More Than Things

A Personalist Ethics for a Throwaway Culture

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Pub Date Aug 08 2023 | Archive Date Sep 07 2023

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We live in a culture of commodification. People are too often defined by what they do or own; they're treated as means to an end or cogs in a machine. What goes missing is a deep sense of personhood—the belief that all humans are unique subjects with inherent worth and the right to self-determination in authentic communion with others.

In a world dominated by things, Paul Louis Metzger argues, we must work hard to account for one another's personhood. We need to cultivate relational structures that honor every human's dignity in vital interpersonal community. The theological and philosophical framework known as personalism can help guide us toward such a culture. Drawing from a wide range of thought leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr. and Pope John Paul II, Metzger presents a personalist moral vision founded on the Christian ideals of faith, hope, and love. He demonstrates how this moral compass can help us navigate a pluralistic world by applying it to a variety of pressing ethical issues, including abortion, genetic engineering, immigration, drone warfare, and more.

Ultimately human personhood begins with the personal, triune God, who invites us to live more fully as human beings. When we refuse to reduce our fellow humans—and ourselves—to mere abstractions or objects, we follow the example of Jesus in honoring the value of every person and of creaturely life as a whole.

We live in a culture of commodification. People are too often defined by what they do or own; they're treated as means to an end or cogs in a machine. What goes missing is a deep sense of personhood...

Advance Praise

"More Than Things is an ecumenical tour de force. Much ink has been spilled over time about the timeliness of personalism or the need for a Christian ethic rooted in the belief in a triune God. But in an era marked by heightened polarization and ever more strident ideological rancor, Metzger wades through the needless spirals of hot air and makes an irenic case for a moral reset. Dialogue with Buddhism, Netflix, racist poison, and the last frontier of space exploration is submitted to his critical eye. Not since Bonhoeffer's Life Together have I encountered an introduction to Christian morality that is as exciting and persuasive as this book."

-Peter Casarella, professor of theology at Duke Divinity School

"In this book Paul Louis Metzger offers an accessible, ecumenical, biblically grounded approach to Christian ethics that centers the sanctity of the human person. Motivated by deep faith commitments and existential concerns, Metzger develops and applies a distinctive framework to address the most pressing issues of our day. On genetic engineering and immigration, climate change and drones, and much more, More Than Things will equip the reader with new ways of understanding complex issues and with a rich array of resources with which to respond rightly."

-Vincent Lloyd, professor and director of the Center for Political Theology at Villanova University and author of Black Natural Law

"Each human person is unique, irreplaceable, and precious in worth and dignity. Paul Louis Metzger brings this truth to life, insisting that persons are more than their genes or abilities or social status. Metzger's personalism has a prophetic ring to it, forged in the authenticity of his own experiences while addressing today's most urgent moral challenges, including marriage and monogamy, environmental justice, compassion for the dying, race relations, and more. Sweeping in scope while precise in detail, More Than Things is a heartfelt call for all of us to re-center ourselves on what is truly important by moving from the culture of things to the culture of persons."

-Ron Cole-Turner, professor emeritus of theology and ethics at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

"This book is an exceptional contribution to personalist ethics. Paul Louis Metzger offers a trinitarian personalist philosophy of life to recover the meaning and dignity of human personhood in contemporary society. He argues that the triune God grounds the virtues of faith (contra cynicism), hope (contra pessimism), and love (contra narcissism) that empower people to attain the highest good (love of God) and common good (love of neighbor) and thus mutual respect of one another as living beings who are more than 'biological and sexual drives, market forces, consumer appetites, or cogs in a machine.' He addresses several crucial ethical issues along the continuum of human life, between birth and death."

-Frederick Ware, professor of theology and associate dean for academic affairs at the Howard University School of Divinity

"I think of ethics as good reasons for action. I have long searched for a practical theology of moral values to use in my work as a healthcare ethicist in guiding persons who have to make difficult decisions. In More Than Things, Paul Louis Metzger has given those of us who work in the discipline of healthcare ethics such a trustworthy, practical theology of moral values. He has skillfully drawn together multiple strands of moral reasoning from history and current critical thinking in philosophy and theology to address a variety of critical ethical issues, including healthcare. Those who are compassionately guiding other persons through difficult ethical decision-making in morally conflicted life situations will find this book to be a strong strategic instrument for discerning 'good reasons for action.'"

-Robert Lyman Potter, senior scholar emeritus for the Oregon Health and Science University Center for Healthcare Ethics

"Expansive in its content (covering such issues as euthanasia, transhumanism, drone warfare, racism, immigration, ecowomanism, and space exploration) and in its interlocutors (dialoguing with Aristotle, Confucius, Aquinas, Kant, Martin Luther King Jr., Torrance, MacIntyre, Rand, Sandel, Wilson, and Dawkins—along with the Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant big Bs: Buber, Barth, and von Balthasar—in addition to the Dalai Lama and Pope Francis), this book is an important contribution to the recent revival of personalist ethics."

-Alan Vincelette, Von der Ahe Chair of Philosophy at St. John's Seminary

"We are persons, not things. The present volume expands this simple message into a deeply informed meditation, conversant with a wide range of thought, engaged with difficult questions of ethics. Academic but also soulful, this book is framed, perhaps even provoked, by the author's poignant experience of an ongoing and life-altering tragedy. In this dehumanizing world, Paul Louis Metzger invites us to recover who we really are: persons."

-S. Joshua Swamidass, associate professor of laboratory and genomic medicine at Washington University in St. Louis and author of The Genealogical Adam and Eve

"Intimate as the beginnings of life and expansive toward outer space, Metzger's trinitarian personalist ethical vision offers a Godward path amid our present existential, social, and cultural entanglements."

-Daniel D. Lee, academic dean of the Center for Asian American Theology and Ministry at Fuller Theological Seminary

"More Than Things is an ecumenical tour de force. Much ink has been spilled over time about the timeliness of personalism or the need for a Christian ethic rooted in the belief in a triune God. But...

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ISBN 9780830850914
PRICE $48.00 (USD)

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