Convocation: Bringing the Reformation to South Sudan

For the 501st Anniversary of the Reformation, the Rev. Peter Anibati, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in South Sudan/Sudan (ELCSS/S), spoke during today’s convocation hour on “Bringing the Reformation to South Sudan: Pastoring through Civil War, Famine, and Spirit Worship.” Bishop Peter is here at invitation of the Lutheran Heritage Foundation (LHF), who have been instrumental in the support of the ELCSS/S.

The 150,000 members of the ELCSS/S are scattered across five countries, refugees of the civil and tribal wars that plague South Sudan. The church body came into existence in 1993 (they will be celebrating their 25th anniversary on December 2), in the midst of the Second Sudanese Civil War between the Muslims of the North and the Christians in the South (fighting back against forced Islamification). Though South Sudan has since been granted independence, their politicians still fight, killing each other – and the people of South Sudan – over power.

The South Sudanese are dominated by constant fear, hunger, and poverty. Millions have died in the decades of armed conflict. They have no access to basic services like shelter, food, clean water and sanitation, health care, and education. More than 80% of the population is illiterate. The fighting has driven the people from their homes, their ranches, their farms; Bishop Peter spoke of watching little children climb trees in order to eat the leaves. South Sudan has two planting seasons but there’s no point in sowing what no one will be around to harvest. “It’s all gunshots and killing,” Bishop Peter explained.

The impact of warfare is profound. The ELCSS/S’s 150,000 members across 200 congregations are served by 66 ordained pastors, none of whom work for a salary. They are, in many ways, volunteers. Traveling by foot or on bicycles (save for those lucky few who own a motorbike), these pastors visit congregations only once every two to three months, at which time the congregation is finally able to receive the Lord’s Supper and baptize and confirm new members. Between pastoral visits, congregations are served by trained laypeople called evangelists.

These 66 ordained men visit congregations across South Sudan and in Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, and UN protected refugee sites. While on the road they always wear collar and cross, so that the people know they are neither a rebel nor a politician but instead recognize them as men of God. Some have been killed anyways. The people may know who these men are but, as Bishop Peter explained, “The bullet doesn’t know anyone.”

Oftentimes, members or even whole congregations have to run as the fighting shifts into their area. Their pastors run with them. There is no permanence in Sudan; no one knows where they may be tomorrow. “The church is not a building,” Bishop Peter said, showing a picture of a congregation gathered under the shade of a tree. “It is the people.”

To help alleviate the lack of pastors, the ELCSS/S has started a seminary which ordains men through a four-year program like ours—three years of academic study and one year of vicarage. Twenty-two men are in the program. The ELCSS/S is also working on training Sudanese pastors to become professors since they are currently dependent on visiting professors (our own faculty among them) to teach their seminarians.

What they have in financial support has largely come from the United States. In a church body made up of refugees and the survivors of war, they must reach out to their brothers across the sea for help. “Without the Lutheran Heritage Foundation,” Bishop Peter said, “it would be almost impossible to have all this happening.” The church depends on members to give, but their members have nothing. Instead, the people of South Sudan reach out to the church to come to their rescue.

And herein lies the strength promised in weakness. It is this “nothing” that has caused the ELCSS/S to grow and thrive. “There is great demand for the Gospel message because all else has failed the people of South Sudan,” Bishop Peter said. “The membership has increased greatly. The Good News is spreading.”

To start a congregation, the ELCSS/S begins by identifying a place where there is no Lutheran church. They then hold a 2-3 day seminar in the area, using LHF translated materials (books like Luther’s Small Catechism and “The Good News About Jesus”). Many already know the Lord’s Prayer, but they have never heard an explanation for it. “This catechism is a very powerful tool,” the bishop said, explaining that as soon as the people hear or read these resources in their language, they grow excited and want to learn still more. A congregations begins because, having learned of the truth of the Gospel, they desire access to it.

Bound by the biblical teaching of grace alone, the ELCSS/S has a powerful message that resonates with a people broken by war and desperate need. “People try to look for something that can give them hope. They ask, ‘Why is this happening?’ Traditional religions – all other religions – can never give. All they do is demand, demand, demand. But what can a refugee really do?” Bishop Peter asked. Refugees have nothing. Literally nothing. And for those sitting in darkness: “Christ on the cross has given all. This is what comforts them.”

Thousands have been drawn to the ELCSS/S by the power of the Gospel message. “God works through the Word,” Bishop Peter explained. “The Word is powerful. We just speak what is there. We don’t know how it works. But God knows.”

