The Moral Vision of the New Testament

One of my favorite classes from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School was New Testament Ethics. The class was about a half a dozen people, including Dr. Bruce Fields - our professor, and with that size, it was very conducive for good discussions. Another aspect of the class that lent itself to good discussions was one of our textbooks - The Moral Vision of the New Testament, by Richard Hays.
This book is an introduction to ethics in the New Testament. Dr. Hays offers three lenses with which to view moral and ethical behavior from the New Testament:
  1. Community - the community [the church], in its corporate life, is called to embody an alternative order that stands as a sign of God's redemptive purposes in the world.
  2. Cross - to be Jesus' disciple is to obey his call to bear the cross, thus to be like him. Our actions are therefore to be judged not by their calcuable efficacy in producing desirable results but by their correspondence to Jesus' example.
  3. New Creation - the church is to embody the power of resurrection in the midst of a not-yet-redeemed world.
These three images focus and guide our reading of the New Testament texts with respect to ethical issues, according to Dr. Hays. He spends a good deal of time expounding on these images and their benefits.
The last section of the book is what I found to be most challenging, most interesting and that which I have wrestled with for the past 7-8 years. This last section he speaks about particular issues and reflects on them in light of the three images of community, cross, and new creation. Some of the ethical issues he writes about are: violence, divorce and remarriage, abortion, homosexuality, and ethnic conflict.
While all have been very eye-opening and helpful, the section on violence in defense of justice is the one which I have struggled with ever since I took this class. Dr. Hays is a pacifist, and while in seminary, I definitely was not, he really got me thinking. I believe that not I would fall into the same camp as he does. I would recommend this book on the basis of that chapter alone. But the entire book will provoke your thought.

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