I spent the afternoon at Keble college listening to four responses (Marcus Bockmuehl, Bernd Wannenwetsch, Chris Rowland and Nigel Biggar) in the presence of Richard Burridge to his 2007 book Imitating Jesus: An Inclusive Approach to New Testament Ethics. The book is driven, as Burridge acknowledged, by conflicts within the current anglican communion and pushes for an inclusive ethic, which wants to include all in the community of interpreting scripture - that is, it's arguing for a position where people actively listen to one another rather than staying entrenched positions, the elephants in room (his phrase) being women bishops and homosexuality. The book is also an extended engagement with the other Richard, Hays, and his book The Moral Vision of the New Testament (1996). Where perhaps Hays prioritizes Paul in his construction of New Testament ethics (his three focal images are very Pauline - cross, community and new creation), Burridge prioritizes the gospels and Jesus of Nazareth (his emphasis on love shaped by Jesus as the friend of sinners). In both cases I think it emerges that the titles of their books are misleading - so it should be the Moral vision of the pauline letters and Imitiating Jesus: an inclusive approach to gospel ethics.
Both Bockmuehl and Wannenwetsch wanted Burridge to define 'inclusive'. They were concerned he uses it with a clear critical definition, a thicker definition is needed. This is pertinent to Baptists in the UK who hold to the BU's Five Core Values, which include being an 'inclusive' community. The danger, see Bockmuehl and Wannenwetsch, of Burridge's emphasis on inclusivity is we end up with a "PC" Jesus or one who fits or reflects very neatly the politics of New Labour.
I am wondering when we study the New Testament witness whether we end up with two ethics - a Pauline ethic which is inclusive, but with strict boundaries (a bounded set) and a Gospel ethics or Jesus ethics which is inclusive without the strict boundaries (a centred set)? Burridge's description of the inclusive ethic he was putting forward sounded very much like that of centred set, where what matters is the direction you're moving in, towards Jesus, and not whether you've cross a boundary.
Tomorrow I'll be at Spurgeon's for a one-day conference with Richard Bauckham.