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Self, World, and Time takes up the question of the form and matter of Christian ethics as an intellectual discipline. What is it about? How does Christian ethics relate to the humanities, especially philosophy, theology, and behavioral studies? How does its shape correspond to the shape of practical reason? In what way does it participate in the proclamation of the gospel Self, World, and Time takes up the question of the form and matter of Christian ethics as an intellectual discipline. What is it about? How does Christian ethics relate to the humanities, especially philosophy, theology, and behavioral studies? How does its shape correspond to the shape of practical reason? In what way does it participate in the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ? Oliver O'Donovan discusses ethics with self, world, and time as foundation poles of moral reasoning, and with faith, love, and hope as the virtues anchoring the moral life. Blending biblical, historic-theological, and contemporary ideas in its comprehensive survey, Self, World, and Time is an exploratory study that adds significantly to O'Donovan's previous theoretical reflections on Christian ethics.]]>


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Self, World, and Time takes up the question of the form and matter of Christian ethics as an intellectual discipline. What is it about? How does Christian ethics relate to the humanities, especially philosophy, theology, and behavioral studies? How does its shape correspond to the shape of practical reason? In what way does it participate in the proclamation of the gospel Self, World, and Time takes up the question of the form and matter of Christian ethics as an intellectual discipline. What is it about? How does Christian ethics relate to the humanities, especially philosophy, theology, and behavioral studies? How does its shape correspond to the shape of practical reason? In what way does it participate in the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ? Oliver O'Donovan discusses ethics with self, world, and time as foundation poles of moral reasoning, and with faith, love, and hope as the virtues anchoring the moral life. Blending biblical, historic-theological, and contemporary ideas in its comprehensive survey, Self, World, and Time is an exploratory study that adds significantly to O'Donovan's previous theoretical reflections on Christian ethics.]]>

