Editor’s Introduction – What possibilities – and risks – do faith and science raise for one another?

[1] On the surface, it would appear that the two conversations featured in this issue of JLE could not have less in common. The first conversation is a response to Fritz Oehlschaeger’s recent book, Procreative Ethics: Philosophical and Christian Approaches to Questions at the Beginning of Life (Wipf & Stock, 2010). The second coalesces around “The Question Concerning Technology and Religion,” an article written by biblical scholar A.K.M. Adam. The former conversation addresses questions of abortion and genetic engineering; the latter discusses social media, computers, and online avatars. Yet on a deeper level, both conversations share a central concern: what principles ought to shape our relationship to technology, inside and outside our churches? What does it mean for science and faith to be, in the words of Pope Paul VI’s closing address at the Second Vatican Council, “mutual servants of one another in the one truth”? What possibilities – and risks – do faith and science raise for one another?

[2] In his review of Oehlschlaeger’s book, Paul Hinlicky (who initiated this dialogue) probes the book’s argument and raises important questions about how justice ought to inform our technological choices. In her response, Jennifer Hockenbery brings a rich understanding of the relational self to bear on the use of reproductive technologies, while James C. Peterson argues for greater clarity and precision in the terms of the debate, especially in regards to genetic therapy. Oehlschlaeger responds to all three authors.

[3] In the second conversation, Adam discusses the mediation of religiosity through the use of technology and presents technical advances as an opportunity for religions “to (re-)discover and (re-)assess their greatest gifts and insights in these unfamiliar new dimensions.” In response to his assertions and her own experiences as a prominent participant in religion and science dialogue, Susan Barreto, co-editor of Covalence, argues that by ignoring certain technologies, religious leaders may lose the opportunity to shape discussions of “humanity’s shared future.” Eric Berg, drawing on Martin Heidegger, argues that technology itself is morally neutral; the ethical question for Lutherans is not the identity or form of the technology per se, but rather the ability or inability of the technology to aid service of the neighbor and proclamation of the Gospel. Gregory Walter also draws on Heidegger, though in contrast to Berg, he looks to forms of technology themselves and encourages readers to distinguish between mere “tools” and actual “world-creating” phenomena. Clint Schnekloth, whose reflection on the Advent season also appears in this issue, takes a “middle road” approach, arguing for a “metriopathic technophilia” that empowers believers to see technology as part and parcel of faith formation.

[4] Finally, we are also pleased to include in this issue reviews of Mary Streufert’s recent edited volume Transformative Lutheran Theologies: Feminist, Womanist, and Mujerista Perspectives (Fortress Press, 2010). Jane Strohl and Jacqueline Bussie offer their thoughts on the collection, which includes papers delivered at the 2009 Transformative Lutheran Theology Conference sponsored by the ELCA’s Justice for Women office.

Blessings for a merry Christmas and a happy new year from the editorial staff at JLE!

Ryan P. Cumming

Ryan P. Cumming, Ph.D. is program director of hunger education for ELCA World Hunger and senior lecturer at Loyola University Chicago’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies.