Law and Gospel

As We Consider the Witness of the Lutheran Church on Church and State

[1] In my experience as a scholar and teacher of American constitutional law, I have frequently resorted to our Lutheran tradition as a guide for understanding why we place emphasis on, and how we distinctively understand, concepts such as the rule of law and the separation of church and state.  In American constitutional classes, we […]

A Case Study in the Ethics of Dialogue: ELCA Sexuality Study 2002-2005

[We] need a positive moral vision that would start by rejecting the idea that we are locked into incessant conflict along class, cultural, racial and ideological lines. It would reject all the appurtenances of the culture warrior pose — the us/them thinking, exaggerating the malevolence of the other half of the country, relying on crude […]

Editor’s Introduction

In this edition of the Journal of Lutheran Ethics, the perennial issue of whether Christians are called to “keep the law” is explored. While Jon Olson’s article and Robin Mattison’s response center on the Apostle Paul, his Jewish heritage and the extent to which he continued to observe the Sabbath and observe the dietary laws […]

Might the Lutheran Paul Aim to Keep the Law?

Peter Tomson reckoned Paul’s theology of justification able to coexist with his Law (Torah) observance. Recent exegetical work based on the view that Paul remained within Judaism make reconsideration of Tomson’s position timely. Olson examines five theological criteria in Stephen Westerholm’s Lutheran Paul, arguing that Paul so defined might also consistently observe the Jewish Sabbath and dietary laws. If so, the ‘Third Use’ of the Law is relevant for all Christians.

Response to “Might the Lutheran Paul Aim to Keep the Law?” by Jon C. Olson

Olson’s concern with the last twenty-five years of critical work on Paul’s identity as a Christ-believing hellenistic, diasporan Jew is its potential to shift the Lutheran paradigm of the proper boundaries of Christian praxis for Jews. Olson notes that this desire was expressed in the papers of the 2014 Helsinki consultation on “Continuity in the Body of the Messiah”. Christ-believing Jews wish “to express election and covenant-based Torah practice in the church” as part of their Christian witnesss. Such commitment to God’s earlier and continuing covenant is not foreign to Paul’s thinking about Jews, “… to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the Law, the worship and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah (Rom 9:4-5)”. Thus, Mattison explores the question of would or could the Pharisaic, diasporan Paul have kept the Law while an apostle to the Gentiles? What would be the criterion for keeping the Law?

Against Virtue Ethics

Jeff Biebighauser 09/01/2014 [1] Let’s get the cheap shot out of the way first. Aristotle – the “damned, conceited, rascally heathen” whom God has sent “as a plague upon us for our sins”[1] – has had surprising success infiltrating Lutheran ethics in the past two decades. In the wake of Vatican II, a strongly Aristotelian […]

Wielding the Word: Martin Luther on Temporal Authority

[1] Since the sixteenth century the argument has been made, and is made today, that any Christian participation in the public square is properly personal and private altogether. The business of the church, as the corporate body of Christ on earth, is to be concerned with matters reflecting the kingdom of God’s right hand. The […]

Review: Joel D. Biermann. A Case for Character: Toward a Lutheran Virtue Ethics. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2014, 192 pages, $29.00.

[1] Joel Biermann, Professor of Systematic Theology at Concordia Seminary in Saint Louis, argues that a focus on justification by faith in contemporary Lutheranism has led Lutherans to a neglect the practices of moral formation of individuals and the development of authoritative teachings about the shape of the Christian life. He acknowledges that focusing on […]

Editor’s Comments – Preaching the Law

[1] Lately, JLE’s editors have been dreaming up ways of helping parish pastors do their work. This month begins a three-part series related to liturgy, the first of which is on the theme of “Preaching the Law.” Here one might ask the obvious question — why start with preaching the Law? [2] The answer, gentle […]

Preaching the Law in the Christ-Haunted South

[1] What may be unique about the Southern context is summed up in Flannery O’Connor’s assertion that, “By and large, people in the South still conceive of humanity in theological terms. While the South is hardly Christ-centered, it is most certainly Christ-haunted” (The Habit of Being). Religion of a certain passionate and fundamentalist flavor permeates […]