In, With, and Under: The Lutheran Tradition and the Teaching of Christian Ethics


[1] The study of Christian ethics can be a contentious undertaking at church-related colleges, particularly if students come from diverse religious backgrounds. Does the professor instill students with the doctrines of the specific Christian tradition of the college, expose them to a variety of Christian traditions, include other religious and philosophical perspectives? What about those students who have no religious background or commitment? These questions about the teaching of ethics are indicative of the debate over the purposes of Christian higher education. Many critics are asking what Christian difference there is, if any, in church-related liberal arts colleges.[1]

[2] I suspect that for some a concern for a strong doctrinal purpose for Christian higher education is related to the belief that society needs a religious basis -- usually understood to be the "Judeo-Christian" tradition -- to thrive. That is, citizens need a common identity, history, and purpose, which is provided by a shared religion. There are those who claim, on the other hand, that a common religion -- Christian, civil or otherwise -- is not necessary for society to flourish.[2] Rather, a commitment to democratic process is what binds us together.

[3] I affirm this latter position, but I also agree with those who argue that this commitment includes acceptance of the "democratic ideals of freedom, equality, and mutual respect." (Thiemann, 173). In other words, there is a substantive basis (however minimal), as well as a processual one, to our unity. Beyond this, we seek to develop common ground, or what some call an overlapping consensus, out of our distinctive religious or secular traditions and perspectives in regard to a sense of the common good.  

[4] I hold that a primary purpose of  a college education, particularly at liberal arts colleges, is to educate for critical citizenship in a democratic society and our rapidly changing global community. A liberal arts education should help develop the skills for participating in the democratic process and contribute to the search for common ground.

[5] I recognize that for some students and their parents, a college degree is understood to be the key to financial success. Certainly, preparation for a career is an important function of a college education. Yet, if that is all we do, I believe that we have failed in our social and educational responsibilities. Students need to develop their moral, intellectual, and civic capabilities as well as prepare for a career. In an increasingly complex world, the capacity to practice critical citizenship is essential to one's own well-being and the betterment of the common good.[3]

[6] Church-related colleges, I believe, share in this responsibility. In addition to the scholarly disciplines, they bring the resources of Christian faith to this task. There is a synergy between the emphasis church-related colleges places on questions of religion and ethics (Bunge, p. 3) and the current concern within the discipline of religious studies to connect the knowledge and insight from religious traditions "to the real problems of society."  (Plaskow, p. 534)

[7] In this chapter, I will examine one particular Christian tradition, the Lutheran. I contend that this tradition -- particularly its dialectic of faith and reason -- has much to offer as an approach to education for critical citizenship. I draw on my experience at California Lutheran University to illustrate the tradition's role in the teaching of Christian ethics. I discuss the use of social statements of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) as a superb resource for this endeavor. (They depict one denomination's efforts to relate a religious tradition to social problems.) Although the historical study of Lutheran ethics is not at the center of my course, the Lutheran dialectical, confessional tradition is "in, with and under" the elements of the course.

The Lutheran Tradition and Higher Education

[8] In my judgment, the dialectic between faith and reason characteristic of the Lutheran tradition is a very useful approach for the task of education for critical citizenship.[4]  For Christian higher education, it offers a model that encourages both freedom of inquiry and church-relatedness. For secular higher education, it provides an approach to religious studies that takes faith seriously, along with critical inquiry. (I speak as one who taught religious studies for four years in a public university.) Although I am not Lutheran, I appreciate this tradition and its under girding of the university in which I teach.

[9] The mission statement of California Lutheran University (CLU) embraces this dialectic: "Rooted in the Lutheran tradition of Christian faith, the University encourages critical inquiry into matters of both faith and reason." The statement then identifies the mission of the University "is to educate leaders for a global society who are strong in character and judgment, confident in their identity and vocation, and committed to service and justice." These are characteristics not only of leaders, in my assessment, but also of critical citizenship. This institutional mission creates a meaningful context for teaching and learning.

[10] CLU, founded in 1959,  is the youngest of the colleges affiliated  with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). About 30% of its students are Lutheran, with about the same percentage Roman Catholic, and a small number of students from other Protestant denominations or other world religions. A significant number of students are what some call "unchurched," representatives of the secular southern California culture that often thinks Christian means fundamentalist. About one-fourth of our students are students of color (18% Latino is typical) or international. We also have a significant number of reentry students.

