Journal of Lutheran Ethics: February/March 2020 Faith, Science, and Climate Change

Sept 2015 issue image 500.jpg


Editor's Introduction


Jennifer Hockenbery Dragseth, Editor
The calendar has rolled over into 2020, starting a new year and a new decade that many had hoped would be marked with clear 20/20 vision. But January 1st did not bring a sudden clearing of our eyes and of the air. Instead there has been marked political turmoil and fiery natural disasters. Our smart phones and televisions broadcast news of embattled politicians and nations and show pictures of koalas begging for water as their trees burn. In response, many people are wondering if all knowledge is politicized. We are wondering who to believe and asking the central question of ethics: What should I do?  Read more.



Justin Nickel x100.jpg


Heather Schmidtx100.jpg

The Ethics of Science/The Science of Ethics: Moving beyond the dichotomy towards a Lutheran approach by Thomas D. Pearson

"Over the past two centuries within the Western intellectual tradition, considerations of the relationship between science and ethics have moved in two distinct and largely opposite directions. This paper examines these two directions and poses ideas and questions in order to move Lutheran thinkers towards a new way of thinking about the intersection of science and ethics. On the one hand, accounts of moral sensibility and judgment in human communities are often examined from within the domain of scientific inquiry, most often within the discipline of evolutionary psychology and related fields. This way of explaining ethics as a natural phenomenon subject to scientific explanation is a relatively recent development in Western history. The treatment of ethics from this perspective tends to focus on the possible origins and subsequent emergence of moral impulses in human beings as the result of adaptive pressures arising within the environment. In this understanding, ethics is regarded as a category of scientific inquiry and is subject to various modes of scientific scrutiny that define and evaluate the role of ethics within human experience. In short, ethics has been “naturalized”; that is, how and why morality works the way it does can be fully explained by science." 

The Use of and Limits of Science in Making Ethical Decisions by Kristi Keller

"As Christians, we have the ethical responsibility to be good stewards of God’s creation and to advocate for care of creation in public decision making. In our technological and scientific society, creation care relies on using our best scientific knowledge to aid in this decision-making process. Technological advancements can bring benefits but also have side effects that could cause harm to the environment. For example, the use of advancements such as clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) to defeat illness may have unintended consequences. Technological advancements often promote economic activity, and this economic activity promotes the use of the new technology. This has always been the case for human beings as we create new technologies, but over the last one hundred years, certain advances (the use of carbon based fuels by cars, airplanes, factories for examples) have led to consequences for the climate."

by Eric Trozzo

"The mid-day skies darkened as an acrid-smelling cloud of haze rolled in over the city of Kota Kinabalu this past September. The haze is generated by the burning of rainforests in the region, particularly in Borneo and Sumatra. The burning is done primarily by farmers clearing the land for agricultural use, particularly planting oil palm trees. As highlighted by a recent CNN Special Report, these fires not only destroy the jungles and fill the air with pollution, they also destroy the underlying peatlands, which are the earth’s largest terrestrial carbon sink. Meanwhile, between August and October 2019 the Borneo fires alone released 626 megatons of carbon dioxide. These fires, then, not only deforest an ancient rainforest, they are also intimately linked to issues of global warming. Yet they are not global warming itself. They are a visible component of a complex system of land use, commercial interest, economic systems, and environmental issues, to name but a few elements. Together, the fires are a component of the larger phenomenon that goes under the name 'global warming.'"

 by Heather Lee Schmidt

"Sitting down on a cold winter afternoon with my dog vying for the larger portion of the couch at my side, I glance at the theme of this issue of the Journal of Lutheran Ethics: Faith, Science, and Climate Change. Being committed to the Christian contemplative practice of lectio divina, I am always listening-- listening for a word or a phrase that catches me and invites me to go deeper. God uses this invitation to build me and all things. I am most drawn, most compelled not by the words “Faith,” “Science,” or “Climate,” but by the words “and” and “Change.” Truth, as I hear it, as I see it, is that God is at work in all things! And is the operative word that I hear today. Faith builds a house. Science builds a house. My neighbor builds a house. The bird builds a house. The bee builds a house. The doctor builds a house, and so does the musician. And, and, and…God is the builder of all. Everything is included in the house of God, the builder of all things."



