The Divine Imperative: A Study in Christian Ethics

By Emil Brunner

A classic work of moral theology, arguing that the conflict between absolutism and relativism is resolved through understanding God’s relationship with mankind.

ISBN: 9780718890469


One of the major works of the great German theologian Emil Brunner, The Divine Imperative deals with what we ought to do. People are unconvinced that there is an inviolable moral obligation governing human life because they do not believe that the ‘good’ can be precisely and clearly known. Haven’t some generations called bad what others have called good? Aren’t moral standards relative? Doesn’t religion lack uniform and practical moral guidance?

Brunner discusses the moral confusion we face. He analyses the nature of the Good, showing why the Christian faith as understood by the Protestant Reformers provides the only true approach and answer to the ethical problem. Philosophical ethics, whether ancient or modern, cannot correctly define the Good, because the Good is regarded either as too abstract and absolute or as too concrete and relative. Christianity, by contrast, sees the moral problem as one of responsibility between humans who are created so as to respond to God. He created men for responsive fellowship with Him, establishing orderly ways of acting in the world. Correct understanding of the nature of society, family, state, economic life, is needed to discern one’s duty.

Because Brunner’s analysis is at once fundamental and comprehensive, this book remains a fresh and compelling treatment of the moral problem. It offers a provocative discussion and solution of a perennial human problem.

Additional information

Dimensions 229 × 153 mm
Pages 736

Trade Information LPOD

About the Author

Dr Emil Brunner was made Privatdozent at the University of Zurich at the age of 33, and later was appointed Professor of Systematic and Practical Theology. In 1953 he became Professor of Christian University, Tokyo (Japan) and in 1955 returned to Zurich.

His three-volume masterpiece Dogmatics is available from our sister imprint James Clarke and Co Ltd.


Author’s Preface (to the German Edition)
Translator’s Note

Book I: The Problem
Section 1: Natural Morality
Section 2: The Christian Message and Natural Morality and Ethics

Book II: The Divine Command
Section 1: The Will of God as the Basis and the Norm of the Good
Section 2: The New Man
Section 3: The Neighbour
Section 4: The Works of Love

Book III: The Orders
Section 1: The Individual, the Community, and the Orders of Society
Section 2: The Community of Life: Marriage and the Family
Section 3: The Community of Labour
Section 4: The Community of the People and the Law
Section 5: The Community of Culture
Section 6: The Community of Faith

Notes and Appendices