Academic journal article Theological Studies

A Case for Character: Towards a Lutheran Virtue Ethics

Academic journal article Theological Studies

A Case for Character: Towards a Lutheran Virtue Ethics

Article excerpt

A Case for Character: Towards a Lutheran Virtue Ethics. By Joel D. Biermann. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2014. Pp. vii + 204. $29.

Biermann perceives an urgent need for Christian churches to provide preaching that shapes character and teaches morality (5), but he finds many fellow Lutherans unwilling to take up that challenge because they misunderstand character formation as a form of works righteousness, or they focus on the importance of preaching justification by faith alone to the exclusion of other legitimate priorities. B.'s well-written book presents a strong case for the importance and theological legitimacy of character formation as a task for churches today.

The book's most significant contribution is its third chapter where B. offers considerable evidence from key 16th-century texts (the Augsburg Confession, the Large and Small Catechisms, among others) that Luther and Melanchthon both saw character formation and pursuit of a moral life to be important tasks for the church and all individual Christians, arguing that the law served a purpose broader than simply exposing human sinfulness and our need for God's mercy: the law could also give shape and content to the life of discipleship to which those justified by grace are called. …

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