Bishop Peter finished his presentation with these words:

“In all these, the Word continues to spread and the church is growing. Our government and politics may have failed but Jesus is the only hope. With Him we are secured and have life in abundance even in the face of suffering, poverty, death and war.

“Thank you and God bless.”‍‍‍‍‍‍ ‍‍

You can learn more by visiting or by contacting the Lutheran Heritage Foundation at [email protected] or (800) 554-0723.

Reformation Day 2018

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God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah
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There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
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Come, behold the works of the Lord,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

[YouTube video of Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott, arr. W. B. Olds, sung by the Wartburg Choir.]

Collegial Trot in Terre Haute

CTSFW and CSL students (plus a few family members) before the race, taking a picture with the cutout of Martin Luther (in the back middle). A handful of people still registering are missing from the photo.

On Saturday, October 20, Immanuel Lutheran Church in Terre Haute, IN, hosted a 5K Brat Trot as a way to kick off Reformation week. The marathon itself had very German attributes: it included beer and brats. Since Terre Haute is almost exactly halfway between the two seminaries, our own seminarian Daniel Fickenscher organized our students into a CTSFW team while seminarian Austin Wellhousen from St. Louis organized a team from CSL, to meet and compete against each other for the “Hans Wurst” trophy, a traveling trophy gallon growler put up by the church.

Lining up before the race. The CTSFW team wore King’s Men shirts to identify themselves, and this little lady went on the run with her mom, Madison Post, wife of one of our seminarians. Madison finished fourth out of all women, and first in her age bracket.

Immanuel (which, for note of interest, is where President Rast vicared back during his seminary days) graciously agreed to discount the entry fees for our two teams, and invited the students to spend the night in the parish center, feeding them a pasta meal on Friday. Though not everyone was able to make it the night before, by morning about 30 people from both seminaries came together for the 5K, most to run plus a couple to cheer. St. Louis seminarian Ahren Reiter came in first overall at 17:52 and our own Daniel Fickenscher placed third overall at 18:42.
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Victory, however, was ultimately ours. Because our top eight runners had the best finishes overall, Fort Wayne took home the Hans Wurst trophy over our brothers in St. Louis. Here’s to holding onto it next year too. We look forward to seeing you there again, Concordia Seminary!

Ahren Reiter (L) and Daniel Fickenscher (R), holding their trophy beer mugs and the Hans Wurst Trophy between them. They didn’t know yet which Seminary would be taking it home.

Convocation: Pastoral Care

For yesterday’s convocation on “Comforting the Heart of Hearing: Distinguishing Law and Gospel as Pastoral Care,” we welcomed Dr. John D. Koch to CTSFW, who came here on Tuesday and had the opportunity to meet with and talk theology with our faculty. Dr. Koch is an Anglican rector, receiving his doctorate in Systematic Theology at the University of Humboldt in Berlin, Germany, in 2014, with the thesis “Subjectum Theologiae: The Distinction Between Law and Gospel as the Basis and Boundary of Theological Reflection.”
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Anglicans and Lutherans share common roots, so it is not a shock to hear a brother in the Anglican Church speaking on the distinction between Law and Gospel. Anglicanism grew out of the reformation; as Dr. Koch put it: “We are not speaking from totally foreign territory.”
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Dr. Koch grew up in an Evangelical home, in the inadvertently terrifying religious tradition of “If I do this, then God will do that” or, put in another way, “Do what’s in you and God will do the rest.” The crushing load of these words is great: those in the midst of suffering are forced to wonder if either 1.) They have not done enough, or 2.) God is unfairly punishing them. Without Law and Gospel, suffering cannot produce endurance, endurance cannot produce character, and character cannot produce the hope that does not put us to shame (Romans 5:3-5).
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This is why, Dr. Koch argues, the proper distinction of Law and Gospel is not only crucial to pastoral care but is, in fact, the work of the priest or pastor. “When this becomes distinct,” he said, “you become a pastor.” A pastor who distinguishes Law and Gospel has no choice but to reorient his heart; the distinction places limits around theology that forces the proclamation of the Gospel. It becomes something to preach, something to give to the burdened. “[Law and Gospel] is the only theology that does justice to the cross,” Dr. Koch explained.
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In fact, it is impossible to preach God in the tyrannical abstract when Law and Gospel is rightly distinguished and understood. God is seen and known in His seen sacrifice—in the person and work of Jesus Christ. It’s neither abstract nor speculative. It’s as concrete as your own blood, your own life and death. This is your God; this is your message for the burdened: sinner come home, see what He has done for you. We become beggars who have found food.
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“Preacher,” Dr. Koch concluded, speaking to a room largely filled with MDiv students who will someday face the burdens and fears of their congregations, “go to your people and give them what God has given them in Jesus.”
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Dr. Koch finished by explaining that he will always be an Anglican because of the “comfortable words.” The “comfortable words,” as they are known in the Anglican service (from their Common Book of Prayers), are a series of four verses spoken by the preacher to his congregation following the confession of sins. They are, in order:
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1. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

2. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

3. “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (1 Timothy 1:15).

4. “But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 2:1b-2a).
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The convocation concluded with the confidence we have through Christ, as declared by St. Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians, verses 5 and 6: “Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”‍‍‍‍‍‍ ‍‍

A student asks a question of Dr. Koch following his presentation. Dr. Pless (standing on the stage, far left) was also on hand, as the convocation was organized by the Department of Pastoral Ministry and Missions.

Because of space and time constraints, I had to cut out, summarize, and reorganize large pieces of the convocation. To listen to an audio recording of the presentation in full, go to

St. James, Brother of Jesus and Martyr

Today is the feast of St. James of Jerusalem, Brother of Jesus and Martyr. James’ first appearance in the Bible is inauspicious, as he is counted among the unbelieving when Jesus taught in his hometown in Matthew 13:54-58:
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And coming to his hometown he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.
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James came to faith after Jesus died and rose again (1 Corinthians 15:7): “Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.”
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He was also instrumental in the council recorded in Acts 15:12-22a, clearly recognized as a leader of the early Church in Jerusalem:
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And all the assembly fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. After they finished speaking, James replied, “Brothers, listen to me. Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name. And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written,

“‘After this I will return,
and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen;
I will rebuild its ruins,
and I will restore it,
that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord,
and all the Gentiles who are called by my name,
says the Lord, who makes these things known from of old.’

Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood. For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.”

Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas.‍‍‍‍‍‍ ‍‍

The first-century historian Josephus (and others) hold that James was stoned in the 60s AD, martyred for his faith.

500th Anniversary Cross

If you watch our Monday and Tuesday lectionary podcasts, then you will recognize this bookshelf backdrop, though perhaps not the woman standing in front of it. A prospective student planning to begin the distance education program for the Master of Arts in Deaconess Studies, Patti Miller asked if she could see the recording studio during her campus tour. We were happy to oblige, especially when we found out why — she’s the artist who created the cross in the upper right-hand corner. A friend pointed it out to her.

Patti’s art career began fifteen years ago when she became church secretary and started designing the church bulletin covers. Now she creates these wooden crosses, cut by hand and painted and themed around a special (usually church) occasion.

This particular cross on display was created for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, which is why it features Luther’s Rose and the means of grace (the dove for the Holy Spirit on top with the waters of Baptism on the arms, the Lord’s Supper on the bottom, above which is a ribbon for the Word). If you look very closely at the painting, you will notice that red can be seen underneath the entire design.

“I always begin with a base of red,” Patti explained. “Partly because it creates a rich color and interesting texture, but really–” here she smiled, pointing to the cross “–because it’s all on the blood of Jesus.”

You can check out more of Patti Miller’s work at

Convocation: Israel Dig

Joshua Schiff (left) and James Neuendorf (right).

Yesterday’s convocation hour featured students James Neuendorf and Joshua Schiff, who were involved this past summer in an archaeological dig funded by CTSFW’s Lois Ann Reed Endowment for Biblical Archaeology. They called their presentation “From Dan to Beersheeba” or “Why CTS Students Absolutely Need to Go to Israel.”

James Neuendorf, as you can tell, is an excellent photographer. This is just one of many pictures he took during their dig in Israel.

They began with Luke 2:15: “Let us go…and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” Like the shepherds running to see the Christ child (whose faith did not need to see to believe what the angels told them, but rather desired to see what they already believed), these students too wanted to see what they knew to be true. Though they couldn’t see the Biblical events themselves by going to Israel, they could, in the words of James Neuendorf, “see the context of these real historical events.”