30 review for Self, World, and Time

  1. 5 out of 5

    David Goetz

    Extraordinary book. O'Donovan writes remarkably dense, lucid, and beautiful prose. I can't remember the last time I felt this sad at reaching a book's end. The six chapters are as follows: "Moral Awareness," "Moral Thinking," "Moral Communication," "Moral Theory," "The Task of Moral Theology," and "The Trajectory of Faith, Love, and Hope." This book is "an 'Induction,' to pave the way for further 'Explorations.' It is concerned primarily with the form and matter of Christian Ethics as a disciplin Extraordinary book. O'Donovan writes remarkably dense, lucid, and beautiful prose. I can't remember the last time I felt this sad at reaching a book's end. The six chapters are as follows: "Moral Awareness," "Moral Thinking," "Moral Communication," "Moral Theory," "The Task of Moral Theology," and "The Trajectory of Faith, Love, and Hope." This book is "an 'Induction,' to pave the way for further 'Explorations.' It is concerned primarily with the form and matter of Christian Ethics as a discipline, in relation to its material (moral thought and moral teaching), its setting among the humanistic faculties of study, and its proper shape, a triadic trajectory in which self, world, and time are reflected and restored" (xi). O'Donovan argues for wakefulness / awareness as the fundamental metaphor for the moral life. "What seems like the beginning is not really a beginning at all," he says. "We wake to find things going on, and ourselves going on in the midst of them" (2). And, this being so, "we know we must give our attention to being wider awake" (4). To what must we give attention? To the self as agent, to the world as the field of action, and to time as the future-present moment in which to "do something ... to endure before the throne of judgment" (17). He closes the chapter by noting some of the "moral diseases" that result from ignoring one or two of these foci of our awareness. "Good moral theory, like moral experience itself, triangulates" (18). Chapters 2-4 nicely illuminate the terrain of Christian Ethics, but they are less central to the thrust of this book than Chapters 1, 5-6. He does spend a few pages developing a beautiful exposition of the Lord's Prayer in its Matthean and Lukan contexts; he does this in service of his claim, following Barth, that "developed and self-conscious moral thinking begins and ends by calling on God" (38). Prayer, he says, "is the form thought takes when we understand that agency implies a relation to the government of the universe, at once cooperative and dependent" (38-39). God alone, he insists, makes the moral life intelligible. He also argues, in chapter 3 in particular, for an understanding of moral thought as a "communicative inquiry with a social basis" (44), from which point he proceeds to discussions of the natures of moral advising, moral authority, and moral teaching. Going back to the Lord's Prayer, O'Donovan points to the recurrence of first-person plural pronouns, which indicate a "'we' within which each and every 'I' can realize itself" (65). Along the way he decries the rampant individualism of many evangelical liturgies, contending for a central place for the Lord's Prayer in our gatherings to counteract this self-focus. As for the chapter on Moral Theory, O'Donovan unpacks the claim that Moral Theology must focus both on looking to God in heaven and on deliberating over practical possibilities of action. In Chapter 5 O'Donovan starts to describe and develop his 3-volume project. Again, the moral life calls for wakefulness to the self, to the world, and to time. He connects these three foci with the three classic virtues--faith, love, and hope (which he takes to be the default order, 1 Cor. 13 being a purposeful variation). In faith we give our attention to the self as an agent made competent for obedient self-disposal. In love we give our admiration to the world as it is--to the order of creation given to it by its Creator (in this sense Ethics is, as O'Donovan calls it, a descriptive enterprise). And in hope we look forward to the realization of the promises of God our Redeemer and Restorer and seek to place ourselves in action in line with that future reality. "Faith anchors the moral life in an awareness of self and responsibility, for agency is distorted and uncertain until we grasp hold of God's work in shaping us to be effetive agents. Love structures our awareness of the world and our appreciation of its ordered values, rejoicing in the world as God's creation and its history as the stage of God's self-disclosure. Hope focuses our awareness of time upon the 'works prepared before us to walk in' (Eph. 2:10)" (102). In the final chapter, O'Donovan focuses at greater length on faith, love, and hope. Faith, again, looks to God's act in Christ on our behalf. "The root of agency lies not in self-perception"--or in some potency immanent within each person--"but in receiving God's address to us" (112). This address tells us that we are not bound to a particular course because of the way we've come or because of the person that our history has made us. "We stand," O'Donovan says earlier, "in need ... of a 'renewal' of agency, of 'the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit.' The supreme power of the act of God the Redeemer lies in those repeated 're-' prefixes, the power to make again without unmaking" (42). Love is founded on knowledge. We do not love abstractions; love implies a concrete act of beholding and admiring. Moral action, then, requires us to know the world in which we must act in this "age of Ethics." We must pay attention to the order of God's world, knowing that this will not only enable us to act wisely in the world but will also increase our love of God, from whom all other good things derive their goodness. "Love requires its communicative medium of loveliness. Love of God is affirmed in and through our other loves, structuring them and ordering them, so that with each new discovery of good that world and time lay open to us, the question of the love of God is put again, its sovereignty over other loves reasserted or forgotten. For love of the world and of the God who gives the world occupies our experience not as a settled condition, but as a series of openings and adventures" (119). Hope, again, is grounded on the promise of God, and in this way differs from anticipation, which looks for certain events to come because they appear probable in light of present circumstances. The act of God and the promise of God mean we are "no longer allowed to suppose that the next thing will follow from the last"; therefore, hope clears a space of freedom before our feet, even if that space is no larger than will allow for a disciplined and patient waiting" (123). As O'Donovan puts it so beautifully, each moment is an opportunity to "witness to the promise in our action." He concludes by proffering Rest as the completion and goal of action, entrance into which constitutes our partaking of the divine nature. "'The end crowns the work,' as the proverb has it. As completed work our agency has a place within the world, and can be offered back to God in praise as the contribution to the world's preservation and redemption which he has been pleased to accomplish through us" (128). Reading back on my summary, I'm all to aware that there's much in this slim volume that I missed or misunderstood. It will easily withstand several re-readings, and the density perhaps demands them. In fact, I might say that one could re-read this until the day the "age of Ethics" comes to a close, if only for the sheer rapture effected by O'Donovan's evocative metaphors, conceptual rigor and clarity, and plain joy in wrestling with how we might live faithfully before God our Savior. Know that O'Donovan doesn't always translate non-English quotes, so you will have to do some additional research if you don't know Latin, German, and French but do want to track the argument all the way.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    This is something of a prolegomena of his ethics trilogy. He compellingly and powerfully argues for ethics as theology. Especially helpful was his discussion of the theological virtues of faith, hope and love. I'm excited to dive into vol. 2. This is something of a prolegomena of his ethics trilogy. He compellingly and powerfully argues for ethics as theology. Especially helpful was his discussion of the theological virtues of faith, hope and love. I'm excited to dive into vol. 2.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kenny

    This is a extraordinary book. With dense, lucid and beautiful prose (yes, this a theological book), O"Donovan gives us an account of practical reason in the context of being led by the Spirit. Richly biblical, his account of the Christian life strengthened my understanding of our agency while keeping the Gospel at the center. Resurrection and Moral Order was an important book for me. In the introduction, O'Donovan says this project could be titled,"Pentecost and Moral Reasoning. Being in the mid This is a extraordinary book. With dense, lucid and beautiful prose (yes, this a theological book), O"Donovan gives us an account of practical reason in the context of being led by the Spirit. Richly biblical, his account of the Christian life strengthened my understanding of our agency while keeping the Gospel at the center. Resurrection and Moral Order was an important book for me. In the introduction, O'Donovan says this project could be titled,"Pentecost and Moral Reasoning. Being in the midst of a complex and difficult decision personally, it read like a devotional book for me. I was sad when it was over, but fortunately their is a sequel, Finding and Seeking!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Robert Irish

