Author: James M. Childs

James M. Childs is Joseph A. Sittler Emeritus Professor of Theology and Ethics at Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus Ohio.

A Case Study in the Ethics of Dialogue: ELCA Sexuality Study 2002-2005

[We] need a positive moral vision that would start by rejecting the idea that we are locked into incessant conflict along class, cultural, racial and ideological lines. It would reject all the appurtenances of the culture warrior pose — the us/them thinking, exaggerating the malevolence of the other half of the country, relying on crude […]

Anxiety, Atonement, and Vocation

Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all […]

Diasporic Feminist Theology: Asia and Theopolitical Imagination (Fortress, 2014)

Namsoon Kang, Diasporic Feminist Theology: Asia and Theopolitical Imagination. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2014, 378 pages, $39.00.

Theological Ethics and the “End of Doctrine”

Since readers have the benefit of two fine reviews that trace the argument of her book plus her own responses, I will refrain from repeating that exercise with its interesting appropriation of Barth and Schleiermacher and its important concern for reconnecting theology and religious studies in the academy. Perhaps what follows may have some implications in that latter case and perhaps suggest another conversation. From the vantage point of my somewhat limited endeavor, however, it will be most helpful to focus on several statements which seem to express her vision of theology’s vocation for the purpose of doctrine.

Review: Christian Economic Ethics: History and Implications (Fortress Press, 2013)

[Originally included in JLE July/August 2014] [1] Daniel Finn is the William and Virginia Clemens Professor of Economics and the Liberal Arts and professor of theology at St. John’s University and the College of St. Benedict in Collegeville, Minnesota. He has published extensively in the area of Christian ethics and economics and enjoys the genuine […]

Liberating Lutheran Theology: Freedom for Justice and Solidarity with Others in a Global Context (Fortress Press, 2011)

Paul S. Chung, Ulrich Duchrow, and Craig L. Nessan. Liberating Lutheran Theology: Freedom for Justice and Solidarity with Others in a Global Context. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2011, 292 pages.

Review: Killing from the Inside Out: Moral Injury and Just War (Cascade Books, 2014)

[Originally published in JLE July/August 2016] [1] Moral injury often occurs when warriors witness or participate in an act so radically contrary to their values that the bottom drops out of their moral universe and their feelings of shame and guilt are so deep that their sense of self-worth is virtually destroyed. Some would distinguish […]

Review: A Conversation with Martin Marty about His New Book

[Originally published in JLE July/August 2016] [1] Some weeks ago the Journal of Lutheran Ethics was contacted by the publisher about our interest in reviewing Martin E. Marty’s new book, October 31 1517: Martin Luther and the Day that Changed the World, published this year by Paraclete Press of Brewster, Massachusetts. It was further suggested […]

Review: Sin Boldly: Justifying Faith for Fragile and Broken Souls (Fortress Press, 2015)

[Originally published in JLE September 2015] [1] Ted Peters opens up the doctrine of justification by grace for Christ’s sake through faith so that we can see and appreciate how truly radical it is as he unpacks its vitality for our lives and our life in engaging this complex world. The doctrine of justification though […]

Review: Thinking About Sex (Fortress Press, 2015)

[Originally published in JLE June 2016] [1] Adrian Thatcher is honorary professor in the department of theology and religion at the University of Exeter in the UK. He is highly regarded for his work in theology and human sexuality. He has edited the 2015 Oxford Handbook of Theology, Sexuality and Gender. His most recent book […]

Review: Killing from the Inside Out: Moral Injury and Just War (Cascade Books, 2014)

[1] Moral injury often occurs when warriors witness or participate in an act so radically contrary to their values that the bottom drops out of their moral universe and their feelings of shame and guilt are so deep that their sense of self-worth is virtually destroyed. Some would distinguish this from PTSD that usually results […]

Editor’s Introduction: Book Review Issue

The three reviews of books dealing with the work of H. Richard Niebuhr, Lutheran perspectives on contemporary legal issues, and the discussion of moral injury in the context of just war each in their own way address concerns that are potential issue on the agenda of the church as public church. H. Richard Niebuhr’s work […]

Loving Later Life: An Ethics of Aging (Eerdmans, 2015)

[1] Frits de Lange is professor of ethics at the Protestant Theological University in the Netherlands and Extraordinary Professor in Systematic Theology and Ecclesiology at the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa. His book on the ethics of aging needs no apology for its relevance in the graying of our world, a phenomenon more immediate affluent […]

Journal of Lutheran Ethics: In Service to Witness

Childs brings a unique perspective having been with the Journal from the very beginning. In this article he explores the recent history of Lutheran ethics, why ethics are a key part of the Lutheran witness to the gospel, and how the Journal has been a gift to the ELCA as well as to students and teachers.

Editor’s Introduction

Regular readers of the Journal of Lutheran Ethics will recall that the July/August edition is the book review edition featuring reviews of a number of different works. This year we have the welcome opportunity to take a different tack and focus on one book, the latest and much discussed publication of Lutheran theologian and scholar, […]

Before Nature: A Christian Spirituality (Fortress Press, 2014)

H. Paul Santmire. Before Nature: A Christian Spirituality. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2014, 253 pages, $39.00

Christian Economic Ethics: History and Implications (Fortress Press, 2013)

Daniel K. Finn. Christian Economic Ethics: History and Implications. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2013, 412 pages, $49.00.