The purpose of the dig itself was a last shot at testing Dr. Yonatan Adler’s thesis: that ritual cleansing continued despite the destruction of the temple. The ritual cleansing refers to Leviticus 11:33: “And if any of them [things that are unclean] falls into any earthenware vessel, all that is in it shall be unclean, and you shall break it.” It was very expensive to have to continually break your earthenware vessels, so the Israelites found a loophole by creating vessels out of stone, which would not have to be smashed to pieces whenever something unclean fell in them.

The students’ (made up of mostly Israelis, with a couple of international students like our own two seminarians thrown in) were organized into teams, and each team were put in charge of a small square area in an old chalkstone deposit in Cana, Galilee, where these stone vessels would have been produced on site (they lived offsite, in a little town you may recognized: Nazareth). A metal detector was used to look for dateable material, like coins, which would be able to prove that this practice took place after the temple’s destruction.

It took two weeks to work down to bedrock in a single square, even by digging more aggressively (using a type of hoe) than normal. They didn’t have to be as careful in a stone quarry as you would in a site that contains a lot of household items. However, they didn’t find much besides stone vessels, “which was fine with us because we don’t really agree with Dr. Adler,” Josh and James admitted with a grin.

They also had regular lectures in the afternoon and had the opportunity to visit digs not open to the public. To enrich the experience, they created study guides for each place they visited (“We went to every Biblical site not currently being hit with rockets”), filling their Bibles with notes.

One such place was Tabgha, the location of the feeding of the 5,000 (Matthew 14), which is also the location where Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves Him (John 21). In doing so, the seminarians realized that in two different times at the same location, Jesus told His disciples to feed His people. They felt the impact of how that would have struck the disciples themselves.

Matthew 14:16: “But Jesus said, ‘They need not go away; you give them something to eat.’”

John 21:15: “When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ He said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’”

Tabgha, where Jesus preached to and fed the 5,000. And how does one person speak to 5,000? When James and Josh visited, they realized that it was a natural amphitheater. They took turns testing it out, listening to each speak across the space. “Now, I’m not into mysticism,” Josh said, “but it was an incredible feeling to stand where Christ preached and pray the Lord’s Prayer.”

James and Josh said that one of the most valuable experiences and greatest opportunities was walking with and working alongside Israelis. Since their coworkers were primarily Jews, they ate kosher food three times a day, saw how it was for these men and women to keep the Sabbath, and got to experience what these restrictive laws would have meant day-to-day in Jesus’ time, which is hard to capture simply by reading. Though some of the experience was modernized, it still provided context.

They were also, as they put it, “Stunned by how many questions they asked about Jesus.” Though sharing your faith in Israel is illegal, you are allowed to answer questions, and their coworkers had many. There are a lot of Christian sites in but not a lot of Christians, despite the country’s dependence on Christian tourism. Religious groups in Israel simply do not cross lines into each other’s neighborhoods, so their coworkers had either barely or even never interacted with Christians before.

In fact, Dr. Adler, who was in charge of the dig, was getting so many questions from the Jewish students that he finally sat them all down and asked the seminarians to explain Christianity. Josh, a second-year, said with a laugh that he insisted they not start the talk until they woke up James, the fourth-year, who then walked them through Jesus as prophet, priest, and king. Later, when trying to explain the idea of a one-sided covenant (that God comes to us in salvation), James pointed out that the Lord’s covenant to Abraham in Genesis 9 too was one-sided; that God – not Abram (as he was then known) – walked through the animals that had been cut in half. They rushed to their books. “There was an audible, ‘He’s right,’” James said.

That is itself typical. Jews in Israel do not actually know much about the Old Testament or even the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible). “They don’t even know what the tabernacle is,” Josh explained. Their lack of understanding of Christianity does not stem from a misunderstanding of the Christological aspects of the Old Testament, but rather a lack of knowledge of the Old Testament itself. The Jewish sects in Israel – of which there are many – long ago set aside Scripture for legalistic code.

James and Josh also had the chance to meet a Messianic Jew when visiting a replica of the tabernacle. The woman asked if they were Christian and, upon their “yes,” spent the rest of the tour with a knowing look, winking at them as she pointed out aspects of the tabernacle that pointed to the Messiah. “If you can’t see Jesus in every strand of this place,” she said, “then you’re blind.”

On this evening they had kosher pizza on the shore of the Sea of Galilee and answered questions from their Israeli coworkers about Jesus. They shared the good news about Jesus where Jesus once called Simon and his brother Andrew to be fishers of men.

St. Luke, Evangelist

Byzantine illumination from the 10th century (“Der Evangelist Lukas lesend” or “Evangelist Luke writing”).

