Introduction to Lutherans on Deus Caritas Est

[1] Love, we know, stands at the heart of both Christian doctrine and ethics: The gospel tells of God’s love for the world in Jesus Christ, and faith in the gospel gives arise to a life active in love for neighbor. The message is clear and simple, yet it leads us into the most basic and profound themes in Christian faith and life.

[2] In his first papal encyclical-Deus Caritas Est, “God is Love”-Benedict XVI reflects on the meaning of divine and human love. The encyclical offers a good occasion for Lutherans to think about love in relation to an important expression of its meaning. What should we learn from this encyclical? At what points, if any, might Lutherans differ with it? Those who write on the encyclical in this issue of Journal of Lutheran Ethics and the next respond differently to these questions.

[3] Paul Hinlicky discovers a number of Lutheran themes in the pope’s letter so that he can call it “a Lutheran Encyclical.”

[4] Mark Mattes, writing from a “Radical Lutheran” perspective, argues that the encyclical remains bound to traditional Roman Catholic categories and fails to give voice to the gospel.

[5] Kelly Denton-Borhaug offers a feminist critique of the encyclical for what she thinks is its glorification of monogamous heterosexual love.

[6] Anne Edison-Swift finds similarities in Benedict’s and Luther’s theologies of the Eucharist but laments that this does not result in shared communion.

[7] Deus Caritas Est is online at

John R. Stumme

Dr. John R. Stumme is a retired ELCA Pastor. When he wrote this piece, he was Professor of Systematic Theology at the Instituto Superior Evangélico de Estudios Teológicos in Buenos Aires and Vice-President of the Iglesia Evangélica Luterana Unida in Argentina. After ten years in Argentina, he worked for almost two decades with the ELCA's Church in Society unit as Associate Director and Director for its Department for Studies.