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A Case for Character

Towards a Lutheran Virtue Ethics

by Joel D. Biermann

Publication Year: 2014

Over the last several decades, perceptive observers of Western civilization have documented what virtually everyone has perceived: as the old foundations of society have toppled, morality and personal character have been set adrift and often vanished altogether. How can character be cultivated when it seems no one is willing or able to provide a definitive description of character to which humans should aspire?

Equipped with explicit texts and a rich heritage detailing the content of human character, it would seem that Christianity is ideally positioned to address this problem.

Yet even the church has often been complicit in undermining and eviscerating a rich, meaningful account of character.

While the reasons for this are many and complicated, one of the more potent singular factors is actually theological. Contemporary Lutheranism, in particular, has struggled with the appropriate place of morality and character formation, as these pursuits often have been perceived as at odds with the central Christian doctrine of justification.

A Case for Character explores this problem and argues that Christian doctrine, specifically as articulated within a Lutheran framework, is altogether capable of encouraging a robust pursuit of character formation while maintaining a faithful expression of justification by grace alone through faith alone.

Published by: Augsburg Fortress Publishers

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. 1-14

Following familiar paths, the liturgy has led the congregation on its weekly journey from invocation, through confession and absolution, prayer, Scripture, and hymns to the sermon. The pastor enters the pulpit with a sense of eagerness, ready to deliver a stirring and strong homily rich with solid doctrine, in tune with the season of the church and the world, scripturally accurate, and overflowing with magnificent gospel proclamation...

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1. Virtue Ethics and the Challenge of Hauerwas

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pp. 15-38

William Bennett touched a national nerve in 1993 when he published his bestseller, The Book of Virtues.1 Many Americans seemed to be longing for the sort of ethical foundation that Bennett endorsed. The idea that there are enduring virtues that deserve to be taught appealed to many who had grown weary of living in a climate of moral uncertainty rife with ethical ambiguities...

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2. Contemporary Lutheran Voices

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pp. 39-64

Since the days of Luther, Lutheranism has widely enjoyed a reputation for meticulous, insightful, and often influential theology. Roughly corresponding to this enviable reputation for astute and perhaps even profound theology is the antithetical assumption that the cultivation of great ethical thinkers is not to be expected from Lutheran soil...

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3. The Lutheran Confessions

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pp. 65-104

Lutheranism yet today continues to find itself struggling to locate Christian ethics meaningfully within its justification-centered theology. Already several centuries old, the struggle has evaded an entirely satisfactory resolution, as witnessed in the variety of efforts surveyed in the previous chapter. The reality and persistence of Lutheranism’s notorious quandary over ethics is readily admitted by Lutherans themselves...

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4. The Search for a Paradigm

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pp. 105-134

Five hundred years after the Reformation, Lutheranism faces an ethical challenge. Neither a peculiar moral conundrum that perplexes Lutheranism nor a particular denominational behavior or practice that invites charges of corporate immorality, this more fundamental challenge is simply that of finding a way to teach and encourage Christian ethics among its adherents. Unable to address the basic question of the place of ethics, the further concern of character formation is thus all but ignored...

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5. A Creedal Framework

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pp. 135-164

A directing premise of this brief study has been the desirability of being able to locate within Lutheran theology a place for the concerns, insights, and even practices of an ethics of virtue, thereby making possible the work of intentional character formation. The present chapter will endeavor to synthesize what has gone before and offer what fruit this investigation has to yield...

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6. An Ethic for the Church

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pp. 165-200

The death of character as eulogized by James Davison Hunter seems to be an altogether modern—or perhaps some would argue, postmodern—problem.1 In many ways, of course, it is. Economic, societal, academic, and psychological forces have collided if not conspired to create the normal nihilism and therapeutic culture that now define Western civilization.2 But the final passing of character after a long but precipitous decline has not provoked the shedding of tears or the founding of memorials...

Index of Subjects and Names

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pp. 201-204

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781451484342
E-ISBN-10: 1451484348
Print-ISBN-13: 9781451477917
Print-ISBN-10: 1451477910

Page Count: 192
Publication Year: 2014