The Ethics of Everyday Life: Moral Theology, Social Anthropology, and the Imagination of the Human Hardcover – 23 Oct 2014
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a welcome corrective (Comment (Cardus), Philip Lorish)
It is impossible to summarise all that Banner has to say but there can be little doubt that he has opened up new areas for theological reflection. (Church of England Newspaper, Paul Richards)
... an extremely rewarding read. (Kirst Jane McCluskey, Vulpes Libris)
Michael Banner does not mince words. Moral theology is odd; moral philosophy is odder; and bioethics, depending on the page to which one turns, is limited, irrelevant and/or uncomprehending. These claims alone recommend The Ethics of Everyday Life both to those who might find them surprising, as well as to those whose work joins Professor Banner's much-needed project: that of re-envisaging and reconfiguring moral theology ... Each chapter provides a deep engagement with a spectrum of historical figures, texts, and aspects of material culture that challenges or upends contemporary cultural assumptions often blithely adopted within contemporary Christian discourse. (M. Therese Lysaught, Studies in Christian Ethics)
When moral topics are discussed, we spend too much time fiercely debating controversial questions and too little time reflecting on the meanings of the relations, feelings, institutions and practices which the questions presuppose. That is one of the valuable thoughts pursued in this book. And whether you come to it as a moral philosopher, a moral theologian or a social anthropologist there is much to be learned from Michael Banner's challenging and moving reflections. (Jane Heal, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, University of Cambridge)
Michael Banner's work long been known for its theological depth and analytic acuity. Here we have a comprehensive Christian ethics of the "everyday," inspired by his profound engagement with recent developments in anthropology, enriched by that discipline's empirical attentiveness and sharpened by its rigorous, but (for theologians) under-appreciated, theoretical self-awareness. There is no other account of Christian ethics as freshly illuminating, as intelligently displayed, or as systematically powerful as Banner's. I recommend this book to anyone wishing a more intelligent and perspicacious Christian ethics; they will not be disappointed. (Charles Mathewes, Carolyn M. Barbour Professor of Religious Studies, University of Virginia)
This book is an interdisciplinary tour de force. Michael Banner is a first-rate moral philosopher and theologian who has learned to think about the intricacies of social life like a first-rate anthropologist. He has written that rare kind of work that not only can teach you new things about topics you thought you knew well, but can transform the very way you think about them. Anyone interested in socially grounded moral philosophy or in the anthropology of morality or of Christianity should read it as soon as they can. (Joel Robbins, University of Cambridge)
About the Author
Michael Banner is Dean and Fellow at Trinity College, University of Cambridge. He has had wide involvement in ethical thinking and policy making in government and the private sector, as chair or member of committees across Whitehall Departments from Health to Defence. His publications include Christian Ethics: A Brief History (Wiley Blackwell, 2009) and Christian Ethics and Contemporary Moral Problems (CUP, 1999).
Top customer reviews
Taking the life of Christ to be found in the creeds, birth, work, death and resurrection as a starting point the author looks at many different aspects of social and Christian Ethics. The author suggests a new focus for the workings of moral theilogy and in doing so gives examples how how Christian ethics can be brought up to the modern age... A new direction.
The book is filled with everday examples which help the reader think through ethical issues.
While this is not, at times, an easy read - it is a good read that makes those that read it wish to finish the book, learn and consider.
For me as a Christian minister, looking at the Apostle's Creed in a few and fresh way has been very helpful.
A book that will stay on my shelf.
As an atheist, study of moral theology holds little interest, but “ethics in everyday life” does. This book introduced me to this area of intellectual thought, where an uncomfortable dissonance exists between moral theology, moral philosophy and social anthropology. Their unique, respective attempts to provide answers to some of the ethical dilemmas experienced in daily life share little, if any, common ground. Michael Banner strongly encourages the need for intelligent conversation between these seemingly irreconcilable positions, and with impressive humility, suggests this book marks a start of a process, rather than claiming to be a substantive account of achievements to date.
From moral theology’s perspective, the author places Jesus Christ in this discussion by suggesting his life mirrors our own existence. We are reminded that he too passed through the regular stages of human life as do us mortals, the comparison to which I initially found perplexingly obvious. However, I feel it is a stance deceptively helpful in emphasising how moral theology is both bogged down, and handicapped by, theological dogma. By relying on “hard cases” to explain dilemmas of everyday life, moral theology relies too heavily on the “rightness” or “wrongness” of issues. It isn’t compassionate enough, (my words) to adequately reflect the reality of everyday experience where many shades of shifting grey will always be fighting to be understood. Attempts to provide neatly packaged answers will inevitably fail to affect or impress.
The ethical issues addressed in this book are clearly pointed out, and certainly cover the most contentious problems of living that we all experience at some points on our pathways. A most pertinent and brave comment from the author, is a conclusion that moral theology requires more therapeutic results, inferring that it really hasn’t really come up to the mark in succouring and helping everyday man come to terms and better understand such ethical dilemmas. This is a very well written book, and although initially I found it a rather formidable, it proved to be actually very accessible. It is of equal interest to the lay reader as for students/observers of the three intellectual disciplines.
Banner's book sets out to help us think through a few of those key moments by moving from the narration of Christ's life in the Apostles' Creed to a thick exploration of 'every day' happenings: conception, birth, suffering, death, burial, mourning, and memory. For example, he moves from "conceived by the Holy Spirit" to reflections on IVF to reflections on family, godparents, why people have children in the first place, and how the Christian narrative helps us rethink these questions in order to indwell them anew in more consistent and flourishing ways.
His deft use of social anthropology gives his discussions of these difficult issues a richness and depth they often otherwise lack, and keeps the book rooted in the lives of actual communities and individuals. Due to his decision to follow the narration of the Apostles' Creed, the book does focus on big moments of every day life, rather than on possibly more mundane, but no less morally fraught, activities like eating, befriending, loving, working, spending, learning, voting, playing, etc., but that's no fault of the book. It simply means there's more work to be done, and that our understanding and practice of each of these would benefit from the kind of attention and thought Banner models in this book.
Even if one doesn't concur with every move of every argument Banner makes, his book is a significant and promising challenge to the discipline of moral theology that deserves to be explored, tested, deepened, and extended. All that and eloquently written to boot, which won't surprise any who know Banner's work or have heard him speak.
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