Introduction to A Report from the Front Lines

[1] “It has been argued conclusively, I believe, that the spirit of American religion and of America itself, insofar as it has been penetrated by religious themes, has been thoroughly Calvinistic, rather than Catholic, sectarian, or Lutheran.”[I] It has been the mission of Robert Benne, Lutheran public theologian, to balance the current engagement between the Christian tradition and the public sphere of American life by adding a much needed Lutheran perspective – the perspective of a paradoxical vision – to what has been an otherwise often one-sided and impoverished conversation. The book under review this month, A Report from the Front Lines: Conversations in Public Theology, seeks both to honor Benne’s work over the last forty years, to point to his Center for Religion and Society as a resource for those engaging the debate, and to further enrich the Lutheran contribution to the public square.

[2] The four reviewers are Lutherans whose own views span a broad spectrum of philosophical and social views, and who are themselves participants in the Church’s engagement in the public square.

[3] Dr. Paul Jersild is recently retired as Professor of Ethics and Co-Director of the Center on Religion in the South at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Columbia, S.C.

[4] Dr. Marc Kolden is the Olin S. and Amanda Fjelstad Reigstad Professor in Theology at LutherSeminary, St. Paul, MN, and co-editor of By Faith Alone: Essays on Justification in Honor of Gerhard O. Forde.

[5] The Rev. Peter Speckherd is Pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Green Bay, Wisconsin, a Lutheran Church-Mo. Synod congregation, and is Associate Editor of the Forum Letter

[6] Dr. Martha Stortz is well known to the regular patrons of the Journal of Lutheran Ethics. She is Professor of Historical Theology and Ethics at the Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary/Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California.

[I] Robert Benne, The Paradoxical Vision: A Public Theology for the Twenty-first Century, (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995), p. 26.

Michael Shahan

Michael Shahan is Book Review Editor of Journal of Lutheran Ethics. A retired ELCA clergyman, Shahan does freelance writing from his Nashville home.