[11] As is fitting for a church-related college, CLU students are required to take two religion courses as part of their general education requirements. The first is REL 100: Introduction to Christianity. The second is an upper-level elective. Many students choose "Introduction to Christian Ethics," in part because the Schools of Business and Education encourage their majors to take this particular course. As these are large majors, many of the students will come from these schools. Few are religion majors or minors. This course is my primary teaching responsibility.

[12] Some might ask how one can have a dialogue between faith and reason with such a diversity of religious backgrounds and the strong secular representation? I perceive teaching Christian Ethics in this setting as an opportunity.  It is more characteristic of the religious diversity of the "real" world than in a college with a religiously homogeneous student population. At CLU, those students who come shaped by a religious tradition are able to bring their perspective into dialogue with others both inside and outside the classroom. Students' faith may be strengthened or transformed; in either case there is a maturing. In some cases, common ground is discovered with those from other, or no, traditions. In regard to ethics, some students come to realize that one can follow a personal ethic while having a wider latitude of behaviors for public policy, and that this is both reasonable and right. Altogether, students learn respect for others different from themselves and commitment to a common good.

[13] Although I would be hard pressed to claim that this approach is distinctively or uniquely Lutheran, I believe it certainly resonates with aspects of the Lutheran tradition.  Or as Darrell Jodock puts it, although the characteristics of a college related to the Lutheran tradition "are not themselves distinctive," their grounding is. (P. 15.) For instance, the characteristic of serving the community and educating its leaders is grounded in the Lutheran teaching of the "two kingdoms" or "two governances."  Again following Jodock, the first governance is rooted in the Gospel (God's mercy and forgiveness) and the goal is personal reconciliation. The second is exercised through social structures "to bring order and justice to the world." College education is focused primarily on this second form of governance. "Its purpose is to enable young men and women to discern what makes for justice and what preserves and enhances human dignity." (P. 18)

An Overview of a Christian Ethics Course

[14] An overview of specific aspects of my Christian ethics courses will explain and support my position that critical inquiry into matters of faith and reason is a useful approach to educate for critical citizenship. The purpose of our upper-level Introduction to Christian Ethics class, as stated in the catalogue, is "to examine and analyze Christian ethics today, its relationship to the Bible and Christian communities; and its thinking on such important personal and social issues" as human sexuality, bioethics, prejudice and oppression, ecology, economic life, war and peace. Students engage in oral debate and group presentations, prepare several case studies, and participate in a service learning project.[5]

[15] Through these and other activities, such as lecture and discussion, students critically reflect on their moral values and principles in light of Christian faith and various philosophical perspectives. Although I present the two aspects of ethics that Larry Rasmussen and Bruce Birch call the ethics of being and the ethics of doing, class assignments center on doing, especially decision-making. I believe, though, that asking students to take a stand on tough issues does help strengthen character.

[16] In my ethics classes I try to create communities of moral discourse, in which students develop their ability to reflect on a variety of ethical issues and to articulate a position in conversation with those who may hold different faith commitments and ethical positions. I try to make the classroom a safe space to discuss controversial issues and to hear different points of view. I do this in part by setting ground rules that I ask students to adopt so that if we disagree with someone's ideas, we do not  attack them personally. We give each other the benefit of the doubt, that we want our decisions to be moral. Also, I point out that the positions we may take in class, for the sake of argument, do not have serious consequences; we are not acting as legislators or a jury, for instance. Thus we should be willing to critically examine all positions.

[17] My Christian ethics class, although hopefully a safe space, is also a site of critical inquiry into matters of both faith and reason. This is due in part to the diversity of voices in the classroom.  (Exposure to a range of positions usually facilitates critical thinking as to the strengths and weaknesses of each.) To a small extent, the diversity of contemporary American society is represented in the class. This, along with the fact that students often do not know each other,  makes the classroom similar to a "public square." Students tell me that they have not participated in such in depth discussions of the issues we cover with people of such diverse views. I trust that students who participate in this community of moral discourse for a semester will be both motivated and better equipped to participate in such communities, including public ones, after they leave college.

[18] Not all church-related colleges would embrace such freedom of inquiry into matters of faith as well as reason. Such a stance, though, is particularly appropriate for a Lutheran college. "There are no issues, or authors, or viewpoints we may not think about, write about, struggle with, care for," Tom Christenson contends in his discussion of Lutheran epistemology in this volume. For him, this is a corollary of God's redemptive gift of grace, which is at the heart of Lutheran theology. Certainly this spirit of free inquiry informs my class.

