some of you. Perhaps you may want to order it and we can discuss here.

Have a great Thursday.

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