Different Eyes: The Art of Living Beautifully is a book written by Steve Chalke and Alan Mann published by Zondervan (who provided me a copy for a blog tour promoting the book and also have provided a sample chapter available online). While the vague title does little to explain the book’s content or purpose, the description is more helpful:
How should those who follow Jesus live distinctively in a time of uncertainty? How should the church respond to the moral dilemmas of our everyday lives?
In Different Eyes, Steve Chalke and Alan Mann examine the underlying motivation for Christian morality and provide an insightful guide to navigating the most challenging ethical dilemmas of our modern world in a way that is faithful to the story of God’s work in Jesus?
The authors begin by suggesting that any discussion of ethics must be connected and rooted to the story of the Scriptures. A narrative approach to the story of God and humanity is laid out for the reader in the opening chapters of the book. While not everyone will agree with the story precisely as Chalke and Mann tell it, they effectively demonstrate the importance of allowing ethics to arise from an approach integrated with a narrative theology.
In addition to ethics rooted in narrative, the authors suggest throughout the book that the proper context for ethics to be discerned is in community with others. Indeed, they suggest that “it was impossible for the first disciples of Christ to follow him in isolation” and argue that “the Church – the Christian community – is the primary ethical unit” (115). The books structure itself lends to this communal understanding of ethics, as there is no “right answer” or “author’s opinion” provided for any of the questions raised, instead encouraging discussion and dialogue about how following Christ shapes our decisions and ethical norms.
A third characteristic in Different Eyes is the vision for ethics rooted in virtue, which they summarize in this way: “the development of character traits or habits…enable us to act wisely and in line with our beliefs” (39). In supporting virtue ethics, Chalke and Mann fall in line with the work of Alasdair MacIntyre, Stanley Hauerwas, and N.T. Wright. The importance of our character – shaped by a particular story and molded together with a community of others – is cemented as we continue to grow in character and discipleship through our Christian journey.
As a minor point of critique, I found the overall structure of the book to be rather unhelpful. The book is divided into four parts, and I am not clear what distinguished each section. Each part includes two sections (which again I had trouble distinguishing) and closes with a section on “thinking Christianly,” which provides two short, well-argued letters written from either side of a particular ethical issue from a Christian perspective and representing the book’s ethical trajectory. Following these letters, the authors provide questions for discussion that, again, encourage dialogue and critical thinking.
Overall, I appreciated Different Eyes and will recommend it to others. It succeeds in providing an accessible and readable overview of contemporary discussions of Christian ethics. Given the increasing distance in the West between the church and society, I believe that this kind of book is not only helpful, but needed. More conversation needs to be devoted to demonstrating what ethical thinking and behavior informed by Christian faith looks like in our culture, and Chalke and Mann’s contribution is a welcome addition to a conversation that too often is trapped in academic textbooks and monographs.