[19] Yet, at the same time, it is evident that persuasion plays a role in my teaching. I want students to practice critical citizenship and participate in communities of moral discourse. Is there a contradiction between free inquiry and persuasion? Gerald McDermott has persuaded me there does not need to be. As he stated during the academy, "dialectical persuasion is not indoctrination," particularly when pursued with "fairness, balance, and restraint."

[20] I try to persuade students of the rightness of an understanding of the Christian moral vision as neighbor love, interpreted as a commitment to peace and justice, and solidarity with the poor and oppressed.  These principles are central to my own understanding of Christian discipleship. Yet, I recognize that there may be legitimate differences of opinion as to what constitutes love or justice in a specific situation. Although we may agree that our faith calls for love and justice, in using reason to discern what is just or loving we may differ as to specific positions and strategies. This discernment is really what ethics -- particularly the ethics of doing -- is all about.

[21] We engage in ethical reflection from the first day of class, usually with the Bomb Shelter simulation. In this activity, students work in small groups to select twelve people (all the shelter can hold) from a list of twenty to be sheltered during a terrorist nuclear attack on our area. Little is known of these people, other than their sex, age, occupation, and in some cases the race/ethnicity and/or religion and family status. They have agreed to accept the decision of the groups, who are themselves in a safe location and acting in an official capacity. The groups have twenty minutes to choose how to make their decision and to complete the activity. They are asked to track the reasons for their choices and the emotions they feel. Although this activity can be emotionally difficult, I like to use it as a quick and certain way into the heart of what moral dilemmas are about.

[22] Many issues and feelings surface during the activity, including the question of whether we ever have the right to make decisions about who is to live or die. Is that "playing God?" If we do make such decisions, how should we proceed? This activity becomes the basis for an introduction to the elements of an ethical decision, beginning with the distinction between deontological (rule-binding) and teleological (goal-oriented) ethics. All students hold to the rule that one does not take innocent life. But are there situations in which one makes an exception to this rule to achieve a worthy goal? Is it better to save twelve lives than to lose twenty? Why, or why not?

[23] These questions relate to the evaluative element of an ethical decision: What ought to be done in this case? Questions about whom to include and on what basis -- potential fertility, keeping a family together, ethnic or religious diversity -- help clarify values and goals. Questions such as "Can the shelter really only support twelve people? If so, what will happen when the pregnant woman gives birth?"  or "Can a diabetic survive without insulin?" relate to the empirical element of an ethical decision: What is the case?  This involves examining the relevant facts, concepts and theories, drawing on the social and natural sciences. (Stivers, 1-12)

[24] Deepening our understanding of the evaluative element is a primary focus of the course as we explore the moral traditions we draw on in deciding what ought to be done. How do we use scripture in doing ethics? What are the alternatives in Christian ethics, philosophical ethics?  Are Christian and philosophical perspectives compatible? What should be the relationship between the church and politics? Although these questions are discussed separately at first, all are brought together in assignments, such as case studies. But first, a brief sketch of these elements is necessary.

[25] The discussion of scripture and ethics focuses on issues of interpretation and authority. This directly raises the dynamic of faith and reason. How do we use reason to interpret and appropriate scripture? What authority should scripture have in our ethical decision making? We read about both fundamentalist and liberal approaches, often using issues around sexuality as an illustration of the differences. But it is also important to remind students, regardless of these differences, of the crucial role of scripture - sola scriptura - for Martin Luther and the Reformation and thus most Protestant denominations. This discussion of scripture and ethics leads into a presentation of various theological ethical approaches -- Roman Catholic, Lutheran, evangelical, theocentric, liberationist -- as well as philosophical approaches -- humanism, egoism, utilitarianism, behaviorism -- and the relationship between these. (Crook.)

[26] In keeping with my goal of helping prepare students for critical citizenship, I argue that it is important to ground one's moral positions both religiously and philosophically. Such grounding means one's arguments may appeal to a wider public, which is crucial in a religiously pluralist society such as ours. I use Martin Luther King's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" as an excellent model of this approach. King grounds his practice of civil disobedience both religiously and philosophically by making distinctions between God's law (religious) or the moral law (philosophical) and human law.

