Introducing Myself as the New Editor of JLE

[1] In June, I was officially hired to begin as the new editor of Journal of Lutheran Ethics.  While, this August issue is designed and edited by our book editor, Nancy Arnison, I was asked to use this opportunity to introduce myself to the regular readers of JLE.  I am privileged and delighted by this opportunity to contribute to the ministry of JLE, for the journal brings together readers and writers on matters that are central to my academic and personal interests.

[2] I am a philosophy professor at a small women’s college in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where I am responsible for teaching broadly from Sappho to Judith Butler, with Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Hildegard of Bingen, Descartes, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Beauvoir, and Noddings being a few of the focus points in my teaching.  (A perk of the small college is the necessity of constantly learning new areas.) That said, my particular foci of research are women in philosophy, Augustine’s philosophy, and Luther’s impact on philosophy.

[3] My academic interest in Luther might have begun with my father’s work as a reformation historian and my husband’s graduate work on Luther. But I did not connect the academic dots between the work of the Luther historians and theologians in my life with my own philosophical work until nearly a decade after finishing my Ph.D.  In that decade I lectured on philosophy, taught Sunday School, directed the Christmas pageants at our church where my husband served as pastor, and bore and mothered our three children.  But, in 2008, after several table talks on the topic of Lutheranism and philosophy, I brought these two interests together academically by coordinating a panel discussion titled “When Truth is a Woman but Reason is a Whore: The Quandary of Lutheran Philosophy.”  This panel discussion led to a book and the ongoing investigation into the connection between Luther’s theology and philosophy in the history of ideas and in new constructive philosophical solutions.

[4] My desire to seek new avenues for constructive thinking is not simply academic but immediate and practical. My students have always refused to debate philosophically with academic disinterest.  Euthyphro’s question of whether to obey one’s parent, one’s god, or one’s government is a question they recognize in particular and immediate ways.  One student considers her parents’ politics dangerous, another has an unplanned pregnancy, and a third fears her father may be deported.  In such situations, the discussion on justice and piety cannot end in aporia because the question hangs at the end of class: “But, Professor, what should I do?”

[5] All of us, readers and writers of JLE, surely feel the weight of that question and appreciate JLE’s dedication to probing for an answer.   Whether the discussion is on climate change, immigration, women’s rights, or general politics, the discussion is critical.  I believe, we cannot afford to say we are wisest because we know we do not know.  We cannot afford to be dogmatic and push forward an agenda that might destroy us.  We must have humble dialogue that leads to constructive solutions.  And while our Lutheran theology declares that we, with reason alone, will certainly not save ourselves, our Lutheran theology also demands that we find ways to lovingly serve our neighbor.

[6] I expect that JLE will continue to be a place of dialogue that works towards that end.  As editor, I hope that readers will engage in the discussion—deliberating over the issues in their congregations, classrooms, dinner tables and in the journal itself.   Please begin to contact me with issues, ideas, articles, and questions.  Together let us deliberate that we might more effectively act in love.



Jennifer Hockenbery

Jennifer Hockenbery serves as Editor of the Journal of Lutheran Ethics .  She is Professor of Philosophy and Dean of Humanities at St Norbert College. She attends Grace Lutheran Church in Green Bay, WI.