Government (Civil)

For Congregational Discussion: Lutheran Theology and the Relationship between Church and State

[1] The Journal of Lutheran Ethics hopes to provide reading material to stimulate thinking and conversation among academics, clergy, and laity. To this end, this section of JLE encourages constructive discussion within congregations about the topics discussed in JLE.  Consider using this section in formal adult education classes or in informal small group discussions.  The […]

A Sketch of Luther’s Political Theology on the Question of Church and State with Reflections concerning the Current Responsibility of the Church in Society

[1] Luther strengthened drastically the role of the individual over the institutions of church and state. This was because Luther located the kingdom of God in each individual’s inner soul, so that the authority of Catholic Church might rapidly decline and that state power could be desacralized. Securing independent interiority, individuals were given opportunity to […]

Faith-based Advocacy with Today’s United States Government: Summary at Lutheran Ethicists Gathering 2020

[1] Lutherans can participate in the governing structures as naturally and faithfully as they make use of God’s other good gifts. This summation of Article XVI of the Augsburg Confession (AC) stands in contrast to the views of other protestant groups of the time, some who condemned civic participation as incompatible with the Christian life while […]

Review: Martin Luther’s Theology of Beauty: A Reappraisal, by Mark C. Mattes

[1] The “reappraisal” promised in the subtitle of this book is most obviously a reappraisal of Luther’s views concerning beauty.  Mark Mattes intends to establish that Luther is neither a “great foe of beauty” (1) nor the architect of the “disenchantment” of material reality (13).  The author’s larger objective, however, is to deploy Luther’s theology […]

Learning from the Barmen Declaration of 1934: Theological-Ethical-Political Commentary

19   [1] The Barmen Theological Declaration was crafted and adopted in May 1934 by a scholarly team whose guiding figure was Karl Barth. The context for this theological statement included the increasing machinations by the German Christians, supported in their efforts by the Nazi regime, to control and dominate the Protestant churches in Germany […]

Review: Preaching in the Purple Zone: Ministry in the Red-Blue Divide. by Leah D. Schade.

9 [1] Good morning congregation, let’s talk about women’s reproductive rights! Or maybe gun control? How about immigration?   [2] If a sermon or adult forum on these topics doesn’t elicit some nervousness for you as a pastor or layperson, I bet you can think of several other topics that would be controversial—and likely divisive—in […]

Review: Lutheran Theology and Secular Law: The Work of the Modern State

Lutheran Theology and Secular Law is the second of two volumes edited by Marie Failinger and Ron Duty that boldly take on the task of bringing Lutheran theology and legal theory and practice into conversation. The fifteen essays in the volume are divided into six parts: (1) Our secular age, (2) Lutheran theology and legal philosophy, (3) The individual and the state, (4) International law and human rights, (5) Domestic legal issues, and (6) Professionals, law, and neighbor-love. The three essays in the first two parts of the book are the most theoretical. For this reason, readers might consider jumping in midway through the volume, with the more topical essays, and circling back to the introductory essays later.

Review: U.S. War Culture, Sacrifice and Salvation

U.S. War Culture, Sacrifice and Salvation by Kelly Denton-Borhaug || I have been stunned by the careful discernment offered by Kelly Denton-Borhaug in her book of 2011, U.S. War Culture, Sacrifice and Salvation. When it comes to the service of the Christian church to the wider culture, this kind of theological and social analysis functions as a prophetic witness that reveals to ourselves just who we are as a people and as a nation. In what follows, I’d like to respond to Denton-Borhaug’s prophetic prompt within the framework of public theology in the United States.

Review: On Secular Governance: Lutheran Perspectives on Contemporary Legal Issues (Eerdmans, 2016)

[1] Is the constitution to be read narrowly, focusing on the intent of the framers, or is to be read more liberally, and if more liberally, why? Is religious freedom still worthy of special constitutional protection? When is it proper for an individual to disobey a law? If water flows through your property, do you […]

Review: Changing World, Changeless Christ: The American Lutheran Publicity Bureau, 1914–2014

The American Lutheran Publicity Bureau (“ALPB” or “the Bureau”) is one of those rare institutions that spans major North American Lutheran denominations, (or at least some camps thereof). Hoping to make the Lutheran church better known in America, its early founders (then, primarily from the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod) set in motion a publishing body whose publications have provided a forum for ethical reflection, social engagement and denominational dispute across the decades. Although not a church body, the ALPB has focused on issues facing American Lutherans — from its outspoken voice against racism in the 1940s, to war and peace, abortion, sexuality and other social concerns.