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Pub. Date:
Eerdmans, William B. Publishing Company
Pub. Date:
Eerdmans, William B. Publishing Company
The Sacredness of Human Life: Why an Ancient Biblical Vision Is Key to the World's Future

The Sacredness of Human Life: Why an Ancient Biblical Vision Is Key to the World's Future

by David P. Gushee David P. Gushee
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This authoritative book is the most comprehensive examination ever of the sacredness of human life. Never before has one volume explored this subject in such a multifaceted way, encompassing biblical roots, theological elaborations, historical cases, and contemporary ethical perspectives.

Tracing the concept of the sacredness of human life from Scripture through church history to the present day, David Gushee argues that viewing human life as sacred is one of the most precious legacies of biblical faith — albeit one that the church has too often failed to uphold.

Besides providing a masterful historical survey, Gushee’s discussion covers the many current ethical challenges and perspectives that will impact the survival and flourishing of human life, including biotechnology, the death penalty, abortion, human rights, nuclear weapons, just war theory, women’s rights, and creation care.

Gushee’s Sacredness of Human Life is a game-changing book that will set the standard for all future discussions of this key ethical concept.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780802844200
Publisher: Eerdmans, William B. Publishing Company
Publication date: 01/14/2013
Pages: 477
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

David P. Gushee is Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics at Mercer University and Chair of Christian Social Ethics at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam/IBTS. One of the world's leading Christian ethicists, he is the author or editor of more than twenty-five books, including Changing Our Mind, After Evangelicalism, Kingdom Ethics, Still Christian, Righteous Gentiles of the Holocaust, and The Sacredness of Human Life. Gushee is also a frequent speaker, Kingdom Ethics podcaster, and activist. He and his wife, Jeanie, live in Atlanta, Georgia. Visit davidpgushee.com or @dpgushee on social media.

