Ministerial Ethics | Joe E. Trull & James E. Carter

The cover of Trull and Carter's Ministerial Ethics

The world today is marked by an “ethical uncertainty” (13) which makes it difficult for people, let alone professionals, to know what they ought to do in any given situation. This problem is magnified for Christian ministers since their unique role is more ethically demanding than other professions (14–15). Recognizing a lack of information on this topic, Joe E. Trull and James E. Carter wrote Ministerial Ethics with two purposes in mind. First, the book “intends to teach Christian ministry students the unique moral role of the minister and the ethical responsibilities of that vocation” (11). Second, the book was written “to provide new and established ministers with a clear statement of the ethical obligations contemporary clergy should assume in their personal and professional lives” (11). This book is intended to contribute to the character formation of ministers in training and to be pulled off the shelves by those same students years into their vocation in order to hone their ethical acuity.

Ministerial Ethics can be grouped into three sections (160). The first two chapters are foundational, exploring the minister’s vocation and underscoring the importance of moral vision. The following four chapters explore the various moral situations that the minister will encounter in the four spheres of life: personal, congregational, collegial, and community. The final two chapters focus on one particular ethical issue, clergy sexual abuse, then provide a code of ethics primer to aid the minister in responding to this crisis. It is worth noting the substantial appendices which include example codes of ethics from various eras and organizations. This valuable resource gives practical examples for the theoretical content of the final chapter.

Foundational Issues

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Natural Born Heroes | Christopher McDougall

The cover of McDougalls Natural Born HeroesNatural Born Heroes is three books in one. The first book tells the story of how the daring resistance movement on Crete kidnapped a German General and then disappeared. The second book is a study of the hero in Greek mythology, suggesting links between the Greek heroes and modern Cretans. The third book is an autobiographical glimpse into McDougall’s studies in endurance diets and fitness training.

I picked up Natural Born Heroes on the strength of McDougall’s first book, Born to Run. While Born to Run was an inspiring book that actually made me want to run more, his sophomore effort lost me. The World War II story was exciting, but in order to fit the other material in he had to draw it out to an unnatural length. His fascial fitness ideas were exciting, but ended up sounded like fringe science.

While the idea was interesting, the execution left me wishing I could have just read a complete history of the Cretan resistance or a scientific study of endurance training. Both subjects are well worth their own treatment!


McDougall, Christopher. Natural Born Heroes: How a Daring Band of Misfits Mastered the Lost Secrets of Strength and Endurance. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2015.

Which Narrative | William H. Willimon

William H. WillimonThe modern world said, That’s only a story. The postmodern world has realized, There’s only story. So the question is not, Shall our lives be narratively constructed? But, Which narrative shall form our lives?

— Willimon, Calling and Character, 110.

The Erstwhile | B. Catling

The cover of Catling's The ErstwhileThe Ersthile are the abandoned. Having failed their responsibility to protect of the primeval tree, they were abandoned by their creator to seek meager shelter as they faded away under fallen leaves and soil. That is, until they begin to awake.

With this theme in mind, Catling returned to the surreal world he created in The Vohr, picking up right where he left off. Like the first novel, Catling develops his fiction with a dash of history. In lieu of Muybridge, we are introduced to William Blake. Unlike the first novel, this story is tighter—the plot threads are more tightly intertwined.

The final scene sets up the third novel, The Cloven, to be released next year. I can hardly wait.


Catling, B. The Erstwhile. New York: Vintage Books, 2017.

A Tale of Three Kings | Gene Edwards

The cover of Edwards' A Tale of Three KingsA Tale of Three Kings is dedicated

To the brokenhearted Christians
coming out of authoritarian groups, seeking solace,
healing, and hope. May you somehow recover
and go on with him who is liberty.

And to all brokenhearted Christians:
May you be so utterly healed that you can still answer
the call of him who asks for all because he is all.

The book’s theme is simple. God used David’s suffering under King Saul to form his character. When David’s son tried to usurp the throne, David refused to become Saul-like. I can understand how appealing this sounds to those who have suffered under abusive leadership. The fact that this book is so popular is a sad testimony to the state of leadership in the church!

While there is deep value in suffering and God uses everything in our lives to develop our character, this book offers but one answer to the problem of Saulide leadership: “What, then, can you do? Very little. Perhaps nothing” (44). To the abused, this is a counsel of despair.

Edwards’ story presupposes an authoritarian type of leadership in which the leader, for good or for ill, is anointed of God and in place to call the shots. There’s nothing for the Davids of this world to do but to endure. While rebellion is never a good solution to poor leadership, mute endurance only enables the abuser.

Jesus has demonstrated and calls for a different type of leadership—servant leadership. Perhaps the model of King and servant isn’t the best metaphor for church leadership in light of the one who washed our feet.


Edwards, Gene. A Tale of Three Kings: A Study in Brokenness. Carol Stream: Tyndale House Publishers, 1992.

Blame the Spirit | Craig S. Keener

Craig KeenerThe Spirit gets blamed for too much of our indiscipline with study, sometimes substituting imagination for hearing God instead of submitting our imagination to God (Jer 23:16; Ezek 13:2, 17).

—Keener, Spirit Hermeneutics, 109.

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