Historical Presentation: Dr. Rast

President Rast spoke at “Take Heart, Take Action,” a theological conference hosted by the Michigan District. His session was on “Missouri in Mission,” which included a lot of historical stories about the Missouri Synod during the 1800s. In Dr. Rast’s words:

“There was an intentionality about the Missouri Synod and being doctrinally faithful and missional. Not one or the other. Doctrinally faithful and missional together. Because what good does it do you if you have all the pure doctrine in the world and you never tell anybody? Pure doctrine is what? Christ Jesus and proclamation of Him. And if you don’t know that doctrine, what are you going to tell people? You’ve gotta know something to tell people about Jesus.”

You can watch the video by CLICKING HERE. It starts at 2 hours, 30 minutes, and 7 seconds. Please note that the audio and the video are incorrectly synced for most of his lecture (which lasts for about an hour in all), but it’s worth keeping at least half an eye on the video for his use of visuals.

Commemoration: Polycarp of Smyrna

During the prayers in daily chapel this morning, we remembered Polycarp of Smyrna, a pastor martyred during one of the Roman persecutions. Born in 69 AD (about 30 or 40 years after Jesus was crucified), Polycarp was a disciple of John, and at the time of his death was likely the last surviving person who’d personally known one of the apostles. As such he served as a link between the first eyewitnesses to Christ’s resurrection and the generations that followed, and was a major leader in the early Church.

On February 23, 156 AD, Polycarp was executed for a most heinous crime in the Roman Empire: atheism. Because Christians refused to worship or offer sacrifices to the Roman pantheon of gods (which included the emperor), their belief in one God classified them as atheists, subject to torture and death in the arena. While publicly charging Polycarp with this crime, the Pro-Consul tried to persuade the 86-year-old pastor to renounce his faith multiple times, at last demanding that he first swear by Caesar’s name then renounce Christianity with a cry of, “Away with the atheists!” Polycarp immediately turned to the pagan crowd screaming for his death, and said of them, “Away with the atheists.”

Polycarp also serves as good evidence that the early Church practiced infant baptism. During his trial, when the Pro-Consul again pressed the pastor to revile Christ, Polycarp answered, “Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me any injury. How then can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?”

You can read an eyewitness narrative of his death by googling “The Martyrdom of Polycarp,” a letter from the Church of Smyrna to the Church at Philomelion in Phrygia, written to inform them of his death. It is the earliest account of Christian martyrdom recorded outside of the New Testament.

Photo of stained glass image of Polykarp von Smyrna courtesy Wikimedia, uploaded by the user GFreihalter.

STM Defense: Eichers & Oliphant

Last week, two of our students defended their Master of Sacred Theology (S.T.M.) theses. The S.T.M. is an academic degree (versus the Master of Divinity awarded to our pastoral students, which is a professional degree that focuses on theological and practical skills for the ministry), which provides an opportunity to dig deeper into the Scriptures and opens the door for future academic programs and study. Approval of the thesis, which typically run 100 to 150 pages long, is the final step before students in the S.T.M. program are awarded with their masters.

The two students were Jacob Eichers, defending his thesis “Return of the King” (a study of Isaiah 59), and Rev. Anthony Oliphant, defending “In Your Light Do We See Light” (on the clarity of Scripture). Eichers immediately went onto the S.T.M. degree after receiving his M.Div. in 2017, and is currently a graduate assistant in Pastoral Ministry and Missions. Rev. Oliphant has been with us in varying programs since his sophomore year of high school as an attendee of Christ Academy, earned his M.Div. in 2010 and currently serves as pastor at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Elmhurst, Illinois.

Pictured here is Rev. Oliphant, answering questions from the director of the S.T.M. program, Dr. Masaki, and other faculty members. In defense of his thesis, he discussed the challenges of postmodern hermeneutics, the idea that the Bible should be interpreted by taking the biases of the human author into account rather than standing on the infallibility of Divine authorship, and how Lutherans can and should respond.

Rosa Young Scholarship

In 1961, a remarkable woman by the name of Dr. Rosa Young received an honorary doctorate from Concordia Theological Seminary (still located in Springfield, IL at the time) in recognition of her service.

God had first brought together the African American schoolteacher and the Lutheran Church in January of 1916, at a special meeting of the LCMS Mission Board. Just over a hundred years later, CTSFW would officially partner with the LCMS Foundation in August of 2016 to fund and promote the Dr. Rosa J. Young Scholarship endowment.

