Author: Michael Shahan

Michael Shahan is Book Review Editor of Journal of Lutheran Ethics. A retired ELCA clergyman, Shahan does freelance writing from his Nashville home.

Review of Good and Bad Ways of Thinking About Religion and Politics by Robert Benne

…a man’s religion is the chief fact with regard to him. – Thomas Carlyle, 1795–1881 [1] An impression I have of some of today’s newest Lutheran seminary graduates, and also of some rather seasoned Lutheran clergy, is that of relative indifference toward the nearly half-millennium old Lutheran heritage: i.e., towards Luther himself and his theology, […]

Introduction to Daniel Bell’s Response to Paul Hinlicky

See also Daniel M. Bell, Jr.’s Liberation Theology after the End of History: The Refusal to Cease Suffering by Paul R. Hinlicky [1] Does life in twenty-first century America involve compromises of the soul unlike anything else in the history of the Christian faith? Is being Christian more difficult in an affluent, market-driven, consumerist society […]

Introduction to Reviews of Daniel Rice’s Reinhold Niebuhr Revisited: Engagements with an American Original

[1] Of all the dispiriting signs of the times in Lutheran pastoral circles these days, the one I find most troubling is the anti-theological bias of so many clergy. Before I go any further on this track, I must confess that my research on this matter is constricted by my own small world of contacts, […]

Introduction to Hinlicky Book Review

[1] At an Ash Wednesday Service a few years back, the Dean of an Episcopal Cathedral in the South began his sermon by apologizing for what he deemed to be a “conservative” element in his homily. I braced myself for a torrent of reactionary, Bible-thumping, “hell-fire and damnation” rhetoric with women and children covering their […]

A Love for Life: An Introduction to Three Reviews

[1] Often, the Church of Jesus Christ — and especially its individual members scattered across the world, including its apostolic leadership — think and act as though we are absolutely adrift upon the high seas of cultural dislocation and unrest. In our ethical deliberations and in our pastoral reflection and practice, it sometimes appears as […]

Introduction to A Report from the Front Lines

[1] “It has been argued conclusively, I believe, that the spirit of American religion and of America itself, insofar as it has been penetrated by religious themes, has been thoroughly Calvinistic, rather than Catholic, sectarian, or Lutheran.”[I] It has been the mission of Robert Benne, Lutheran public theologian, to balance the current engagement between the […]

Introduction to the Reviewers

[1] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the essential Lutheran theologian for our dispirited post-modern age, reminds us that the field of ethics – the sometimes disciplined effort to understand and elect “the good” or “the right” – belongs to the realm of the penultimate in human affairs. Accordingly, the issues arising from and surrounding morality, justice, the good […]

War, Peace, and God: Rethinking the Just War Tradition, by Gary M. Simpson

[1] Why this book? As professor of systematic theology at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, Gary Simpson is not your typical “ivy halls” academic. With a rich background in parish and chaplaincy work – none of it transpiring in traditional Lutheran territory, (California and Oregon were his mission field) – he has brought to […]

John Stumme: A Critical Appraisal of His Work in Editing The Promise of Lutheran Ethics

[1] If one were to live solely in the rarified air of most college campuses today, the overwhelming impression would be of a universe wholly devoid of continuity with the past. Linkage to tradition, much less voluntary servitude to something labeled “the Word of God” or the Great Tradition of Christianity, is anathema to the […]

A Review of Economy of Grace by Kathryn Tanner

[1] The final stage through which civilizations pass on their way to social dissolution, according to C. Northcote Parkinson, is “liberal opinion.” His point is that the great spiritual disease of any democratic society is the hegemony of a feeble sentimentality that weakens the thinking and will of its people. Parkinson avers: “What concerns our […]

Review of Gilbert Meilaender’s Bioethics: A Primer for Christians

[1] Vergil puts these words into the mouth of the Trojan hero Aeneas when he was shipwrecked in a country he feared was populated with barbarians, in which case he would have been able to establish no common bond: “These men know the pathos of life, and mortal things touch their hearts.” It is always […]

A Review: Performing The Faith: Bonhoeffer and the Practice of Nonviolence by Stanley Hauerwas

[1] A Word about the Book’s Author Dr. Hauerwas is a widely respected theologian-ethicist in ecumenical circles today. He occupies the chair of Gilbert T. Rowe Professor of Theological Ethics at Duke University, and is well known as a most influential teacher, with “disciples” (if that is not an overly dramatic term) in nearly all […]

An Introduction to Jean Bethke Elshtain and to reviews of her book, Just War Against Terror

[1] Jean Bethke Elshtain is not a novice to the disputes surrounding our culture wars. Hers is a steady, sober, and prevailing voice in today’s debates over the trials of democracy, the relationship of ethics to international politics, and the place for patriotic allegiance in a pluralistic world. [2] She has written 17 books, 340+ […]

A Review of Ordinary Saints: An Introduction to the Christian Life by Dr. Robert Benne

[1] In The Christian Tradition, Jaroslav Pelikan describes a fascinating scene at the Basilica of St. Peter in Rome, on Holy Thursday, 1833. Unknown to either, Ralph Waldo Emerson and John Henry Newman both were in attendance at this sacred Mass and both were deeply moved by its high drama and powerful evocation of feeling. […]