Item description for Improvisation: The Drama of Christian Ethics by Samuel Wells...
Overview Establishes theatrical improvisation as a model for Christian ethics, helping Christians to ""embody their faith in the practices of discipleship all the time"
Publishers Description In Improvisation, Samuel Wells defines improvisation in the theater as "a practice through which actors seek to develop trust in themselves and one another in order that they may conduct unscripted dramas without fear." Sounds a lot like life, doesn't it? Building trust, overcoming fear, conducting relationships, and making choices--all without a script. Wells establishes theatrical improvisation as a model for Christian ethics, a matter of "faithfully improvising on the Christian tradition." He views the Bible not as a "script" but as a "training school" that shapes the habits and practices of the Christian community. Drawing on scriptural narratives and church history, Wells explains six practices that characterize both improvisation and Christian ethics. His model of improvisation reinforces the goal of Christian ethics--to teach Christians to "embody their faith in the practices of discipleship all the time."
Citations And Professional Reviews Improvisation: The Drama of Christian Ethics by Samuel Wells has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
Christian Century - 05/31/2005 page 40
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Reviews - What do customers think about Improvisation: The Drama of Christian Ethics?
Re-Imagining Christian Ethics Mar 22, 2006
In this book Wells suggests that the current use of 'performance language' in ethics requires a correction. Wells shows his readers that the dramatic practice of improvisation can help Christians better understand the nature of Christian discipleship. Wells provides a sophisticated, yet easy to understand, account of how Christian ethics requires that we learn the skill of improvisation. Christians do not perform a script, as performative ethics seems to suggest, as much as they improvise within an accepted tradition that is generated and rooted in the community's reading of scripture. Wells further defines practices such as accepting, blocking, and overaccepting as ways in which Christians can respond to their social context; suggesting that the Christian community cannot simply accept or block the offers and gifts that it receives. Instead, Christians must overaccept these offers and therefore open up new possibilities that would not exist otherwise. Another helpful exploration that Wells leads is regarding the givens/assumptions that exist as we move through life. Wells argues that the new birth that is at the base of Christian conversion also affects the way Christians see the world and everything in it. The assumptions that govern society's ethics must be questioned if Christians really believe what they do about the cosmos and Christ's Lordship. Wells is able to explore his argument while telling powerful and helpful stories that challenge the way certain issues/decisions are understood in our world. He challenges the questions of the debate, which is why this book reminds me of John H. Yoder's work (I'm a fan of his stuff too). I'm glad this kind of theology is being done and leaves me hopeful that we are not being left to despair in the polarizing debates so common in North America.
The church in God's drama Jan 13, 2005
Improvisation is a wonderful addition to the recent discussion of virtue ethics. Wells believes that Christians act as part of a five act play (creation-Israel-Jesus-church-eschaton) that is the drama of God's interaction with the world. Christians act correctly when they improvise according to the nature of the story.
Wells brakes his arguments into three sections. The first makes the case for improvisation as an appropriate metaphor for Christian action. He places his understanding in stark contrast with deontological and consequentialist ethics. The second section outlines the main components of improvisation, which he then applies to the Christian life. The important components are forming habits, assessing status, questioning givens, overaccepting, and reincorporation. Through this improvisation, the story always move forward in a way that is faithful. In the final section, Wells shows how imporovisation might be applied to ethical issues. He deals with two that seem threatening and two that seem promising. The goal is to act in ways that bring the issues into continuity with the drama of God.
This is a great book. Read it if you are interested in Christian ethics. It also provides insights into other parts of theological study.