[27] The last typology I find useful in developing a framework for doing Christian ethics is how churches relate to social issues -- or religion and politics. For this, I use Robert Benne's article, "Hot and Cool Connections." Benne identifies four approaches that specifies positions in terms of whether they are direct or indirect, intentional or unintentional. The first two approaches are both indirect. The first is the "ethics of character," the shaping of the "deepest inward orientation of persons" through preaching, teaching, worship and discipline. This approach is indirect and unintentional in relating the church to political life.  Secondly, the "ethics of conscience" is also indirect, but intentional in connecting the teachings of the church to politics by activating the conscience of the laity.

[28] His third and fourth approaches are direct. The third approach is "the church as corporate conscience," in which the church acts directly to affect political life, through Papal encyclicals, bishops' letters, and church social statements. Finally, there is the church with power, in which the church moves from persuasion to "more coercive" actions through its use of its institutional power to affect public policy. Although we reflect on each of these, we make extensive use of his third approach -- the church as "corporate conscience."

The Use of ELCA Social Statements

[29] Elizabeth Bettenhausen has described Luther's use of reason to discern justice for his time as a model for how we might do the same. In my judgment, this is what ELCA social statements seek to do. These statements are a significant aspect of our course readings and assignments. I use these social statements to honor our university's connection to the ELCA, for their value as models of ethical reflection, and to contribute to ecumenical awareness of the students. Since usually the majority of the students in the class are not Lutheran, I explain that these documents are useful case studies in how one church thinks about social issues. (I also encourage students to explore the positions of other churches, either through reference books in our library or links on our course web page.)

[30] As not even most Lutheran students are familiar with these social statements, a description of the process the ELCA uses in preparing these documents is useful. Once the Churchwide Assembly authorizes the preparation of a social statement, a task force is formed, which includes clergy and laity. As the ELCA is a college-related church, the committee may include faculty with expertise on the particular topic under study. In some cases, a detailed study is made available for church-wide use prior to the drafting of a social statement. Groups who participate in the study are invited to share their insights and concerns with the committee. (Students are interested to learn that several of the Lutheran students in one of my classes participated in this process by responding to the study on economic life when I used it as one of our texts.) Once a draft social statement is prepared, it is circulated church-wide for comments. A revised draft is circulated before the Division for Church and Society, the Church Council, and then the Churchwide Assembly (made up of elected lay and clergy delegates) votes on the social statement. A two-thirds majority is required for adoption of a social statement. 

[31] This review also presents an opportunity to compare and contrast this approach with that of  other churches -- a papal encyclical, for example, or a congregational polity. When we use the statements, we look at the use of scripture, theological claims, social analysis, moral principles, and proposed actions. Each statement reminds us of Luther's conviction that we are justified by grace through faith, that our engagement in ethical action is our response to God's grace.

[32] To illustrate the usefulness of these documents as resources for critical inquiry into matters of faith and reason as well as education for citizenship, I will describe three units in the course: 1) Human Sexuality and Marriage, 2) Economic Life, and 3) War and Peace. I usually begin with the unit on sexuality and marriage, as it is the one of most interest to students. It also raises important issues in regard to both empirical and evaluative elements of decision-making. What difference, if any, does what the social sciences have to say about sexuality make to a Christian ethic? Are the teachings of scripture on sexuality culturally bound?

[33] As part of our exploration of this topic, we read the ELCA Message on Sexuality. (Messages come from the Church Council and do not have the same authority as a social statement.)  I explain about the failed attempts to develop a social statement on this topic, which I attribute primarily to differences over interpretation of scripture and the use of empirical evidence. Our prior examination of conservative and liberal approaches to scripture comes alive as we discuss marriage and divorce, or homosexuality. Are more liberal churches accommodating to contemporary culture? Or are they correcting a sex negative dynamic some theologians think colored the Christian ethic historically? Should one's personal or ecclesial ethic become public policy?

[34] In the unit on economic life, we draw on the ELCA study on economic life, as well as other materials, to present facts and theories. Students are generally much less informed about economic reality -- including the interstructuring of racism, sexism, and classism --  than they are about the sexual state of the nation. Nor are they as familiar with what the scriptures say about wealth and poverty as they are with what it says about sexuality.  Students read the parables of the vineyard (Mt. 20:1-16) and the talents (Mt. 25:14-30) or the stories of the rich ruler (Lk. 18:18-30) and Zacchaeus (Lk. 19:1-10) in small groups and discuss the passages in relation to each other. These passages were chosen to illustrate different perspectives, at least on the surface, and thus to challenge students to think more deeply.

