Books

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Forbearance: A Theological Ethic for a Disagreeable Church — Eerdmans, 2017

What happens when we approach disagreement not as a problem to solve but as an opportunity to practice Christian virtue?

In this book James Calvin Davis reclaims the biblical concept of forbearance to develop a theological ethic for faithful disagreement. Pointing to Ephesians and Colossians, in which Paul challenged his readers to “bear with each other” in spite of differences, Davis draws out a theologically grounded practice in which Christians work hard to maintain unity while still taking seriously matters on which they disagree.

The practice of forbearance, Davis argues, offers Christians a dignified, graceful, and constructive way to deal with conflict. Forbearance can also strengthen the church’s public witness, offering an antidote to the pervasive divisiveness present in contemporary culture.

 

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In Defense of Civility: How Religion Can Unite America on Seven Moral Issues That Divide Us — Westminster John Knox Press, 2010

From “the big four” (abortion, homosexuality, euthanasia, and stem-cell research) to war, poverty, and the environment, this timely book considers religion’s impact on moral debates in America’s past and present. James Calvin Davis argues for religion’s potential to enrich both the content and the civility of public conversation. This book will interest all concerned citizens yearning for more careful thinking about the role of religion in public debate.

 

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On Religious Liberty: Selections from the Works of Roger Williams — The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2008

Banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for his refusal to conform to Puritan religious and social standards, Roger Williams established a haven in Rhode Island for those persecuted in the name of the religious establishment. He conducted a lifelong debate over religious freedom with distinguished figures of the seventeenth century, including Puritan minister John Cotton, Massachusetts governor John Endicott, and the English Parliament.

James Calvin Davis gathers together important selections from Williams’s public and private writings on religious liberty, illustrating how this renegade Puritan radically reinterpreted Christian moral theology and the events of his day in a powerful argument for freedom of conscience and the separation of church and state. For Williams, the enforcement of religious uniformity violated the basic values of Calvinist Christianity and presumed upon God’s authority to speak to the individual conscience. He argued that state coercion was rarely effective, often causing more harm to the church and strife to the social order than did religious pluralism.

 

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The Moral Theology of Roger Williams: Christian Conviction and Public Ethics — Westminster John Knox Press, 2004

Roger Williams, New England troublemaker and founder of Rhode Island, is seldom included among the great figures in American Reformed theology. Yet Williams’s arguments for religious liberty were deeply rooted in Puritan Calvinism. This book explores the “moral theology” that informed Williams’s spirited defense of toleration, demonstrating how Reformed theology in Williams’s hands allowed him to defend the integrity of religious convictions while also making the case for conversation and cooperation with moral citizens outside his circle of faith.