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The Sacredness of Human Life
Why an Ancient Biblical Vision Is Key to the World's Future
David P. Gushee
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HARDCOVER; Published: 1/14/2013
ISBN: 978-0-8028-4420-0
Price: $ 35.00
477 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 6 x 9
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This authoritative book is the most comprehensive examination ever of the sacredness of human life. Never before has one volume explored this subject in such a multifaceted way, encompassing biblical roots, theological elaborations, historical cases, and contemporary ethical perspectives.

Tracing the concept of the sacredness of human life from Scripture through church history to the present day, David Gushee argues that viewing human life as sacred is one of the most precious legacies of biblical faith — albeit one that the church has too often failed to uphold.

Besides providing a masterful historical survey, Gushee's discussion covers the many current ethical challenges and perspectives that will impact the survival and flourishing of human life, including biotechnology, the death penalty, abortion, human rights, nuclear weapons, just war theory, women's rights, and creation care.

Gushee's Sacredness of Human Life is a game-changing book that will set the standard for all future discussions of this key ethical concept.

Read Gushee's blog posts on EerdWord: After Newtown, reflecting on the themes of his book and the massacre at Newtown, and Can Anything New Be Said about Abortion?
Georgia Author of the Year Award (GAYA) in the Inspirational-Religious category
Jim Wallis
— Sojourners
"David Gushee is one of the preeminent Christian ethicists in the country, and his work is important for both those in the academic world and all of us trying to live out obedient and biblical lives. In The Sacredness of Human Life he rescues this most spiritual of concepts from the narrow realm of political rhetoric, which it has come to inhabit in recent years. This book should be read by anyone who desires to reclaim a broader definition of how 'the sacredness of life' should truly be understood."
Jeremy Waldron
— New York University School of Law
"No one, to my knowledge, has come up with a deeper or more sustained account of what it means to say that human life is sacred than David Gushee in this magisterial work. The analysis is overwhelming — in a good sense. . . . The title might suggest a preoccupation with abortion, but there is so much more than that in this book. Gushee applies his analysis to issues like the death penalty, environmental degradation, racism, nuclear weapons, and biotechnology. And even on abortion, those who disagree with his position will not want to miss the cornucopia of insight he provides and — most strikingly — the sensitivity and openness of his discussion."
Glen Stassen
— Fuller Theological Seminary
"This is the most significant book I have ever seen about what it really means to say that human life is sacred. It combines conservative loyalty to preserving the sacredness of human life with liberal loyalty to caring for the basic needs of life. . . . Gushee's work can bring the healing we need in our time of dangerous polarization."
Robin Lovin
— Southern Methodist University
"To believers and skeptics alike, Christian ethics sometimes appears to be little more than a collection of commands and prohibitions. Gushee makes it clear that there is a central idea to the discipline, one that connects to the core of biblical faith and has implications for human rights, ecology, and global politics. . . . A masterful guide to thinking about the choices that will shape Christian life in the twenty-first century."
Amy Laura Hall
— Duke University
"This story of Christian witness will preach and reach. David Gushee is an uncommonly patient writer. He relates biblical testimonies to the sacredness of life with subtlety and clarity. . . . His summons to think hard and live well invites baffled undergraduates, weary pastors, curious laity, and careworn activists to reengage in small, intentional practices of prayer and study on abortion, torture, immigration, and women's rights. I can't wait to teach this book."
Peter Ochs
— University of Virginia
"The question of 'human life' has become a major theo-political battleground today in the USA — and battlegrounds are not the best environments for nurturing human life. David Gushee has entered the battleground the way he suggests St. Francis confronted the Crusades — not with another sword but with the Word. . . . Gushee's voice is one that believers of all faiths will want to engage. . . . This book leaves me happily breathless!"
Charles Mathewes
— University of Virginia
"David Gushee is one of the most important theological ethicists writing today, and this book is a landmark for future work in Christian ethics. If you are interested in fundamental moral and theological concepts, or in the character of religious discourse in our public life, or in the future health and sanity of the Christian churches in the USA (and beyond), you owe it to yourself to read this book."
Charles Camosy
— Fordham University