    I wanted to like this book, but reading it was such a slog. O'Donovan's writing is dense, often unnecessarily obtuse, which makes his meaning get lost for the first three or four readings over a paragraph--and then so often the reward is not worth the effort. The book was published in 2013, but it reads like something much older, both in its sexist language ("mankind", really? in 2013? Where was the editor?) and in its failure to reference any contemporary philosophy. To be honest, I cannot real I wanted to like this book, but reading it was such a slog. O'Donovan's writing is dense, often unnecessarily obtuse, which makes his meaning get lost for the first three or four readings over a paragraph--and then so often the reward is not worth the effort. The book was published in 2013, but it reads like something much older, both in its sexist language ("mankind", really? in 2013? Where was the editor?) and in its failure to reference any contemporary philosophy. To be honest, I cannot really summarize the book because I spent so much effort working through each point that the overall thread was lost. I did like his discussion of faith, love, and hope, and placing those into right relationship and historical perspective. It was also a book with a few powerful quotable quotes: To desire pardon is not to desire that God should wink or bend; it is to desire that he should show himself in his majesty as the one who raises lost [hu]mankind from the dead. It is to ask something that of its nature transforms the world, and with the world our neighbour, our enemy, our established right and identity. I love this. So often, people think of God's forgiveness as God's moment of weakness, but the beauty here is its God's moment of transformation that brings everything into right identity. However, rather than reading it, just let me know and I'll be happy to share more quotables and save you the trouble.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy Meeks

    Ethics ain’t easy. O’donovan claims as much. Yet ethics is not impossible. What must we do to act as responsible agents? Understand ourselves, the world, and time. Well worth the read. The book is not easy going, but neither is living.

  6. 4 out of 5

    R.J. Winans

    A nearly poetic account of Christian ethics on a threefold trajectory of faith, love and hope.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Michael Nichols

    O’Donovan offers an induction into ethics, as opposed to an introduction. The latter, he says, is a familiarizing with specialized patterns of inquiry and trains of thought. But this will not do for ethics, because we find ourselves already immersed in ethics, having been ethical agents for as long as we can remember. What we need is not line of inquiry, but to awake–to self, world, and time. And in doing so, we will sharpen our moral acumen and live responsibly. To awake to self is to recognize O’Donovan offers an induction into ethics, as opposed to an introduction. The latter, he says, is a familiarizing with specialized patterns of inquiry and trains of thought. But this will not do for ethics, because we find ourselves already immersed in ethics, having been ethical agents for as long as we can remember. What we need is not line of inquiry, but to awake–to self, world, and time. And in doing so, we will sharpen our moral acumen and live responsibly. To awake to self is to recognize oneself inescapably as as an agent and eschew programs that reduce ethics to primarily problem solving without reference to self. To awake to world is to realize one operates in an objective world that cannot and will not simply bend to the agent’s will. To awake to time is to recognize we must act here and now, casting off universalized idealism. These three form a triad that must be discursively navigated in ethical reasoning; no one has priority and no one can be dropped. In the final chapters, O’Donovan corresponds those three aspects of moral thinking to faith, hope, and love. Faith in God for “focusing the subject-agent; love embracing the world in its reality as the field of action; hope discerning the space of opportune time into which...our service to God and neighbor may be ventured” (pg. 100). O’Donovan is incredibly dense, and this is certainly a “guild book”: written for scholars well versed in the field of ethics. So I’m not sure I would recommend it to anyone but scholars and grad level students, nor am I sure if I’ll continue with the series. However, his prose is fantastic and, even for non-experts, there are some moments of real clarity and insight. I enjoyed three things in particular. First, he insists descriptions of the world are as morally loaded as ethical prescriptions, and therefore must be learned. Second, he navigates the communal/individual nature of ethics well; individuals inherit their lives and ethics from a community that gives individuals intelligibility. Third, the prominence he gives to prayer in the moral life is refreshing. Two of the six chapters, fittingly the ones on moral thinking and moral communication, end with reflections on prayer’s place in the moral life.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Fiona

    Probably the hardest book I've read for a while, with a very elusive first chapter. The payoff is massive once you get into the rhythm. If you want to know more about ethics than just someone else's perspective on abortion or money, this will get you started on thinking about it yourself. Takeaway thinking point: Deliberation is at the heart of moral theology (aka ethics). Probably the hardest book I've read for a while, with a very elusive first chapter. The payoff is massive once you get into the rhythm. If you want to know more about ethics than just someone else's perspective on abortion or money, this will get you started on thinking about it yourself. Takeaway thinking point: Deliberation is at the heart of moral theology (aka ethics).

  9. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Lee

    Excellently done. This is a helpful extension of O'Donovan's earlier work, and is the sort of book that only a lifetime of careful learning and deliberation could produce. Excellently done. This is a helpful extension of O'Donovan's earlier work, and is the sort of book that only a lifetime of careful learning and deliberation could produce.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Rev. Haberer

  11. 4 out of 5

    Drew

  12. 4 out of 5

    Robert

  13. 5 out of 5

    Nathaniel

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ty Kieser

  15. 4 out of 5

    K.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Nathaniel Spencer

  17. 5 out of 5

    Eli Price

  18. 5 out of 5

    George

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sean Stillman

  20. 5 out of 5

    Joe

  21. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Swett

  22. 4 out of 5

    James Smith

  23. 5 out of 5

    Brian Roden

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kyle Potter

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kyle Richardson

  26. 5 out of 5

    Nicholas Bannister

  27. 5 out of 5

    Tim Hahn

  28. 5 out of 5

    Chad D

  29. 5 out of 5

    Cory Brock

  30. 4 out of 5

    Glen Pettigrove

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