Why You’re Here: Ethics for the Real World

What are Christians to be and to do in the world? What does faithfulness look like in these complex and confusing times?

Christians are often told either to take over the world in God’s name or to withdraw into faithful sanctuaries of counter-cultural witness. John Stackhouse offers a concise, vivid, and practical alternative based on the teachings of Scripture about the meaning of human life in this world and the next.

Why You’re Here provides an accessible, concrete program for the faithful Christian living in today’s world, fraught as it is with ambiguity, irony, and frequent choices among unpalatable options. Stackhouse speaks directly to everyday Christians who are searching for straightforward advice on some of their most complex quandaries and the challenges inherent in staying true to the Bible’s teachings.

Politicians, medical professionals, businesspeople, professors, lawyers, pastors, students, and anyone else concerned to think realistically and hopefully about Christian engagement in society today will find here a framework to both guide and inspire them in everyday life.

Oxford University Press have sent a pre-publication reader’s copy.

In sum, this is a wonderfully engaging and quite helpful little theological / ethical book.  Its author has a gift for succinct writing that remains full and fulfilling.  For instance

Did Jesus really die on a cross in order to inspire honorable, but otherwise unremarkable, lives? (p. 2).

It is a book comprised of three divisions:

  1. Our (Permanent) Human Calling: Make Shalom
  2. Our (Temporary) Christian Calling: Make Disciples
  3. Responding to the Call of Jesus

In short, he writes, this is a book about the Christian vocation.  And so throughout he discusses what it means to be a Christian in our world and how Scripture and Christian theology ought to inform our decisions, lifestyles, and behaviours.

As I said just above, the style is engaging and really superbly so.  We read

Jesus calls us not to do his work, but to extend his work (p. 82).

A crucial axiom here is that each of us is a member, not a microcosm (p. 128).

Everything. Everywhere. Everyone. Every moment.  That is the scope of God’s call on our lives, and that is the dignity our lives enjoy (p. 139).

What S. here argues, in short, is that Christians must be Christian in public and in private and their ethics must be determined by their Christian faith, always, everywhere, about everything.

If I were asked to remark about any weaknesses or shortcomings in the book I would only say that S. seems to be too appreciative of Yoder (who, for me, is so tainted by his own immorality that any ethic he may produce is also tainted by the stench of hypocrisy) and of Bonhoeffer (whose ‘Ethics’ is, again in my estimation, the worst of all his works).

That, however, is the only criticism I can muster concerning this really genuinely lovely little volume.  I recommend it quite highly.  Especially today.  Especially for our times, when too many Christians make their decisions not governed by the faith they proclaim but the ideology of a political party or system.

This is a needed and a timely book and you should read it.  And you should pass along your copy when you’re done to someone else so they can read it too.