"Today's political discourse artificially and problematically separates discussion of the dignity of the human person into 'social justice' and 'pro-life' approaches. But in this fantastic book David Gushee articulates how sacred Scripture and tradition offer a coherent and timely defense of the sacredness of life that refuses to accept this simplistic and polarizing binary. A dynamic, readable, and historically aware account of issues like war, abortion/infanticide, racism, biotechnology, and women's rights."
M. Cathleen Kaveny
— University of Notre Dame
"This magisterial volume draws upon biblical studies, philosophy, theology, history, and law in order to illustrate the breadth and richness of the concept of the sanctity of human life. Gushee shows us that the ideal of life's sacredness must not be confined to the narrow quarters of the abortion debate."
John F. Kilner
— Trinity International University
"In the face of today's heated debates over ethical issues, Gushee does a fine job of laying out so-called progressive, conservative, and other Christian perspectives. This book is a valuable resource for all those who want to understand and thoughtfully engage perspectives other than their own."
Timothy George
— Beeson Divinity School
"I welcome this new study on the sacredness of human life including, but not limited to, those members of the human family still waiting to be born. Drawing on both biblical wisdom and the witness of Christian tradition, David Gushee makes here an impressive case that the whole church needs to hear — and heed."
Noam Zion
— Shalom Hartman Institute, Jerusalem
"This book's subtitle perfectly conveys the way scholarship of classical texts can speak to contemporary culture wars. David Gushee has identified a crucial debate over the relationship between the modern Western value of human dignity and classical Christianity that seems to be driving an ill-considered polemical political wedge between 'liberals' and 'conservatives.'. . . May Gushee's sophisticated contribution enhance the religious axiom of the sacredness of human life."
Choice (American Library Association)
"The volume is both in-depth and comprehensive in its provision of tools for serious contemplation. Most appropriate for an undergraduate audience, it superbly presents complex ideas in accessible and organized ways. Highly recommended."
Publishers Weekly
"A good entry into a broader Christian ethics of the sacredness of life."
Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith
"This book is comprehensive, highly nuanced, well informed by diverse and relevant interdisciplinary scholarship, and is biblically and theologically thick in its descriptions, arguments, and ethical vision. . . . It is a book that can deeply clarify and strengthen one's understanding and theological convictions concerning why and how one practices science as a Christian. . . . I highly recommend it."
Reviews in Science and Religion
"This is a serious examination of the precept, not of mere human sanctity, but of sacredness, a word which pulls us up somewhat in our recognizing that not only human beings, but the world and all other living creatures within it, demand a divinely inspired moral respect. . . . It is well worth buying and reading, and would make a useful present for all thinking men and women — everywhere."
Theology Today
"Offers a very sophisticated evangelical discussion of human sacredness. It makes a timely addition to current public discourses on human rights."
"Gushee takes the best ethical tradition within Christianity and shows how it still provides a significant and sensitive path for dealing with the complexities and conundrums of the contemporary world."
"A worthwhile addition to the library of pastors or scholars who wish to reflect further on what it means to live as a human made in God's image."
Reviews in Religion and Theology
"This excellent and challenging book merits a wider readership."
Mission Today
"This eminently illuminating book . . . opens the eyes of students and teachers of not only ethics or moral theology, but also theological anthropology, political philosophy, human rights and related fields. It should certainly be welcomed as a very significant work."
Catholic Library World
"An excellent outline of why and how human life has been considered sacred within the Christian tradition. . . . An excellent primer on social justice related to a Christian respect for all human life. Highly recommended."
Theological Book Review
"Delves deeply into the core of Christianity's treatment of human life as revealed in Scripture and in ancient Christian writings."
Studies in Christian Ethics
"Gushee seeks to rescue the language of human sacredness from `bad right wing' American politics where it figures almost exclusively in debates about abortion and euthanasia but rarely in criticism of other threats to human life and flourishing. He crafts a rich and compelling narrative regarding the disclosure of human worth in divine revelation, subsequent Christian reverence for and betrayal of that worth, the emergence of secular categories for articulating and affirming it, and its import for a range of problems that imperil human well-being."
Living Church
"A fully developed, carefully considered evaluation. . . . This is a thoughtful, heartfelt, and deeply Christian treatment of a vitally important topic."