Through the Rosa Young Scholarship, we hope to continue her legacy, particularly by encouraging men and women in the African American community to pursue training in church work. If you would like to join in the effort to support future faithful servants of Christ, visit www.ctsfw.edu/support, email [email protected] or call 877.287.4338.
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Only a single generation removed from slavery, Rosa Young was a teacher in the early 1900s, serving central, rural Alabama. Desperate for the funds to continue her school, she applied to many organizations and individuals. Finally, Dr. Booker T. Washington wrote her a letter, suggesting she contact the LCMS as they were doing more for African Americans than any other denomination he knew.
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Their partnership in 1916 led to the establishment of 30 schools, 35 congregations and a college. Here in her own words, Dr. Young explains why she first wanted to build a school and how that desire shown a light in the darkness:

“Though the teaching of the Bible and of the Six Chief Parts of the Christian religion was neglected, I cannot say that this was one of my reasons for wanting to build a school for my race, for in this respect I was in the dark myself. Sad! Sad! We were all blind and leaders of the blind. We did not know the Bible, neither did the preachers know it. We did not know what we must do to be saved, neither did the preachers. They were preaching false doctrine, and we did not know it. We did not know that Jesus has done all that is necessary for our salvation, and the preachers did not know it. We did not know what Jesus, the Savior, meant to us. We did not know that we were sinners. We wanted to go to heaven; but we did not know the way, and the preachers did not know it. We were trying to work our way to heaven, and the preachers were doing the same. We were not following our Bibles, neither were the preachers…

“The Lord, our Savior, who loved us saw all this and had compassion on us. He saw that the sad plight of our immortal souls was far worse than our physical condition. The Lord looked down from heaven upon us. He saw this hellward-leading teaching, this man-made doctrine of salvation by works. He saw darkness had covered our land. Our eyes were blind to the knowledge contained in His blessed Gospel. The Lord saw that we were all on the wrong road, regardless of how well we meant, and could never reach heaven that way.

“God saw that I was concerned, that I was worried, about many things pertaining to the temporal welfare of my people. God saw my eager desires and longings to do something for Him and my race. I did not have the least of what was to be done. I could not preach, for women are not allowed to preach. But the Lord instilled in me the thought of building a school, gave me strength to begin this work, and sustained me.

“At that time I knew nothing about the Lutheran Church and its pure Gospel preaching; but God knew all about it and was pleased with it. God was going to use my school as an instrument to put the true Church in this dark land.”

The above is quoted from her autobiography “Light in the Dark Belt.” To learn more about her work and the generations that she has touched since then, read an additional CTSFW article by CLICKING HERE.

MDiv Conferred to Rev. Adjei

President Rast conferred the degree of Master of Divinity on Rev. Matthew Adjei, as he will complete his studies at the end of Winter Quarter, coming up next Friday.

“Today is an important occasion in the life of this seminary, in the life of our sister church, the Lutheran Church in Ghana, and especially in the life of our dear brother in Christ, the Rev. Matthew Adjei,” Dr. Gieschen, academic dean, announced at the end of chapel this morning. “On behalf of this seminary, I extend our sincere and profound thanks to the individuals and congregations who have supported Rev. Adjei during his studies here, including Bishop Paul Fynn of the Lutheran Church of Ghana.”

What a joyful event to witness! We thank God for Rev. Adjei and all who support him. If you would like to watch the degree conferral, you can view it at the end of today’s chapel service.

CTSFW Partnership With Supporters Pays Tuition in Full for Pastoral and Diakonal Programs

A central goal of Concordia Theological Seminary (CTSFW), Fort Wayne’s strategic plan has been 100% tuition coverage for our students. The Seminary is privileged to announce that years of targeted work have borne fruit: beginning with the 2018-19 academic year, tuition for all incoming, residential pastoral ministry and deaconess students will be paid in full.

“In 2013, with the help of a grant from the Lilly Foundation, we did an exhaustive study of student debt that drove us to establish 100% tuition support as one of the goals of our strategic plan,” said the Rev. Dr. Lawrence R. Rast, Jr., president of CTSFW. “Where there is a plan, God provides. On October 31, 2017, the Board of Regents of CTSFW approved full tuition support for the class entering the Seminary in 2018. I was delighted to share this publicly at the North Dakota District convention in late January.”

