Editor’s Intro

Editor’s Introduction: The Future of Theological Education

What is the future of theological education in the ELCA? That is the question that the authors in this issue wrestle with. This question has important implications for Lutheran Ethics because in our tradition, theology is supposed to be the sustained reflection on the faith with the intention to guide our proclamation, our praxis and our life together as a church. Without adequate theological formation the church runs blind and our ethics become reactionary or dangerously ideological. Additionally, theology is never done in a vacuum; if theology is truly incarnational then it is incarnated in concrete cultures, languages and communities. Unfortunately, for too long Lutheran theology has been myopically Eurocentric, dealing preferentially with concerns born of the White European and European decent experience. Both authors in this issue challenge us to reframe the way we understand diversity in the church and in theological education.

Editor’s Introduction: Book Review Issue 2018

Themes of theology and culture run throughout this issue, intersecting specifically in treatments of war, moral injury, climate justice, and faith/life formation for adults and children.

This issue begins with a focus on war. Ted Peters offers an essay inspired by Kelly Denton-Borhaug’s War Culture, Sacrifice and Salvation. The ethos and institutions of war have penetrated everyday life in the United States, taking the symbols of Christianity and repurposing them for nationalistic ends. In the process, what Americans consider holy has migrated from the sacred to the secular, from the church to the state. Peters challenges public theology with the task of discerning U.S. war-culture and constructing a prophetic response. This is a wake up call.

Editor’s Introduction: Spotlighting Inter-religious Dialogue & Action

In his study on faith and culture, German-American theologian, Paul Tillich, claimed that religion is the substance of culture and that culture is the concrete form in which the religious dimension of the human spirit is expressed. But what happens when different religions and cultures coexist in the same society, in close proximity to each other? That is the case in many places across the world today. At an intellectual level, the challenge for people who take their faith seriously is how to balance the absolute claims of their faith tradition (they are after all claims about God or ultimacy, with universal scope) with the also absolute claims of the neighbors’ faith. The peaceful coexistence of our communities depends on the success of that balancing act.

Editor’s Introduction: Dignity, Challenge, and ELCA Social Statements

In this edition of the JLE we take a look at the social statements that the ELCA has produced in its 30 years of existence. In the first article, Christopher Suehr examines whether there is a common thread connecting the different social statements. He finds such a thread in the way the concept of dignity is used or implied in the different statements. After analyzing the different meanings of the term in the different documents he comes to the conclusion that they do share a stable understanding of dignity that gives them a certain ethical coherence. That stable underlying understanding of dignity is that dignity is a relational category, one that creatures are endowed with by virtue of their relationship with God as their creator. For that reason dignity is assumed to be universal and inalienable. What is not clear in the way dignity is used in the different ELCA Social Statements, however, is whether they assume that there are different degrees of dignity among different kinds of creatures and if so then what would be the criteria to decide.

Editor’s Introduction: Art and Anfechtung

[1] On the occasion of the 500th observance of the Reformation, it is appropriate to look back and reconsider some of the themes and strategies that gave wings to the movement. In this issue of JLE we will focus on two such themes and emphases, namely the role of Anfechtung in Luther’s wrestling with the […]

Editor’s Introduction: Lutherans and Sanctification

In this issue of the JLE we continue to explore the role of sanctification in the thought of Luther vis-à-vis that of John Wesley. The original setting of these papers was the January 2017 meeting of the Lutheran Ethicists Gathering which included an actual dialogue between Methodist and Lutheran ethicists. In the first article, Svend Andersen, professor at the Department of Theology in the University of Aarhus, Denmark, compares and contrasts Wesley’s explicit elaboration of sanctification as moral perfection with Luther’s more implicit understanding of sanctification especially as it finds expression in his discussions of the role of love in the life of the believer and the work of the Holy Spirit in the economy of salvation. In the second article on this issue, Mathew Riegel, bishop of the West Virginia-Western Maryland Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, offers an erudite exploration of the place of justification and sanctification in the thought of Luther.

Editor’s Introduction: Economism and Sanctification

The two articles in this issue of JLE are very different from each other. The first article comes from the pen of Ted Peters, distinguished Research Professor of Systematic Theology (and Religion and Science) at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary and the Graduate Theological Union. Different from his past contributions to the Journal in this article, he engages the question of economism. He follows closely the work of his colleague, Richard Norgaard, who has articulated an alternative economic proposal that puts ecological concerns over market economic interest. With the help of Langdon Gilkey’s hermeneutics Peters reads economism as the structuring myth of contemporary society and calls for (and models) a thorough criticism of its crypto-theological underpinning.

Editor’s Introduction: Understanding the Doctrine of Discovery

Everybody knows that in the late 15th century Christopher Columbus arrived at what is now known as the Americas and that he proceeded to take possession of such lands on behalf of the Spanish crown. What is not widely known, however, are the legal and theological rationale with which Europeans justified the often violent (at times genocidal) conquest and colonization of these lands which had already been “discovered” and populated. By the time the Spanish and English peoples arrived at Turtle Island and Avia Yala (the original names of these lands) Native American nations and empires had already been in place for thousands of years. (The current scientific consensus is that First Peoples began arriving some 14000 years ago.) So, what logic led the new arrivals to think that they had the right to take away the land from these nations?

Editor’s Introduction: Politics

In this exceptional political cycle and fraught political climate, it can be difficult to navigate with thoughtful engagement. This month Dr. Robert Benne and Bishop Dick Graham bring their years of experience and thought into reflections intended to help traverse these waters. They both encourage active citizenship and flag dangers in political activity, with an […]

Editor’s Introduction: Love One Another

Love is at the core of the Christian faith. In fact, love is even used as the closest analogy to speak of the being of God. As we read in 1 John 4: 7-8: “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.”Therefore, given the importance of the concept of love in the Christian faith it is worth coming back again and again to examine its meaning and implications.