A Jagged Contention: Character Formation


“…Suggesting a place for morality and character formation within the church does not necessitate a corresponding loss of the gospel in the church’s preaching and teaching…Justification by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone remains the church’s central doctrine and raison d’etre.  It is not, however, the only thing that the church can do or is called to do.

“While those who occupy the pews and listen to sermons may have grown to expect the concerns and challenges of their mundane existences to be all but ignored by preachers intent on doing one thing and assiduously avoiding anything that might compromise that one thing, they are nevertheless being ill served.  Faced with the relentless barrage of life’s trials and woes, people certainly need the undiluted balm of the gospel’s comfort and assurance.  Yet, faced with those same trials and woes, people certainly also need the challenging and directing standard of bona fide Christian ethics.  People need practical answers to their utterly practical concerns.  This is the province of Christian ethics.  Rightly understood, Christian ethics is not so much concerned with end-of-life questions or societal justice as it is with simply teaching what it means to live the Christian life.”

-Joel D. Biermann, A Case for Character: Towards a Lutheran Virtue Ethics (6-7)


What do you make of Dr. Biermann’s analysis?  Is he right to say that the church is to be about more than just preaching justification by grace alone?  Does such preaching tend to avoid real, practical issues?  Should preaching have character development as a goal?  If you agree with Biermann’s analysis, explain how you see character formation taking place within the church?  If you disagree that the church should concern itself with character development, where should such a worthy endeavor take place?

Share your thoughts in the comments below