By partnering with districts, congregations and individuals in the Church, CTSFW is able to offer a grant that will provide 100% tuition cost for first-year, incoming students. The Seminary acts as both first and third payer in this relationship, first providing aid that covers 77.5% of tuition, after which outside aid is applied. Once LCMS District aid and all outside scholarships have been added, the Seminary then covers any remaining tuition cost through this new grant.

“Make no mistake: this isn’t free tuition,” Rast explained. “This is God’s people, the Church, providing for the tuition of our future pastors and deaconesses through their bountiful gifts to CTSFW. We are thankful to our faculty and staff who have developed this plan, our Board of Regents for approving it, and the people of God who have been so generous with CTSFW for their financial support in making this a reality. Most of all we are thankful to our gracious God who provides us with the gifts necessary to provide pastors, deaconesses and lay leaders in His church. To Him alone be the glory!”

If you would like to join in the effort to support future faithful servants of Christ, visit www.ctsfw.edu/support, email [email protected] or call 877.287.4338.

Tanzania Pastoral Training Program

Bishop Emmanuel Joseph Makala and a delegation from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania (ELCT) met with the LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) yesterday.

The bishop signed a copy of his book for President Rast, Chair of the CTCR. Bishop Makala is a long-time friend of the Seminary, having requested CTSFW’s help in developing the Tanzania pastoral training program. We have been partnered with them in that endeavor since 2013, which you can read about by CLICKING HERE.

CTSFW Campus History

The silhouette from the cover of this booklet reprinted from “Progressive Architecture” (December 1958) is a familiar one. The assistant archivist from the Michigan District LCMS Archive at Concordia University in Ann Arbor emailed this to us yesterday, having discovered it while sorting through materials in their archives.

The 191 acres on which we’re built was originally a reservation deeded to Pe-chewa, a Miami Indian chief who later became a Christian. The Charles Kramer family purchased and homesteaded the land in the early 1900s, before it changed hands again, this time to the Synod. Construction from 1954 – 1957 transformed the Kramer farm into a preministerial college, which makes this booklet only slightly younger than the campus itself. It was published about fifteen years before the LCMS voted (in 1975) to combine the Senior College here with the Junior College in Ann Arbor, allowing our Seminary to move from the aging campus in Springfield, Illinois, to this much newer one in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

In short: here we still stand. For 43 years we have done no other.

Commemoration: Jacob (Israel), Patriarch

“Isaac Blesses Jacob,” illustration from the 1728 Figures de la Bible; illustrated by Gerard Hoet (1648-1733) and others, published by P. de Hondt in “The Hague.”

The third patriarch of the Hebrews, Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, was the younger of the twin sons of Isaac and Rebecca. The major highlights of his youth and early adulthood turn on the fact that he was exactly what his name suggested: a cheater (Jacob literally means “he takes by the heel,” which was an idiom of the time for “he cheats”).

He cheated his brother out of his birthright and deceived his father into giving him the elder son’s blessing using his wits and his mother’s help. His uncle later tricked him into marrying both his daughters, and Jacob’s favoritism for his wife Rachel and her sons plagued his family life, stirring up strife within his household. Jacob spent much of his adult life grieving over Rachel’s passing and the presumed death of his beloved son Joseph, who was secretly sold into slavery by his jealous brothers (the sons of Rachel’s sister).

Yet God dealt kindly with him. Renamed Israel (meaning “he strives with God”), he was a deceiver, a liar, and a cheat, but he was also richly blessed according to God’s gracious will and mercy.

Through him we too, cheaters and liars and murders alike, are blessed. The long foretold Messiah came to His people through Judah, Israel’s fourth son. Thus Jesus Christ fulfilled the law for all sinners, and through Him we are counted among the saints.

“Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— just as Abraham ‘believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness’?
“Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham.”
~Galatians 3:5-7

The Presentation of Our Lord

Today marks the Purification of Mary and the Presentation of our Lord, as laid out in Luke 2:22-40:
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And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,
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“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation
that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”
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And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”
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And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.
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And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.

This picture shows a very familiar canticle in the Lutheran Service Book, the Nunc Dimittis, alongside a screen capture of “Simeon’s Song of Praise,” painted in 1631 by Rembrandt.