Book Review: Joined-up Life: A Christian Account of How Ethics Works

Simon Hill
March 29, 2022

EngageWorkFaith staff team member Simon Hill reviews

" Joined-up Life: A Christian Account of How Ethics Works" by Andrew Cameron

Published by Intervarsity Press UK, 2011

While pretty much all people have the sense of 'right' and 'wrong', we aren't always able to articulate or understand the 'why' of this important distinction. Even though many of the well-known ethical arguments in our society have well-worn arguments (abortion for example), the reasons given are often simplistic and not consistently held in other areas of life.  It is the search for the 'why' that is at the heart of 'ethics'.  While ethics is often framed as the systemization of right and wrong, perhaps more fundamentally it is better framed as the aim towards 'the good'. This book by Andrew Cameron outlines clearly and simply the ethical frameworks that have been popular over different times in history (and still are today), and how each has a kernel of truth to them, yet each alone is insufficient to provide adequate resources to truly define 'the good'. 

Cameron's work provides a helpful contribution to the understanding of secular ethical frameworks, finding some common ground that the Bible has, but also the gaps which each of these frameworks contain.  While most ethical frameworks tend towards reductionism, Cameron shows that the Bible gives Christians an integrated field, that can better balance some of the complex tensions within ethical dilemmas.  The result then is a more beautiful and pragmatic framework in which 'the good' can be found. Particularly helpful sections in the book show how Jesus' death on the Cross; and Jesus' resurrection give important boundaries and motivation for Christian ethics --events which are often overlooked as important to the Christian life now.   

This is a great book to read to understand more deeply the Christian framework for discovering and living 'the good', so that our lives are 'joined-up'; that is: lived joined together (consistent) and joined with Christ (hopeful and empowered).

Below is some further information on the book by bookseller (

"'Finding our best humanity in Jesus Christ' is the key theme of Andrew Cameron's fresh exploration, in which he seeks to understand ethics as springing from Jesus, and to show how identifying with Jesus Christ brings order and clarity to human life. 'In a world where everyone is an expert on right and wrong, this book tries to show how Jesus unifies the best of what you hear. He joins up messy lives.' 

Cameron's accessible, coherent and innovative analysis is divided into seven parts. Each part contains several self-contained chapters that address some specific aspect of Christian thinking about ethics and life, and each chapter is cross-referenced to other key chapters. 

The chapters may be read in sequence, or dipped into in any order: 
• Part 1 considers some common ways of thinking about ethics (e.g. rules, rights, values and results). 
• Part 2 considers some arenas we are unaware of, but which have a huge impact on how we live. 
• Part 3 shows how Jesus Christ becomes a better main category than ethics for determining who we are and what we do. 
• Part 4 builds a 'unified field', shaped in response to Jesus Christ, by which we can orient ourselves to whatever is around us. 
• Part 5 examines some means by which we approach the daily details of life within this overall orientation. 
• Part 6 looks at some aspects of our life-package, or 'vocation', to see how they are located within the 'unified field'. 
• Part 7 visits some areas of discussion that cause great disagreement between Christians and others, and tries to show why. 

Cameron offers a stimulating reappraisal of our cluttered, tumultuous lives and encourages us to see life through a different lens."

Source of review:

Image: Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

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