Book Review Introduction

Nancy Arnison, Book Review Editor

In this issue of the journal we highlight four books addressing animals and climate change.  Dr. Stephen Crocco, Director of the Library at Yale Divinity School, reviews David Clough’s large two-volume work, On Animals, which brings both systematic theology and theological ethics to bear on the ways Christian human animals live with non-human animals who are also groaning for redemption.  Clough focuses on the use of animals for human food, particularly the devastating impacts of factory farming on the environment, animals, and humans whose job it is to slaughter and process them.

Renowned visual artist and scholar Seitu Jones reviews Alexis Rockman: The Great Lakes Cycle which is the companion book to the art exhibit of Rockman’s suite of monumental paintings depicting the history and future of the Great Lakes – home to 20% of the earth’s fresh water. Rockman’s scientifically researched and aesthetically compelling images strike the viewer with visual immediacy – conveying the beauty and devastation of water ecosystems at risk.  Plants, animals, and human community interact in a fragile web that is threatened by climate change and fighting for its life.

Philanthropist, artist and community leader, Carolyn Roby reviews Photo Ark, Vanishing: The World’s Most Vulnerable Animals, portraits of endangered animals now cared for in human institutions. Nancy Arnison, theologian and international human rights lawyer contributes to the review of this informative, beautiful and disturbing book of photography.


Dear Churchx100.jpg

photo arkx100.jpg

On Animals by David Clough

Review by Stephen Crocco

David L. Clough is Professor of Theological Ethics at the University of Chester in the U. K. He is also the founder of the CreatureKind a faith-based project with a focus on farmed animal welfare. Clough’s first volume, On Animals: Systematic Theology, published in 2012, is surely the most significant theological account to date of the ways human beings are related to animals. (Or as Clough often puts it, the way human animals are related to non-human animals.) Volume two, On Animals: Theological Ethics, published in 2019, is a Christian ethical analysis growing out of the theology of the first volume. 

The Great Lakes Cycle by Dana Friis-Hansen, edited by Alexis Rockman

Review by Seitu Jones

Alexis Rockman: The Great Lakes Cycle is the title of a new body of work by artist Alexis Rockman exploring the story of the Great Lakes, an ecologically fragile environment of global significance and breathtaking beauty. As an artist, and forever student of art, I am in awe of the work created by Alexis Rockman, whose paintings match the scale and breadth of the Great Lakes. Rockman’s work, artistic process and values are described and chronicled in Dana Friis-Hansen’s book, Alexis Rockman: The Great Lakes Cycle, named after the exhibition that opened at the Grand Rapids Art Museum in 2018 and that has traveled to multiple cities since.  It is hard for me to review the book without referencing the actual artworks that give the book its context, so I’ll be going back and forth between describing the exhibition and the book that brings it to life for those who can’t see it in person.  

Photo Ark, Vanishing: The World’s Most Vulnerable Animals by Joel Sartore

Review by Carolyn Roby and Nancy Arnison

Sartore and National Geographic are in the 15th year of a 25 year project to travel around the world to create portraits of every animal species in human care today, species whose future is uncertain.  To date, Sartore has traveled to 40 countries and photographed more than 10,000 species. He shares nearly 300 of them in Photo Ark . Sartore has created stunning portraits of animals whose essence and, in some cases, personalities shine through.   Each photo is accompanied by a brief narrative about the animal, its habitat and its international IUCN classification (e.g., Critically Endangered, Endangered, Vulnerable).  The solid black or white background of each portrait creates a dramatic photo which not only compels the viewer to focus directly on the animal, but also serves as a subtle reminder that its habitat is disappearing.


Articles published in the journal reflect the perspectives and thoughts of their authors and not necessarily the theological, ethical, or social stances of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.​

© February/March 2020
​Journal of Lutheran Ethics
Volume 20, Issue 1



​ ​​