Editor’s Introduction: Economism and Sanctification

[1] 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.

[2] The second article comes from the Lutheran Ethicists Gathering that took place in New Orleans last January. This years’ meeting brought together Methodist and Lutheran ethicists to compare Luther’s and Wesley’s conceptions of justification. At that meeting, Burroughs, a Methodist theologian who teaches ethics and theology at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio argued that the difference between the way Luther and Wesley conceived of sanctification was a result of their different pastoral contexts and their radically different understandings of the role of the will in the human-divine relationship. According to Burroughs: “[m]ost simply, Luther and Wesley operate with contrasting conceptions of the relationship between divine grace and human free will and thus with different understandings of how Christian transformation takes place” (He offers as an example an excerpt from Luther’s The Bondage of the Will, where he likens the human will with a beast of burden that it is either driven by the devil or by Christ. The will is limited to a negative role, “that is, to the extent that it contributes anything, human effort does not so much empower or enliven good human actions but rather restrains human sinfulness.” Wesley, on the other hand, had a more optimistic view of the human will. He believed that sanctification, which he viewed closely connected to moral perfection, was possible in this life, although it was also possible to fall from it even after having achieved it. However, he finds a point of resonance between the two in the fact that: ‘[e]ven those ‘perfect’ in the Wesleyan sense are justified, sanctified, and persist in the Christian life only by the grace of God to which they are continually called to testify in their lives.”

[3] This exploration of the convergences and dissonances between Luther and Wesley’s theological understandings of sanctification will continue to be explored in the upcoming issue of JLE.

Carmelo Santos

​Carmelo Santos, Ph.D., serves as associate pastor at St. Mark’s (San Marcos) Lutheran Church in Springfield, VA. He is also a lecturer at Georgetown University.