Brian Brock teaches Christian ethics at Aberdeen. He is the author of Singing the Ethos of God: The Place of Christian Ethics in Scripture (Eerdmans, 2007) and Christian Ethics in a Technological Age (Eerdmans, 2010). He has also written in the area of disability theology, most recently editing Disability in the Christian Tradition: A Reader (2012) with his colleague John Swinton. Captive to Christ, Open to the World is a little book, 140pp and is a series of interviews with Brock over a range of ethical questions with concern for the environment, politics, medicine, the university. The interviews begin with discussions of Brock's work on scripture and technology, before broadening out into wider issues. The interviews have been edited by Kenneth Oakes who provides an introduction.
The book offers an insight into the task of being a Christian ethicist in the church, but also in a secular institution. The book is difficult to summarise because its mode of interview means the conversation moves in different directions, but there is, on almost every page, a gem of an observation or thought to ponder, which is rooted in day to day living. What Brock does in this book is engage with concrete issues of policy and practice in conversation with the Christian tradition, Augustine, Luther, Barth and Bonhoeffer being the key thinkers. By concrete I mean if this book had an index you would find references to Obama, Donald Trump, Robert Murdoch, Burger King, the Iona Community, James Hunter, Stanley Hauerwas, Jean Vanier, amongst others. This is no abstract treatment of ethics, but is rooted in his experience of being a parent of child with a disability, of living and working in Aberdeen, of being an academic within a university.
One thing Brock seeks to explore is how the church cannot simply be a contrast society (p.39). He is critical of this stance. For Brock there is much more tension in our how the church is located and participates in the world. He also wants to be much more real in acknowledging that the church 'doesn't really contrast much at all' (p.79). Brock offers a less adversarial view of the world, and more humble view of the church, arguing for the importance of listening over judging.
This is an exciting little book, which demonstrates the role the Christian ethicist can play, both in the church and in the wider public. Brock is concerned to see his students and the church to think through arguments Christianly, that is, to show how and why theology matters. Its interview style allows us to see a little of how Brock thinks. Where monographs are the norm, there is perhaps space for this kind of book. Brock bigger books are not easy-reads and so Captive to Christ is also welcome in helping translate his arguments there in a more accessible manner. Time will tell whether Brock becomes the next Hauerwas (both are bald white men from Texas), but regardless Brock's contributions will be worth paying attention to.