Converting Christians to the Jesus Ethic, Russell Pregeant. Cascade Books (Eugene, OR), 2023, 219 pages, including study questions and bibliography, ISBN: 9781666749502.
In a nutshell, we must move away from “Christian Ethics,” which is forever colored by theology and start becoming people of the “Jesus Ethic.”
Aren’t they the same, you might ask? No, they’re not. Rusell Pregeant in Converting Christians to the Jesus Ethic points out the difference with excellent clarity. Christian Ethics is colored by theology and culture, while the Jesus Ethic is all about living the words – or the way – of Jesus.
Of particular concern to Pregeant is that much of Christianity has adopted a Christian Ethics that is less Christian and more of a culturally, economically and politically driven religious ethic—one that has very little to do with the words of Jesus.
Rather than tear into this religious ethic, Pregeant takes us on a deep-dive into the words of Jesus. He does so in a way that holds up what we personally consider to be a Christian moral ethic and value in light of the words and actions of Jesus.
Pregeant doesn’t merely say, This is the Jesus Ethic, he gives both definitive and practical example of what it means to be converted to the Jesus Ethic. Each chapter is followed by study questions to help examine our own ethics in light of the words of Jesus.
Converting Christians to the Jesus Ethic explores what being converted to the Jesus Ethic means in light of our economy and politics. Being converted to the Jesus Ethic is more than changing how we think about the big picture, it is also quite personal. The Jesus Ethic, according to Pregeant, speaks to how we vote, how we relate to those around us, and to what material wealth we personally accommodate. The Jesus Ethic also speaks not only to how, but also to whom we love and to how we forgive.
An objection for some to what Pregeant claims is a necessity, is going to be, “But the scripture says this!” Or, “That is condemned by the Law.” In Chapter 6, “Barriers or Bridges,” Pregeant demonstrates that how for Jesus the Jewish Law evolved and changed, and how even our own use of the scriptures has changed over time. In particular, “Barriers or Bridges” addresses our need to have someone to hate, it may be because of their race, their religion, their lifestyle or sexual orientation. And sometimes it is an entire country or group of people. The chapter also reminds us that the bible is not a weapon to force people to conform to what we think.
“Barriers or Bridges” sums up what the Jesus Ethic is: It is a singular, unified ethic. The Jeus Ethic is a blueprint for how we ought – no, must – ethically live out our Christian faith in relation to others and culture in general. To put it in a nutshell, the Jesus Ethic is about witnessing to the grace of God.
Pregeant ends with these words:
“I do believe that if the church were to embrace that [Jesus] ethic as it offers its gospel to people everywhere, it could go a long way toward transforming the world.”
Would, that church would only heed these words.
Converting Christians to the Jesus Ethic is applicable to all Christians, no matter where they fall in the spectrum. I enthusiastically recommend Converting Christians to the Jesus Ethic. And please don’t skip the “Study Questions” appended to each chapter. They will immensely help you to examine your own Christian Ethics in the light of the Jesus Ethic.
A thought: Converting Christians to the Jesus Ethic is an excellent book to share with those deconstructing from Christianity. It will help them understand what they are deconstructing from, and provide an alternative that works.
Russell Pregeant, A Methodist Minister, now retired, was Professor of Religion and Philosophy at Curry College (Milton, MA) and Visiting Professor in New Testament at Andover Newton Theological School. He is the author of several books, Mystery without Magic: Finding Faith in a Secular World (2022), For the Healing of the Nation: A Biblical Vision (2016), Reading the Bible for All the Wrong Reasons (2011) and Encounter with the New Testament (2009). Russell and his wife live in Wells, Maine.
Categories: Broken Grace | Brewing Theology
© Frank A. Mills, 1997-2024