American Civil Religion (Fortress Press, 2013)

Book Review: Gary Laderman. American Civil Religion. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2013, 93 pages, E-Book $12.99

Anxiety, Atonement, and Vocation

In the midst of those threats of life in this not-yet world that give rise to anxiety, even debilitating or all-consuming anxiety, Jesus calls for his followers to make the promise of God’s kingdom their ultimate concern. We experience the threats of life as real and anxiety producing; they are often essentials that need to be tended to. Yet we are still called to make trust in God’s promises the paramount force in our lives. Wolfhart Pannenberg in his early and still very useful lectures on anthropology, contrasts security and trust. The drive for security is the drive to control one’s life and one’s world. When this striving for control becomes an end in itself then security and one’s own efforts becomes the ultimate concern, perversely, the object of trust. The opposite is the trust of faith in the promises of God, an openness to God’s future kingdom made present in the Christ.

A Tale of Convergence: Eschatology, Anthropology, Ethics and Trinity

I [1] Upon learning of my plans to offer a course this coming year at Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg entitled, “The Holy Trinity: Theology and Ethics,” JLE editor Victor Thasiah kindly thought an article describing its development and content might be of interest. I have accepted his invitation to write this with the hope […]

Helmut Thielicke on the Christian Life

[1] Helmut Thielicke (1908-1986), after obtaining doctorates in both philosophy and theology, became professor of theology at Heidelberg in 1936. He was removed from this position by the Nazis in 1940 because of his active participation in the confessing church. Though prohibited from public lectures, he continued preaching during the war years, building a reputation […]

The Way That Leads There: Augustinian Reflections on the Christian Life

[1] Gilbert Meilander has let us in on his sustained and even quite personal conversation with Augustine. It is a genuine dialogue in which the views of the two parties concerning the Christian life are sharpened by the exchange. We read in the Preface that Augustine is cast as the teacher to whom the author […]

Servant Leadership: Character and the Ethics of Business

[1] In my book, Ethics in Business: Faith at Work, I included a chapter on servant leadership. It was essentially about how the character of leadership is foundational to the ethics of business in any corporation, company, or firm.[1] In the brief comments that follow I want to look back on that discussion of character […]

Introduction to Economic Ethics in Everyday Life

[1] People never tire of quoting the late Tip O’Neill’s famous statement that “All politics is local.” Perhaps it is not entirely amiss to borrow this idea by stating that “All economic ethics is local.” That is to say, while there is considerable ethical discourse concerning mega concerns of economic justice and monumental failures of […]

The Flat above the Store: An Unpretentious Faith Active in Unselfconscious Love

[1] For nearly three generations almost everyone in or around Elkhorn, Wisconsin who played the piano was likely to have had the same teacher. Her name was Ida Mott. She was my great aunt and my godmother. [2] Lessons were held in her little dining room in the flat above the hardware store where she […]

Challenges and the Challenge

[1] Please indulge me with a few opening propositions that could be merely a statement of the obvious – unless, of course, you disagree with what follows. Lutheran ethics is neither legalistic nor so liberal in spirit as to verge on the antinomian. Lutheran ethics is grounded in Scripture but is neither biblicistic nor so […]

Sustainability and the Chlorine Industry: A Report on Dialogue with a Case Study

[1] Under the leadership of Dr. James Nash, former Executive Director of the Churches’ Center for Theology and Public Policy in Washington, D.C., and at the request of the Chlorine Chemistry Council, a select number of ethicists from universities and theological schools across the country were invited to participate in an open-ended dialogue. The idea […]

On Seeing the Connections: Reflections on the Tenth Anniversary of Caring for Creation

[1] In this year of 2003 the synodical assemblies of the ELCA, the assembly of the Lutheran World Federation, and the Churchwide Assembly of the ELCA have all lifted up the common theme: “Making Christ Known for the Healing of the World.” In all these venues one heard eloquent testimony to the hurts of a […]

Ethics and the Promise of God: Moral Authority and the Church’s Witness

We have lost our moral compass… The ethical consensus of our society has been steadily eroding… The church urgently needs to speak clearly and forthrightly to this situation of growing moral anarchy…. [1] Such concerns and convictions are common today. Moreover they have been a perennial complaint in virtually all societies. Within the church, however, […]

Preaching Justice: The Ethical Vocation of Word and Sacrament Ministry

This article is James Childs’ address from February 4, 1998, when he was installed in the newly established Sittler Chair. Copyright © 1998 TRINITY SEMINARY REVIEW, Trinity Seminary. Used with permission. From Trinity Seminary Review, Number 20, Spring/Summer 1998. [1] I am keenly aware that whatever shine is on me is that of reflected glory […]

Where Do You Stand? Perspectives on the Ethics of Stem Cell Research

[1] President Bush’s recent decision regarding the government funding of stem cell research illustrated the dilemma we face rather than resolving it. Allowing research to go forward on existing lines of embryonic stem cells acknowledges the concern of many that we pursue the promising possibilities of therapeutic benefits resulting from this research. At the same […]


[1] Dreadful disasters such as we have just experienced create a renewed sense of solidarity among people. Certainly we have seen our nation come together in prayer, in mourning, in determined resolution, and in many acts of self-giving service on behalf of the victims. What other manifestations of solidarity may we hope for and pray […]