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Studies in Christian Ethics "This short book is enormously generative, and we in the field are indebted to O'Donovan for so pithy a summation of his own approach to the shared task of Christian ethics, for it awakens us all to a sharper sense of how, why and what we do. Theological Studies "Throughout the book one finds a clear desire to balance theological and philosophical ethics, and a recurring call to the hard thought that alone gives rise to appropriate normativity.

For the scope of the book's engagement with modern philosophical and theological ethical thought alone, one would be well advised to read it. Choice American Library Association "Written against the author's background of deep study in the development of moral theology and sure knowledge of philosophical ethics, this book has a poetic, flowing, informal character to its style.

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O'Donovan provides a refreshing new look at the relation of faith to moral action and to love, drawing out previously undeveloped implications of Reformation theology. One looks forward to the second and third volumes in this important series. Themelios "An achievement for many reasons. One, despite its extremely dense prose, it is remarkably clear. Two, the book's message is timely and urgent. Finally, O'Donovan is immensely learned, and the reader will benefit from his interactions with other theologians and philosophers who precede him.

I am sure we will benefit richly from the fruits of O'Donovan's lifetime of learning. Times Literary Supplement "The book's depth, intricacy and subtlety testify to decades of theological reflections. Required Field Not a valid email.

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Self, World, and Time - Reformation21

Literature Theology Apocrypha and Pseu What is it about? How does Christian ethics relate to the humanities, especially philosophy, theology, and behavioral studies?

Oliver O'Donovan - Prides Progress: Vice and Virtue in the New Testament - Dean's Forum

It isn't so much about the conclusions reached as it is about how agents employ the resources laid out in the first book. Themes from the first volume are picked up but also located within the life and deliberation of the moral agent the book ends with two chapters on "Deliberation" and "Discernment". The final volume, Entering into Rest , likewise picks up some of the themes but focuses primarily on the object s of moral deliberation "offices" and "ends".

O'Donovan makes a case for the classical theological virtues of faith, hope, and love and argues for the "sovereignty of love.


The trilogy is on one level expansive, and on another limited. O'Donovan laments the "methodological monism" of reductive streams of ethics such as virtue ethics, which discount deontology and teleology. He seeks to root such an expansive project in love, but also to weave in various ethical traditions and lines of enquiry.

At the same time, he [End Page ] seems to be championing a lesson learned from some of the modern virtue ethicists: In fact, O'Donovan intensifies this by framing his ethics not with classical virtues, but with the movement of the everyday: This is the everydayness of devotion. As moral agents we all wake, work, and rest and in so doing figure out how to serve God by making a series of deliberations about how to spend our time and which goods to secure.

Indeed, wisdom literature especially the Psalms is frequently cited here and in key passages specifically Psalm as a kind of synecdoche for the narrative of the Christian life. O'Donovan ends the trilogy by asserting that ethics as a discipline needs the help of eschatology. In fact, one cannot resist the impression that, having reached an illustrious retirement, O'Donovan is sometimes just amusing himself by packaging arguments and ideas into ever smaller and more creative parcels of words, well aware of how long the weary reader will have to spend unpacking them.

Self, World, and Time

This density of prose, then, does not merely make life difficult for the reviewer, for whom any attempt at distillation or synopsis may seem vain, but also calls for a particular discipline in the reader. A book like this should really only be read in small chunks, with long breaks days, ideally to ponder in between, and yet this method risks losing the overall flow and sweep of the argument, which despite the enormous ground covered, displays an impressive unity and cohesion.

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The only solution, perhaps, is frequent re-reading. Having disclaimed any attempt to synopsize, and having effused instead about the book's delightful density, I must still offer some kind of introduction to its contents--what, the impatient reader will demand, is it all about?

Well the first thing to note is that Self, World, and Time is the first volume of a trilogy; it is subtitled "Ethics as Theology, volume 1: The reader curious for a fuller sense of what these volumes will involve need look no further than the final chapter of Self, World, and Time , which offers a tantalizing outline sketch of both sets of themes. Before saying any more about Self, World, and Time itself, however, we should pause to consider the subtitle, which all three volumes share--"Ethics as Theology.

O'Donovan does not propose to discuss, as many before him, "Ethics and Theology" or "Theology and Ethics" in which the two concepts are taken to comprise self-contained fields of inquiry, the latter of which should take its cue from the insights of the former nor "Theological Ethics" in which theology determines the content, and perhaps the form, of ethics.

No, what we have here is an inquiry that begins in ethics and passes over into theology, but without ever leaving the domain of ethics; the conditions of possibility that make ethical thinking meaningful, O'Donovan contends, lead us inexorably to the central questions of theology, which in turn serve to elucidate the categories of moral experience. The subtitle, "An Induction," also gives us a key clue to the structure of the book: O'Donovan begins with the inescapable datum of moral experience, and asks us to reflect on what it means that we are creatures that think morally; from there he seeks to develop a sketch of what the inescapable components of that moral experience are, and how these components are in the end only intelligible in light of a God who commands and calls us.

The result is a remarkably satisfying synthesis of philosophical and theological ethics though the theological elements will be more fully developed in the later volumes , which takes seriously the rationality of moral reasoning as a universal human phenomenon, on which Christians have no monopoly, without thereby ceding to ethics a kind of autonomy that leaves Christian Ethics as a mere postscript or a wholly alternative discourse.

What about the title, though-- Self, World, and Time? This is perhaps the least satisfying aspect of the whole book, I must say, since it leads the reader to expect a rather esoteric philosophical inquiry on each of these concepts, so beloved of philosophers both ancient and modern. In fact, such philosophizing is fairly minimal. These three headings serve to designate what O'Donovan isolates as the three key components of moral experience: He will use the three general categories in the three central chapters of the book to discuss, in turn, "Moral Thinking," in which the agent deliberates upon action, "Moral Communication," in which this deliberation is informed by the objective order and authorities within the world, and "Moral Theory," in which this deliberation seeks to maintain unity over against the ever-changing landscape of time.