Some Comments on Moral Realism and Scriptural Authority

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle


This paper reflects on two aspects of the argument developed in the third and concluding part of Singing the Ethos of God: its commitment to a particular form of moral realism and its understanding of scriptural interpretation as a 'craft'. To speak of the 'realism' of Singing is to draw attention to its sense that human moral agency primarily is responsive rather than sheerly constructive, its awareness that we do not create our moral situation de novo but 'perceive' or 'discover' it by continually attending to concrete moments in the ongoing history of God's creative work. In its depiction of the processes by which we become attuned to this divine activity, Brock makes fresh and suggestive use of scriptural texts, particularly the Psalms. But this (wholly salutary) scriptural immediacy stands alongside a considered avoidance of highly developed metaphysical claims about God and the world. And the first question raised by this reading of Singing is whether the development of prayerful sensitivity to exegetical and situational particulars necessarily entails a cultivated worry about the development of a theological metaphysics. Put otherwise, the question is whether renewed attention to some tracts of classical Christian teaching not well represented in Singing -- talk of the free grounds of God's economic activity in his eternal triune life, for example -- would not so much displace nuanced discussion of the means of our moral transformation as help properly to characterise it. Brock rightly argues that Scripture's role as the primary textual means of this transformation means that Christian moral reasoning fundamentally is exegetical reasoning. This is a wholly self-involving activity that can be learned only by active participation in a historically extended interpretative community -- i.e., in an exegetical tradition. But this (again, wholly salutary) emphasis on the need to attend to the particularities of the Christian exegetical tradition stands alongside a strong sense that it should be understood in explorative rather than positive terms. And the second question put to the book is whether -- whatever we might say of the dynamics of learning a traditional 'craft' elsewhere -- talk of the Christian exegetical tradition as an 'acoustic space' adequately attends to the specific roles historically played by creeds and confessions vis-Ã -vis the prophetic-apostolic scriptural texts. In short, does Brock say enough about the exercise and so the communication of authority within the tradition? A fuller treatment of this question invites reflection on the Christology of his book, which speaks relatively little of the ascension of Christ and of his royal office.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
Specialist publicationEuropean Journal of Theology
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2009


Dive into the research topics of 'Some Comments on Moral Realism and Scriptural Authority'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this