Thursday 20 October 2022

Living Life to the Full An Introduction to Christian Morality - David Albert Jones - Catholic Truth Society

Living Life to the Full:
An Introduction to Christian Morality 
ISBN 9781860828539
eISBN 9781784692926
CTS Booklet S449

This is the first volume I have read from the pen of David Albert Jones. He is the author of numerous books, booklets, articles, and papers, mainly focused on ethics and specifically medical ethics. A few of them are from the Catholic Truth Society, though some of them have been read more than once. Over the last few years I have read over 300 volumes from the Catholic Truth Society. As of the reading of this volume I have read 317 between June of 2018 and September 2022, and many of those titles were read more than once. To be honest based on the title of this volume was fairly low on my list of CTS books to read, but one day when I was picking my next eBook to read this one caught my attention. And now I have a half dozen books from Jones on my to be read list!

The description of this volume is:

“A brief introduction to the moral and social teaching of the Catholic Church, which shows us how to live the way of the Gospel. Strongly influenced by the wisdom of St Thomas Aquinas ne of the greatest Christian thinkers.”

The chapters in this volume are:

About this booklet
I. What’s the Point?
     Being happy
     Objective right and wrong
     Not just following rules
     Friendship with God
     II. How to Decide
     If it feels right, do it?
     Tough decisions
     Teaching with authority
III. The Human Person
     Playing God?
     Innocent pleasures
     Loving the truth
IV. Society
     Honest relationships
     The power of the sword
     The cry of the poor
     The kingdom of God
Suggested Further Reading

While reading this slim volume I highlighted 24 passages about 1 every other page, and I could have easily highlighted dozens more, some of them are:

“I have written this booklet as a brief introduction to the moral and social teaching of the Catholic Church, which shows us how to live the way of the Gospel. In writing it I have been strongly influenced by the wisdom of St Thomas Aquinas, one of the greatest Christian thinkers. The booklet has four parts: the first two are about the Christian moral life in general, and introduce ideas such as ‘natural law’, ‘virtue’ and ‘conscience’, while parts three and four are about particular issues, such as ‘medical ethics’, ‘the just war’ and ‘Catholic social teaching’.”

“What is it ultimately all about? The answer to this question is happiness - or, perhaps better - blessedness or human flourishing. ‘Happiness’ in this sense means the true end of human life taken as a whole. Different people may organise their lives around different things.”

“The ultimate source of this meaning to human life is whatever principle or being it is that directs the whole universe, and gives life and shape to the natural world and to human history. If there is a meaning to life, then this meaning has to come from the Source of all life - and this is what Christians call the mystery of God.”

“A decline in traditional religion leads most people not into atheism, but into esoteric or ‘alternative’ cults and superstitions - which might give some degree of meaning to life. Otherwise they will be led into diversions, such as entertainment or recreational drugs - which might distract them from the lack of meaning in their lives.”

“Suffering is sometimes a means, but it can never be an end, for our final hope is to find happiness, with others and for others, in God who is the source of all meaning and all life.”

“There are some actions and customs that distort or destroy that which is good and valuable in human life. That is why we need rules like the Ten Commandments - to stop us from doing harm to others and to ourselves.”

“These four virtues - Practical Wisdom (also known as ‘Prudence’), Justice, Courage and Temperance - are called the ‘cardinal’ virtues (from a Latin word, cardo, which means ‘hinge’). They are the hinges on which good character hangs.”

“Bad dispositions of character, formed by deliberate acts, are called vices. The virtues act together in harmony, but the vices pull in different directions: you can be bad through being too assertive, or by not being assertive enough. A list can be made of the various vices that are opposed to the cardinal virtues - folly or cunning, injustice or self-destructiveness, cowardice or rashness, greediness or puritanism. However, the most famous list of vices in the Christian tradition is the Seven Deadly Sins: Pride, Envy, Anger, Apathy (Sloth), Avarice, Gluttony and Lust.”

“There are certain actions we must exclude altogether because they are things that a virtuous person would never do: betray the faith; lie; murder; steal; commit adultery. The Catholic Church calls such actions intrinsically bad, and says that it is always wrong to do evil in order that good may come of it (Rom 3:8).”

“Sexual love has its own distinctive character. It finds fulfilment not just in any kind of friendship, but only through a particular kind of relationship. Its meaning is found within the sort of relationship that could produce and welcome children, i.e. marriage that is free, mature, committed, heterosexual and open to new life.”

“Extended family ties - with cousins, aunts and uncles - are less significant these days in modern Western societies like Britain. The State has taken over the provision of healthcare, education and public order, and has a much greater influence on our lives than it once did. Most people do not now work in family businesses. The idea of loyalty to an extended family has also been undermined by changes in the way we live.”

True friendship, something that we cannot have with more than a few people, involves a shared life of common commitment to the true good of one another. Aristotle called this the “friendship of virtue”; St Aelred of Rievaulx called it “spiritual friendship”. Perhaps most of our friendships are a mix of more than one of these categories but the deepest friendship, true friendship is a very great human good.”

“A country needs to be policed against violence and crime committed by its own citizens, and defended from enslavement or oppression by other nations. This power to protect the common good - by the use of force when necessary - is described by St Paul in these words: “He who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed. For he [the one in authority] does not bear the sword in vain; he is the servant of God, to execute his wrath on the wrongdoer” (Rom 13:2-4).”

“Christians should be cautious about going to war, because of our inherent tendency to deceive ourselves about our ‘pure’ motives for doing things (for we also are sinners), and because we should treat all our enemies as in a sense wayward friends - considering their welfare and not just our own.”

I hope that sampling of quotes will give you a feel for the content in this volume. The writing is clear and crisp. The style is very engaging. As soon as I finished I did research on other volumes that David Albert Jones has authored or co-authored and several were added to my wish list. This is an excellent read. And the concepts presented are even more valuable today in 2022 then when it was first published in 2010, or when the eBook version was released in 2017. 

This is an excellent volume from The Catholic Truth Society. It is a great resource from the pen of David Albert Jones. I can easily recommend it.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2022 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

Books by David Albert Jones:
Angels: A History
Angels: A Very Short Introduction
Approaching the End: A Theological Exploration of Death and Dying
Chimera's Children
Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: Lessons from Belgium
Healthcare Allocation and Justice 
Organ Transplants
The Moral Philosophy of Elizabeth Anscombe
The Soul of the Embryo
Thinking Christian Ethos
Way of the Gospel 

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