Richard Hay’s The Moral Vision of the New Testament: A Contemporary Introduction of New Testament Ethics is an outstanding and thought-provoking book on New Testament (NT) ethics. Hay’s book consists of four parts reflecting the four heuristic task of pursuing NT ethics:
1) The Descriptive Task - the act of extricating the message of each individual writings of the Bible. Hays executes this task by briefly going over most of the individual books of the NT, noting each of the authors main points and concerns.
2) The Synthetic Task - the act of seeking to integrate the individual writings of the NT. In this section, Hays provides us 3 guidelines in how we should pursue our synthesis of each individual NT text: a) confront the full range of canonical witness b) let the tension stand and c) attend to the literary genre of the texts (pg . 189 – 191). Hays also provides us with three images, which he believes to be central to the biblical story, that will help guide our reflections on NT ethics: a) community b) cross and c) new creation. (pg 196 -200)
3) The Hermeneutical Task - the act of relating what we find in the synthetic task to our particular situation. For this part, Hays examines the concept of authority as it relates to scripture, tradition, reason, and experience (pg. 208-209). Then Hays investigates the hermeneutical strategies in pursuing ethics by five interpreters: Reinhold Niebuhr, Karl Barth, John Howard Yoder, Stanley Hauerwas, and Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza which allows us to see how different people use scripture, tradition, reason and experience in grounding their ethical imperatives.
4) The Pragmatic Task – the act of living out what the Bible’s commands. In this final section, Hays uses his 4 task model of pursuing ethics by seeking to understand the ethical norm for violence in defense of justice (pg 317 – 343), divorce (pg 347- 374), homosexuality (pg 379 – 400), Anti-Judaism and ethic conflicts (pg 407 – 438) and abortion (pg. 444-457)
I found Richard Hay’s book to be very helpful as it allows me to see the difficulties of using the Bible as normative source for ethics but yet it also provides a well reasoned model on how to get past them. I also enjoyed Hay's Christ-like tone throughout his book as it relates to his model and when he addresses hot topics like divorce, abortion, and homosexuality.
(Doug Moo's has a good critically review of Dr. Hay's book)