Editor’s Intro

Editor’s Introduction: Income Inequality Part II and Remembering Jim Echols

This June/July issue of the Journal ties up several threads. One of those is marked by the Resolution in loving memory of the Rev. Dr. James Kenneth Echols, who served for several years as JLE’s editor. As JLE’s “publisher” I claim a moment of privilege as part of that recognition to write a bit more than editors usually do in JLE. I also tie up a thread here as I finish my stint as guest editor. The traditional book review issue of August/September also will introduce our new editor.

Editor’s Introduction: Not an April Fool’s Issue: Growing Income Inequality

This issue of the Journal of Lutheran Ethics (JLE) may seem like an April Fool’s prank. Yes, regular readers will note this was supposed to be the March/April issue, not an April/May. What happened to March? An April Fool’s prank? And again, isn’t Carmelo Santos the JLE editor? Is he masquerading as some “fake editor” Roger Willer? No, this issue is not a prank and the focused theme of growing income and wealth inequality is certainly no joking matter. So, what’s going on? This issue marks transitions. There is a transition to a new publication schedule, each of the six bimonthly JLE issues will now be posted on or near the 1st of the even numbered months rather than on the odd numbered ones. I will not weary readers explaining the “back-end” reasons for this switch but will draw your attention to the more important transition, that of editorship.

Editor’s Introduction: Ode to a Theologian of the Cross

This issue of JLE is dedicated to Brazilian Lutheran theologian Vítor Westhelle who passed away on May of this year. Westhelle was a global theologian, although he probably would have preferred to say that he was a planetary theologian. Students came from all over the world to study with him and he went around the world to teach and study the Lutheran theology that he loved so much. His contribution to Lutheran ethics was indirect but important. Perhaps one of his most impactful contributions to Lutheran theology and ethics is what could be call the turn to space and place in eschatology. He viewed with suspicion the excessive emphasis that western theology places on time and lineal history vis-à-vis space rather than cyclical views of time more prevalent in the wisdom traditions of many indigenous and nonwestern peoples. Using space and place as interpretive keys he reexamined biblical symbols, theological doctrines, and Luther’s writings and was able to mine rich new meanings and applications for them.

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.