[35] Students are introduced to the principle of "sufficient, sustainable livelihood for all" through reading "A Social Statement on Economic Life."  They then use this principle to examine relevant issues. A recent case study was on sweatshops, using videos, readings, and a field trip. We concluded with a simulation of a Disney stockholders meeting, which considered an anti-sweatshop resolution.  Groups of students represented sweatshop workers in Haiti who made Disney clothing, the anti-sweatshop National Labor Committee/People of Faith Network, and  Disney management and Board of Directors.  They worked to find common ground between enlightened self-interest on the part of stockholders and managers and the concern for human rights and "sufficient, sustainable livelihood for all" of workers and activists.

[36] The unit on war and peace directly engages the issue of the relation of religion and the state. We begin with an examination of historic Christian approaches: crusade, just war, pacifism, and liberation theology. One of our readings is the ELCA Social Statement "For Peace in God's World." Of particular relevance is its warning to citizens as "to how we in the United States perceive our national interest and interpret our national identity, since what states do depends in large measure on their views of their own interests and identity." It cautions that "Sin's power often makes itself felt in arrogant and self-righteous views of national identity, and in narrow, short-term, and absolute views of national interest."

[37] My most effective case study on this issue has been the School of the Americas. We begin by viewing the film "Romero," which tells the story of Bishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador and his assassination while celebrating the Eucharist. We then find out more about the School of the Americans from both its critics and its sponsor, the US Army. We learn that Bishop Oscar Romero and many others in Central America were murdered by soldiers trained at the School of the Americas. Students form groups to research and represent particular positions, e.g., relatives of the disappeared and assassinated, human rights and religious groups, the US Army and SOA officials, and current Central American political and business leaders - in a mock Congressional hearing on a bill to close the SOA. 

[38] The groups raise many significant questions during the hearing. Is the School responsible for the actions of its students? Should people of conscience support such a program? What is in the interest of our national security? Who decides? It was more difficult in this case to find common ground between the school and its critics, although some students tried. The majority supported closing the school. This case, perhaps more than any others, truly requires the exercise of critical citizenship to ascertain what is in our national interest.

[39] In this article, I have attempted to demonstrate that critical inquiry into matters of faith and reason is a useful approach in education for critical citizenship. I have illustrated this approach through an overview of my Christian Ethics course and its use of ELCA social statements. I hopefully have born out my claim that while historical study of the Lutheran tradition may not be the focus of my Christian Ethics course, the Lutheran dialectical, confessional tradition is intertwined "in, with and under" the elements of the course -- engaging, freeing and transforming.

[40] For instance, we seldom talk directly about vocation after introducing it as an important concept of Lutheran theology. Yet it continues as a theme. "The use of reason for the discerning of justice," Elizabeth Bettenhausen claims, "is effected primarily in the social activity of vocation in the various structures of society." (177)   Students think about vocation in this course in many ways, including how they might act as a citizen, a consumer, a business person or professional, a member of a faith community or non governmental organization, to practice their ethics.  

[41] Students are also challenged to question their ethics. For instance, many strongly support the death penalty. Should they maintain this position in light of Lutheran (and Catholic) statements against the death penalty? It is in such matters where one's predisposition is challenged by the teachings of one's faith community that the confessional aspect of the tradition emerges most clearly. What does it mean to confess faith in God as creator, redeemer, and sustainer and to think about the death penalty? Or human rights? Or sexuality? Or the poor and oppressed?

[42] One can be against the death penalty or support human rights or be in solidarity with the poor and oppressed, I believe, on philosophical humanist grounds. I see, though, that for many students it is their faith that nudges them towards these positions. It is a response to God's call to love of neighbor, no matter how different the neighbor may be.[6]

This article was prepared during my participation in the first class of the Lutheran Academy of Scholars (1999). I would like to thank the other participants in the academy for their very helpful comments on earlier drafts of this chapter, and also A. Joseph Everson from California Lutheran University, and Marilyn Legge from Emmanuel College, University of Toronto.

Works Cited

Benne, Robert, "The Church and Politics: Hot and Cool Connections," reprinted in Moral Issues and Christian Response, Sixth Edition, eds. Paul Jersild, Dale Johnson, Patricia Beattie Jung, Shannon Jung, Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1998.

