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Christian Social Ethics…where do I start?

In one week I will be teaching Christian Social Ethics here at California Baptist University. I am looking forward to the interaction I will have with students as the topics we will cover in this class will no doubt create lots of conversation (maybe even debate!). Christian ethics  is an enormous subject, both in the scope it covers and in regard to its importance in the twenty-first century. Therefore, the number of books I could recommend are endless. Nevertheless, if you are looking for an introductory level textbook, here are a handful of books I would commend to you. I do not necessarily agree with everything in every single one of these books, but overall I think these books are helpful primers, from a Christian-Evangelical worldview, for the novice. (Stay tuned, in a follow up post I will post some videos from Rae and Feinberg on Christian Ethics.)

Scott B. Rae. Moral Choices: An Introduction to Ethics. Third Edition. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009.

With its unique union of theory and application and its well-organized, easy-to-use design, Moral Choices has earned its place as the standard text for college ethics courses. This third edition offers extensive updates, revisions, and brand new material, all designed to help students develop a sound and current basis for making ethical decisions in today’s complex postmodern culture.

Moral Choices outlines the distinctive elements of Christian ethics while avoiding undue dogmatism. The book also introduces other ethical systems and their key historical proponents, including Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and Immanuel Kant.

After describing a seven-step procedure for tackling ethical dilemmas, author Scott Rae uses case studies to address some of today’s most pressing social issues. He guides students in thinking critically and biblically about: Abortion, Reproductive Technologies, Euthanasia, Capital Punishment, Sexual Ethics, The Morality of War, Genetic Technologies and Human Cloning, Ethics and Economics.

And here is Rae talking about this third edition:

John S. Feinberg and Paul D. Feinberg. Ethics for a Brave New World, Second Edition (Updated and Expanded). Second Edition. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010.

Aldous Huxley’s 1932 book Brave New World foresees a world in which technological advances have obliterated morality and freedom. John Feinberg and Paul Feinberg, in the first edition of Ethics for a Brave New World, noted how Huxley landed frighteningly close to the truth. Their book responded to ethical crises such as abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, and genetic engineering by looking to Scripture for principles to guide us through the moral quagmires of our time.

Now dramatically updated and expanded, this edition of Ethics for a Brave New World seeks to maintain the relevance, rigorous scholarship, and biblical faithfulness of the first edition. While many of the topics covered in the book remain the same, John Feinberg has revised each chapter to keep it current with contemporary trends and to respond to the most recent scholarship. There is a new chapter on stem cell research and greatly expanded material on issues such as homosexuality and genetic engineering. This important resource will be a valuable guide for students and those seeking answers to ethical dilemmas.

And here is a video of Justin Taylor interviewing Feinberg on this new edition:

John Jefferson Davis. Evangelical Ethics. Issues Facing the Church Today. Third Edition. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2004.

For two decades, Evangelical Ethics has been regarded as one of the best treatments of contemporary ethical problems facing Christians. John Jefferson Davis brings mature biblical thought to issues such as these: homosexuality, genetics, abortion, euthanasia, war and peace, the environment, divorce and remarriage.

“I recommend the book highly to anyone seeking biblical guidance on these much-debated issues.” —John M. Frame


Matthew Barrett (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Assistant Professor of Christian Studies at California Baptist University (OPS), as well as the founder and executive editor of Credo Magazine. He is the author of The Grace of Godliness: An Introduction to Doctrine and Piety in the Canons of Dort, Salvation by Grace: The Case for Effectual Calling and Regeneration, as well as the coeditor of Four Views on the Historical Adam (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology), and Whomever He Wills: A Surprising Display of Sovereign Mercy. He is the author of several other forthcoming books, which you can read about at

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