An Introduction to Biblical Ethics

David W. Jones.

Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2013. 226 Pages. Paperback.

Reviewed by Gifford A. Grobien on 11/13/2017

Jones’ approach to biblical ethics is oriented around the divine law. In Jones’ introductory chapter, he addresses distinctives of biblical ethics, including
the depravity of fallen man, morality as a fruit of justification, and the significance of assigning moral praise or blame in reference to God’s character. There he also acknowledges the broad field of Christian ethics, including deontological, teleological, and virtue-related structures of ethical thought. From chapter two on,
however, the work reads like a treatise on the divine law with sections connecting ethical methodologies and non-legal factors to the law itself.

There are interesting and accessible discussions throughout the work. Jones offers a readily understandable explanation of the relationship between God and the law: the law is not good simply because God commands it, nor are God’s commands good because they conform to some ideal of law, but the law is good as the expression of God’s good will and character (42–51). Chapter four is perhaps the most helpful as he gives a clear account of various methods for addressing apparent conflicts between commands in the law. His final two chapters expositing the Ten Commandments are adequate, but do not match the treasure of Luther’s catechisms in practicality and in awareness of the positive extension of the Commandments.

Because of the emphasis on the law, he does not give adequate attention to developing teleological and virtue-oriented methods, although he does devote chapter five to integrating goals and character with the biblical law. There is also very little discussion of the role and work of the Holy Spirit and the regenerate life stemming from the power of the gospel. Throughout the book, the emphasis remains on the norming function of the law for the Christian life, a somewhat limited view both in terms of the law-gospel relationship, and also for a work claiming to introduce the full scope of biblical ethics.

This volume can be helpful in summarizing particular points with respect to the law and Christian ethics, but for a general introduction to theological ethics, other resources, such as Robin Lovin, An Introduction to Christian Ethics (Abingdon, 2011) are preferable.