The two previous editions of An Introduction to Biblical Ethics were written solely by Robertson McQuilkin, the third president of Columbia International University. The third edition is coauthored with Paul Copan who teaches philosophy and ethics at Palm Beach Atlantic University and is a former student of McQuilkin.
This third edition has the subtitle Walking in the Way of Wisdom. This subtitle is drawn from the title of a philosophy of religion book Loving Wisdom: Christian Philosophy of Religion written by Copan in which he articulates the coherence of the Christian metanarrative of God, creation, fall, redemption and re-creation
The aim of their book is to provide the reader with a summary of biblical ethics on many topics in a single volume. The current edition addresses questions never considered when McQuilkin’s previous editions were released, such as gay marriage.
The strengths of this book is that gives practical solutions to a variety of topics such as homosexuality, abortion, politics in general the relationship between Church/State in particular, and a host of other practical issues such as dating, the importance of the Christian home, sexual ethics, etc. Helpful are additional reading suggestions provided by the authors at the end of each chapter.
On most the authors can speak with unanimity. The former student, however, has not adopted his professor’s views entirely, and so - importantly - the reader will find sections of the text marked ‘McQuilkin’s view’ and ‘Copan’s view’ so that their respective approaches may be seen.
One such area of divergence concerns the roles of men and women. Copan defends the egalitarian view. This opens the way for accepting women in office. I strongly disagree with Copan here and with any hesitation side with McQuilkin in his complementarian view. He states rightly that the subordinate role of the wife in marriage in founded and the creation order and cannot be seen as a result of the fall. The fall has leads to disabuse by husbands and men in general of their God given position.
Neither the Old Testament nor the New Testament teaches an abrogation of the creation order. In their use of their authority husbands are called to reflect Christ in his headship over his church. So we can say that the creation order is in a certain sense intensified in the New Testament. I would state that the egalitarian view does not take seriously the full authority of the Scriptures in this matter. Our own context becomes the prism through with Scriptural data are interpreted.
Another area of divergence between the two authors concerns economic systems. They generalize that - in this era at least – ‘capitalism’ and ‘socialism’ are the two major economic systems in play. McQuilkin approaches them as both lacking express Biblical warrant, though his harshest criticisms seem reserved for the former.
He believes the best approach is to recognize the biblical theme of protecting the poor from oppression. Alluding to Leviticus 25, he warns about a view of capitalism that allows the permanent enrichment of a few and the perpetual expense of the exploited. As a result, there can be no unlimited right of private property.
Copan’s view is much more openly supportive of free markets, sharply critical of socialism, and quick to note the empirical efficacy of free markets and the enforcement of property rights and equality before the law (Leviticus 19:15) for mitigating poverty globally. Here again I side more with McQuilkin than with Copan.
It seems to me very difficult to combine the moral principles underlying the Mosaic legislation with an unbridled free market system, although I admit that we can make here less directions inferences from Scripture in this era than in the case of gender roles. Rounding out this chapter, McQuilkin and Copan unite again to discuss the church’s obligation to the poor as people in God’s image. And that is certainly the case.My main reservation with this book is Copan’s view on gender roles. Leaving that aside the authors clearly show that the Biblical world view still is as relevant as ever and that it can be applied to many of the pressing ethical issues of our present day culture.
Robertson McQuilkin and Paul Copan, An Introduction to Biblical Ethics: Walking in the Way of Wisdom, Downers Grove, Illinois 2014; ISBN 978-0-8308-2818-0; hardcover 667 pp., price $45,--