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’
Luke 10:1-9

Tradition claims that St. Luke was one of these 72 sent out by Jesus. He also wrote the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. He was a physician (“Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas” from Colossians 4:14), and wrote both books with the eye of a scientific man, diligently recording the history of Christ’s time on earth from birth to death to resurrection and finally ascension, then following that up with the activities of the early Church. He traveled with St. Paul on his missionary journeys, faithfully following him into the suffering Christ called him to. From Paul’s second letter to Timothy:

As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.

Do your best to come to me soon. For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry.
2 Timothy 4:5-11

This is a photo of St. Luke’s Gospel shield, one of the New Testament Evangelist Shields which hang in Wyneken Hall. The winged ox is the symbol of highest sacrifice, chosen centuries ago to represent the Gospel of Luke because of his detailed accounts of the Lord’s sacrificial work.

Dr. Schultz in South Africa

About a month ago, Dr. Detlev Schulz, Professor of Pastoral Ministry and Missions as well as Director of the Ph.D. in Missiology Program, attended the convention of the Free Evangelical Synod in South Africa (FELSISA) from September 13-16, bringing greetings on behalf of LCMS President, the Rev. Dr. Matthew Harrison, and Director of Church Relations, the Rev. Dr. Al Colver. A partner church of the LCMS, FELSISA supports and cooperates with the Lutheran Church in Southern Africa, though it is “still very ‘German’ in character” (as the LCMS website describes the church body). Only a few of their congregations use English or Afrikaans only, with the majority worshiping primarily in German.

Dr. Schulz is on the very end of the far left, standing in the front row, and South Africa (and the German language) are both very familiar to him. He earned his B.A. in South Africa in 1984, his M.Div in Germany in 1988, and finally a Th.D. in Systematics from the St. Louis Seminary in 1990. Dr. Schulz has been on our faculty since the fall of 1998 (first guest lecturing in 1997), and if you are fortunate enough to hear him teach (or preach, which is more likely considering our daily chapel livestreams), you can still hear his accent.

Convocation: Greek v. Greek

Today’s convocation hour was a collegial debate between our current Greek teacher, Dr. John G. Nordling, and a former professor of ours, Dr. James W. Voelz, who has been teaching at our sister Seminary in St. Louis since 1989. Their debate? “How should Greek be taught to seminarians in the twenty-first century, and why does philological competence remain vital for the church?”

Left to right: Dr. Nordling, Dr. Voelz, and Dr. Weinrich, moderator.

These two are experts in the field. Dr. Nordling has taught Greek at CTSFW for the past twelve years (not to mention at Valparaiso and Baylor for many years before then), and Dr. Voelz, who has taught Greek for over 40 years, wrote “Fundamental Greek Grammar,” the textbook used at both seminaries.

I have to admit: this convocation lost me in the details (it was, as they say, all Greek to me). What I did understand was that both professors hold distinctly different views on the first half of the topic: how Greek should be taught to seminarians. Dr. Nordling’s methodology is very technical, shaped by his desire to lay the building blocks of Greek grammar, terms, word order, and tense usage in order to move seminarians along in their understanding of the language. You teach Greek, then through this stronger understanding of Greek are able to teach theology at a higher level. He also argued that composition, though time-consuming, is the best way to keep seminarians from learning Greek passively. “For,” as he pointed out to his grinning students, “they can be counted on to make many bone-headed mistakes.”

Dr. Voelz accused Dr. Nordling – with good humor – of not having enough romance in his soul. Dr. Voelz’s number one goal when teaching a class is to instill a sense of excitement in his students for the original text, which they can someday pass on to their congregations. As such, his methodology is less technical, jumping more quickly into the deeper dimensions of the text so that a seminarian can quickly begin to open up the language of the New Testament like a flower, even if his understanding of the rules commanding Greek isn’t yet set. Dr. Voelz wants the newly ordained pastor out in the field to regret giving up Greek (“giving up real contact with the Word of God,” as he put it), rather than giving it up out of relief.

Though they disagreed fundamentally on teaching method, they agreed absolutely in purpose – or “why philological competence (strong linguistic skills in the Bible’s original languages) remains vital.” Dr. Weinrich, who was mediating, concluded perfectly: that both men clearly love Greek, and just as clearly love Greek for its purpose — to put seminarians (and our future pastors) into direct contact with God’s Word.

Seminarian Austin Meier made an audio recording of the debate. You can listen to it here: