I found this book a fascinating read. Chalke and Mann have constructed a very engaging book dealing with Christian Ethics in a way that anyone interested in Christian living can understand and engage with.
For those of you who have read Stanley Hauerwas or Samuel Wells, Chalke and Mann are of the similar position (in fact the writings of both are referenced within the book).
Academically, this book is about setting forth "virtue ethics" as the best form of Christian ethics. In the first two chapters, the framework is set for why virtue ethics are the best option over "deontological ethics" or "consequentialist ethics."
For those who may not be familiar with Christian ethics jargon, this book is still a great and must read. Chalke writes in a way that engages the mind and opens up the messiness of life and all its ethical choices by pointing to a living and dynamic faith that comes from following Jesus Christ.
Chalke writes, "The development of character traits or habits, such as honesty, justice and integrity, enable us to act wisely and in line with our beliefs. Therefore, the question we should ask of any action is, What kind of person will I become if I do this?" (pg 39) and "But discipleship is not primarily about rules; it's about the development of habits and practices." (pg 76)
Chalke sees Scripture as the Story of God and God's choice to be present in the lives of people. Through the story, God's character is revealed and a vision is cast. Discipleship then is the action of developing the practices and habits that come from that vision and allow the disciple to enter the process of becoming more and more in-line with God's character.
If you want to gander at a section of the book yourself, check it out here.
My favorite part about this book is the inclusion of the "Thinking Christianly" section at the end of each four parts of the book. These sections include two letters of differing views about some controversial topics. Each letter is thought out by whoever wrote them and points to the messiness of discipleship and how answers aren't always easy as both letters often can be convincing. The inclusion of these sections invites the reader to start "practicing" the "art of living beautifully." After the two letters there are some questions that engage the reader to begin thinking about the topic individually or as a community.
That brings me to my advice: If you read this book, read it with a group of people. Don't just read it as an individual disciple but read it as a group of disciples. The "Thinking Christianly" sections bring about great dialogue and create an open atmosphere that seeks to discover who God would have us be. After reading this book for review, I was so excited about the communal possibilities that I am using it with the college students involved in the campus ministry I lead and ordered each of them a copy.