Table of Contents

Prelude xii

Acknowledgments xiv

Introduction 1

0.1 Why a Book about the Sacredness of Human Life? 1

0.2 How This Book Came to Be 2

0.3 Joining the Archaeologists 4

0.4 Plan of the Book 5

0.5 Notes about My Approach 6

0.6 Two Scenes from Europe 11

0.7 Sacredness as Moral Reality and Moral Task 13

1 What It Means to Say That Human Life Is Sacred 16

1.1 Definitions and Etymologies 17

1.2 A Sacredness Paradigm 20

1.3 Sacred Human Beings 22

1.4 Does Sacredness Require God? 24

1.5 Humanity as Sacred: Ancient Christian Doctrine or Recent Innovation? 26

1.6 Current Christian Definitions of the Sacredness of Life 29

1.7 My Christian Definition of Life's Sacredness - and Puzzles That Remain 33

2 The Old Testament and the Sacredness of Human Life 37

2.1 Creation, Humanity, and the Image of God 39

2.2 God's Compassionate Care and Liberating Deliverance 54

2.3 Biblical Law and Life's Sacredness 61

2.4 The Decalogue 66

2.5 The Prophetic Demand and Yearning for Shalom 77

2.6 Toward Jesus Christ 83

3 Jesus Christ, the New Testament, and the Sacredness of Human Life 85

3.1 The Ministry of Jesus Christ 85

3.2 The Incarnation of Jesus Christ 94

3.3 The Image of Jesus Christ 105

3.4 The Expansive Reach of the Body of Christ 110

3.5 The New Testament and the Sacredness of Life: A Dialogue with Richard Hays 114

4 The Sacredness of Life in Early Christianity 116

4.1 The Christendom Question 116

4.2 The Church against War 122

4.3 The Church against Abortion and Infanticide 124

4.4 The Church against Judicial Torment and Killing 126

4.5 The Church against the Mayhem of the Arenas 127

4.6 "Regard People as Truly Sacred" 128

4.7 An Army of Peace and Piety 129

4.8 Love without Partiality 130

4.9 Sojourners of Christ 132

4.10 Christians as the Romans Saw Them 134

4.11 How the Early Church Retained Its Moral Vision 136

5 The Fateful Transition to Christendom 146

5.1 The Constantinian Transition 147

5.2 Theodosius Mandates Orthodox Christianity 153

5.3 Moral Damage at the Foundations 156

5.4 Advances and Regressions for the Sacredness of Life 163

6 Christendom Divided against Itself: Three Case Studies 164

6.1 The Crusades, Francis, and the Sacred Lives of Enemies 164

6.2 Colonialism, Las Casas, and the Sacred Lives of Indians 178

6.3 Anti-Semitism, Overton, and the Sacred Lives of Jews 197

6.4 A Tragically Mixed Legacy 212

7 Enlightenment Transitions: Natural Rights, Rule of Law, and Human Dignity 214

7.1 Enlightenment Transitions and the Sacredness of Human Life 214

7.2 Natural Right/s: Bridge Concepts between the Medieval and Modern Worlds 216

7.3 John Locke: Equality, Rule of Law, and Resistance to Tyranny 226

7.4 Immanuel Kant: Dignity, Autonomy, and the Moral Law 242

7.5 Trial Balance: The Journey So Far 256

8 Nietzsche Rejects the Christian God and Christian Morality 260

8.1 New Challenges to Belief in the Sacredness of Human Life 260

8.2 Reading Nietzsche 262

8.3 Biographical Basics 263

8.4 Tragic Pessimism: The Birth of Tragedy (1872) 266

8.5 The Pathos and Delusion of the Great Quest for "Truth" (1872-1873) 274

8.6 Acknowledging That We Are Human, All Too Human (1878) 281

8.7 No Justice, No Rights, No Equality 289

8.8 No Pity 290

8.9 Cruelty Not Necessarily Evil 292

8.10 The Right and Dignity of Suicide 293

8.11 Social Contempt and Suppression of "Degenerating" Lives 294

8.12 The Benefits of War 297

8.13 Nietzsche and the Sacredness of Human Life 299

9 Desecrations: Twentieth-Century Nazi Assaults on Human Life 304

9.1 Hitler and His Crimes 306

9.2 How They Got There: The Nazi Party Platform of 1920 321

9.3 Aggrieved Nationalism 322

9.4 Imperialism and Colonialism 324

9.5 Racism and Anti-Semitism 326

9.6 Disenfranchisement - Exclusion from Political Community 328

9.7 Expulsion and Statelessness 329

9.8 Statist, Racist, Homogeneous Communitarianism 331

9.9 Ruthless Avenging Violence 334

9.10 National Health and Racial Hygiene 339

9.11 Authoritarianism, Propaganda, and Suppression of Civil Liberties 341

9.12 The Religious Politics of National Salvation 343

9.13 "Contempt for the Sanctity of Human Life" 351

10 Honoring Human Life: Twenty-first-Century Challenges 352

10.1 Rebuilding the Moral Order after World War II 352

10.2 Abortion 355

10.3 Biotechnological Innovations 360

10.4 The Death Penalty 367

10.5 Human Rights 372

10.6 Nuclear Weapons 378

10.7 Women's Rights 382

10.8 Other Issues 387

11 The Sacredness of God's Creation 388

11.1 The Sacredness of Human Life and Ecological Degradation 388

11.2 Problems of a Sacredness-of-Human-Life Ethic for the Care of Creation 389

11.3 The Development of Alternative Theological Paradigms 395

11.4 Toward a Broadened Christian Sacredness-of-Life Ethic 399

11.5 Rediscovering Scripture 401

11.6 Some Moral Implications 407

11.7 Embracing a Sacredness-of-Created-Life Ethic 408

12 Final Words: For the Church and Its Neighbors 411

12.1 Where We Started: What It Means to Say That Human Life Is Sacred 411

12.2 Summary of Major Discoveries 412

12.3 The Thirty-six Righteous 420

12.4 Honoring Life Together 422

Bibliography 424

Index of Subjects and Names 441

Index of Scripture References 456

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