Author: Robert Benne

Robert Benne is the Jordan-Trexler Professor of Religion Emeritus and Research Associate in the Religion and Philosophy Department, Roanoke College, Salem, Virginia and Professor of Christian Ethics, The Institute of Lutheran Theology.

The Twofold Rule of God

[1] Perhaps the most difficult element in Lutheran social ethics, yet one of the most important, is the doctrine of the twofold rule of God, sometimes called the “two kingdoms” doctrine. This doctrine has also been the most vulnerable to distortion. Karl Barth was the first to call this Lutheran teaching “the two kingdoms doctrine,” […]

Lutherans and the Political Challenges of 2016

In an election cycle so polarizing, and to some, hopeless, what is a Lutheran response? Benne argues that Lutherans, whether they choose to vote or not, cannot responsibly “opt-out” of this election.​ That being said, fusing religion and politics–envisioning a candidate as a political messiah–is also not faithful. Instead, Benne offers seven counsels for Lutherans and their churches in this fraught political season.

Reinhold Niebuhr as a Perennial Resource for Public Theology

[1] I was recently asked by a group of Canadian college professors what “public theology” — a term that was not familiar in their intellectual world — was all about. I said that “public theology” was the engagement of theology and theological ethics with many facets of the public world — politics, economics, education, culture, […]

Reflections on the Economic Downturn

[1] I have ambivalent thoughts about the current efforts to address the economic recession in the United States, and, by extension, the world, since it is abundantly clear that economic contractions in the United States dramatically affect the rest of the world. On the one hand, I certainly would like to see my pension accumulations […]

Introduction to the JLE Symposium on an important aspect of the religion and politics debate

[1] In a recent issue of Time, Michael Kinsey, the well-know liberal pundit, made a rather startling claim. Contrary to much secular liberal opinion that the religion of a political candidate does not and should not influence his or her political life, Kinsey argues this: “If religion is central to their lives and moral systems, […]

Tribute to John Stumme on His Retirement

[1] My acquaintance with John Stumme goes back to his days when he was a student at the Lutheran School of Theology and I was a young professor there. As I recall, he was a serious and excellent student who was particularly drawn to Carl Braaten’s teaching and work. He then went off to graduate […]

Will There Be a Lutheran Theological Ethic in the Next Generation?

[1] The greatest challenge for Lutheran theological ethics in the coming years will not be how adequately they address the myriad contemporary issues the modern world faces. Rather, it will concern whether or not ethics done by ELCA Lutherans will flow from genuine Lutheran theological sources.[1] The Lutheran theological resources I am thinking about are […]

Iraq after Three Years

[1] I supported the President and Congress in their decision to invade Iraq. It is now three years after that invasion. How does that decision stand up? (I have given reasons in other essays for my support of the war and will not rehash them here. Suffice it to say that those reasons draw upon […]

The Civil Rights Movement of the ’60s—A Personal Perspective

[1] As a student at Midland College in the late 50s, I became aware of the civil rights movement emerging in the South. The national news carried reports on sit-ins and demonstrations going on in a number of southern states. Though all this seemed very distant from northeast Nebraska, my readings of Reinhold Niebuhr-especially his […]

Response to the Respondents to my Civil Religion Argument

[1] I am honored and delighted that five persons of such stature have taken time to respond to my article on civil religion-“Civil Religion-Destructive, Useless, or Beneficial?” All five responses were helpful, civil, and of high quality. They are fine demonstrations of the kind of moral discourse at which this journal aims. I can only […]

The American Civil Religion—Destructive, Useless, or Beneficial?

[1] “Why does the President of the United States insist on ending his speeches with ‘God Bless America?” asked a European friend testily. “Doesn’t God bless all nations?” she angrily continued. Furthermore, she complained, this religiously-laden political rhetoric proves that Americans persist in thinking that God is on their side. Whatever she understood of the […]

Response to the Four Reviews of The Paradoxical Vision

[1] I am delighted and honored to respond to these four reviews of my Paradoxical Vision. Beyond that I am grateful to the four authors-Perry, Kruse, Kennedy, and Lagerquist-for their willingness to write reviews of a book that is ten years old. I am particularly grateful to Michael Shahan, the book review editor of the […]

Response to Mark Noll’s Editorial, “None of the Above: Why I Won’t Vote for President”

[1] Though I disagree thoroughly with the thrust of Mark Noll’s recent editorial in The Christian Century, there is one important comfort I derive from it. That comes from the fact that the essay confirms one of my deeply held beliefs: one can share with fellow Christians the core of Christian faith and morals and […]

Review of The Passion of the Christ

[1] After seeing Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ I will never sing “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord” or “O Sacred Head Now Wounded” the same way again. Normally my mind flicks quickly over the gory language and bloody images in those hymns. I tend to imagine a cross without a […]

Am I Righteous or What? I Drive a Honda Civic That Gets 40 MPG!

[1] After filling up on a recent trip from Ohio, I had my wife calculate the gasoline consumption of our spiffy new Honda Civic. “You’re going to like this,” she said, “It comes out to 45 miles per gallon.” Though aided by a strong tailwind, I was still enthused. But not enthused as I was […]

Beware of the Foreign Policy Opinions of Religious Professionals

[1] Whenever mainstream Protestant religious intellectuals and church leaders-let’s call them religious professionals-reach near unanimity on questions of political policy, especially foreign policy, it is time to be suspicious. They seem to have reached near unanimity in opposing American policy toward Iraq. [2] Now, it is axiomatic that on foreign policy questions those religious professionals […]

Religion in Sport

[1] Any religion worth its salt embraces all of life, not just the recesses of the heart, the sacred hour on Sunday, or the intimacies of family and friendship. A serious Christian, Jew, or Muslim who participates in sport also practices that athletic activity in the light of his or her faith. So there is […]

We Need Help: A Review of Christians in Society: Luther, the Bible, and Social Ethics

[1] I begin my review of this estimable book with a quibble over the title. “Social ethics,” in William Henry Lazareth’s usage in this book, refers to the embodiment of Christian moral convictions in the time-bound culture of any given age. As such, Christian theological ethics need not, and in some cases, ought not, be […]

That Old Time Religion

[1] Upon hearing that both houses of Congress approved legislation to allow the use of the Capitol Rotunda for their prayer session, the ubiquitous-and by now frenetic-Barry Lynn, Executive Director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AUSCS), complained: “If members of Congress want a religious service, they can go to their houses […]

Religion and Politics – One More Time

[1] On a recent flight to Pittsburgh, several professors from a near-by university sat behind me discussing the danger of mixing religion and politics, particularly if the mixing is done by the likes of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, whom my fellow academicians compared to Islamicists like Osama Ben Laden. That outrageous and false comparison […]

A Christian Realist Approach to the Events of September 11

[1] “I’m a loving person, but I have a job to do,” said the President. His statement reminds one of the famous distinction Luther made when he wrote about the Christian’s calling. He said that if an individual Christian went into the forest and was beset by robbers, he might well not resist and even […]