Bettenhausen, Elizabeth, "The Concept of Justice and a Feminist Lutheran Ethic,"
The Annual, Society of Christian Ethics (1986) pp. 163-83.

Birch, Bruce and Larry Rasmussen, The Bible and Ethics in Christian Life (Revised Edition), Augsburg Fortress Press, 1989.

Bunge, Marcia, "Introduction to Valparaiso University in the Context of Lutheran Higher Education," The Lutheran Reader, eds. Paul Contino and David Morgan, Valparaiso University, 1999.

Crook, Roger H, Introduction to Christian Ethics (Third Edition), Upper Saddle River, NJ:
Prentice Hall, 1999.

Edwards, Mark U., Jr., "Christian Colleges: A dying light or a new refraction?" The Christian Century (April 21-28, 1999), pp. 459-463.

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Messages and Social Statements, available online at

Hughes, Richard T. and William B. Adrian,ed. Models for Christian Higher Education: Strategies for Success in the Twenty-First Century, Grand Rapids, MI: Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997.

Jodock, Darrell, "The Lutheran Tradition and the Liberal Arts College," Called to Serve: St. Olaf and the Vocation of a Church College, ed. Pamela Schwandt, St. Olaf College, 1999.

Letters: "What Christian difference?" The Christian Century (June 16-23, 1999), pp. 657-660.

Plaskow, Judith, "The Academy as Real Life: New Participants and Paradigms in the Study of Religion," 1998 AAR Presidential Address, Journal of the American Academy of Religion (September 1999), 521-538.

Stivers, Robert, et al, Christian Ethics: A Case Method Approach (Second Edition), Orbis Books, 1994.

Thiemann, Ronald F., Religion in Public Life: A Dilemma for Democracy, (A Twentieth Century Fund Book) Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 1996.

This article was also published in the Summer 2003 volume of "Intersections" which is published by: The Division for Higher Education & Schools of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Published at Capital University , Columbus, Ohio.

[1]  A succinct review of this literature is in Edwards and "Letters."

[2]  There are also constitutional issues at stake in this debate, particularly the antiestablishment clause of the First Amendment. For an insightful analysis of this issue, see Thiemann.

[3]  I believe that education for critical citizenship should also take place in secondary, and even elementary, education but realize this -- particularly the critical aspect -- is difficult, due in part to political factors. However, the maturity level of college students enables an in-depth approach not usually possible at earlier ages. There is a need for informal education for critical citizenship for those who are not able to or do not go to college, perhaps through community-based programs, religious groups, or labor unions.

[4]  See the discussion of models of Christian higher education in Hughes and Adrian. Hughes specifically discusses this Lutheran dialectic on pp. 6-7. Richard Solberg&=javascript:goNote(39s chapter (pp. 71-81) provides a more detailed discussion of "What Can the Lutheran Tradition Contribute to Christian Higher Education?" Mark Granquist discusses "Religious Vision and Academic Quest at St. Olaf College" (pp. 82-96) and Byron Swanson and Margaret Barth Wold present a historical overview of "Faith and Learning at California Lutheran University" (pp. 97-122). In this paper I am endorsing a Lutheran model of higher education, yet I acknowledge a place for other models, including Anabaptist, the tradition from which I come.

[5]  I continue to question whether to require service learning (community service) as a component of the course. I usually require 8-10 hours over the course of a semester, concluding with a reflection paper in which the student relates the experience to themes from the course. But I am uncomfortable requiring students to do what is essentially volunteer activity. This was a hot topic at "The Vocation of a Lutheran College" conference in August, 2000. Paul Hendrickson, campus pastor at Roanoke College, and Ruth Henrichs, president of Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska, eloquently advocated for colleges to require community service. Some participants at the conference thought this violated Lutheran notions of grace and freedom. For myself, I will likely continue to require it as most students report they find the activity valuable and probably would not have done it if it were not required.

[6]  In a paper he prepared during the Academy, Mark Mattes states that although faith may be able to accommodate a number of worldviews, "the standard of testing a worldview for Lutherans ... ought to be whether or not a given worldview is compatible with the cruciform existence of Christian discipleship, one which seeks to honor God above all things and seeks the neighbor&=javascript:goNote(39s and the earth's well-being." I endorse this as a useful test for ethical positions.



© September 2003
Journal of Lutheran Ethics
Volume 3, Issue 9