2020 Symposia Recordings Now Available

Lectures from Symposia 2020 are at last available! You can find them at video.ctsfw.edu under the Symposia menu item, or by CLICKING HERE.

Videos include:

THE 35TH ANNUAL SYMPOSIUM ON EXEGETICAL THEOLOGY
1. The Cross, the Atonement, and the Eucharist in Luke and Hebrews (Dr. Arthur A. Just Jr.)
2. Substitutionary Atonement in the Joseph Narratives (Dr. Jeffrey H. Pulse)
3. Sacrificial Atonement and the Wrath of God in the Light of the Old Testament (Dr. John Kleinig)
4. Reckoned Among the Lawless: The Gospel as the Law’s Fulfillment (Dr. Peter J. Scaer)
5. Penal Sacrificial Atonement? (Dr. Walter A. Maier III)
6. Christ Under God’s Wrath: A Pauline Perspective (Dr. Adam C. Koontz)
7. Panel Discussion on the 35th Annual Symposium on Exegetical Theology

THE 43RD ANNUAL SYMPOSIUM ON THE LUTHERAN CONFESSIONS
1. Hermann Sasse: A Stand Alone Lutheran (Dr. Matthew C. Harrison)
2. The Splintering of Missouri: How Our American Context Gave Rise to Micro-Synods as a Solution to Theological Conflict (Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn)
3. A Confessional Lutheran Church in a Lutheran Environment (Dr. Werner Klän)
4. Trinity as Doctrine on Which the Church Stands (Dr. David P. Scaer)
5. Johann Georg Hamann as an Advocate for Classical Lutheran Theology to Its Unenlightened Critics (Dr. John Kleinig)
6. Benedict XVI: Is He Really Catholic? (Dr. Roland F. Ziegler)
7. Confessional Provinces: Church or Not? (Dr. Rune Imberg)
8. Martin Franzmann: Theologian in Between (Rev. Matthew E. Borrasso)
9. Panel Discussion on the 43rd Annual Symposium on the Lutheran Confessions

Convocation: Church Planting

Yesterday’s convocation was led by Prof. Adam Koontz, who you may recognize from a recent post about his successful PhD defense (he won’t officially become Dr. Koontz until after his degree conferral in May). Sometime in the fall of 2020 we’ll have him lead a convocation on his dissertation topic, but today’s presentation on church planting is thanks to his church planting experience in Pennsylvania, where he served as a pastor before being called to serve here at CTSFW this past summer.

A proper understanding of church planting begins with 1 Corinthians 3:5-7: “What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.”

He talked both Gospel-focus as well as tactics. Visitation was central to his church-planting duties, along with planning and strategizing. He noted that, as a pastor, you don’t know how much you take for granted in a church until you’re planting. In a church plant there are no set tasks and duties, no established power networks or overarching culture to the congregation as a whole as the congregation is just individuals at this point. You must be perceptive of the cultures of the individuals you are reaching. When a student asked about catechesis, Prof. Koontz explained that he didn’t start a general catechism class or program, but rather visited with individuals for catechesis. He had a standard plan he followed—work through the six chief parts—but then he spent more or less time on each part as per each individual and family unit according to their questions and concerns.

Ultimately, he found that church planting makes it extremely clear that the Gospel is central. Because you have to focus on people who don’t currently go to church, you begin to focus your pastoral tasks: training the laity on basic apologetics, and on the communication of the message that people are sinners and Christ is the Savior of sinners. Prof. Koontz noted that his established congregation also came to understand the centrality of the Gospel much better after the work of planting a new church.

“The effect on the mother church is, in my experience, nothing but good,” Prof. Koontz said. “I did not personally encounter any jealousy over time because they understood this was for the sake of the spread of the Gospel.” They were excited by their connection with it, from active participants all the way to the shut-ins. They were starting a new church. That kicked back into the established congregation and made them much more excited about evangelism in their own place.

Convocation: Chaplaincy

Chaplain Ficken (left) and Chaplain Wolter (right) present on Specialized Pastoral Ministry.

Yesterday’s convocation focused on Specialized Pastoral Ministry as a vocation—more specifically, on the work of chaplains. Chaplains David E. Ficken and Derek M. Wolter shared their stories, their insights into their line of work, and the cry for chaplains across institutions.

Chaplain Wolter graduated from CTSFW in 1989, certain that he would work in a parish setting throughout his ministry. He explained that, when at the Seminary, he never went to the fireside chats led by chaplains nor their informational meetings or lunches, because he was focused on the parish. His career since then? Two years in the parish and 24 in the military. “Which is to say,” he said to the small group of seminarians interested in learning more about chaplaincy, “God knows the plans He has for you.”

Chaplain Wolter serves as a full-time hospital chaplain, but he didn’t start there. In the early to mid-90s, he worked with Orphan Grain Train in Russia, following the fall of communism. Their needs were graphic: poverty was feeding a slew of family tragedies, from family desertions to children placed in orphanages because their parents couldn’t feed them. He discovered firsthand that ministry wasn’t just limited to the idea of parish work. “It is the presence of Christ in the midst of need,” he said. “Bringing that comfort and assurance, being with people when they’re dealing with a very broken part of their lives.” When he returned to America, he resisted military chaplaincy at first but circumstances (and some very pointed encouragement) pushed him into that field of ministry. When he called a military recruiter to reluctantly ask if they needed chaplains, she was thrilled. He could hear her flipping through a binder as she explained that they were short a very specific kind of chaplain: “Something called a liturgical protestant,” she said. He took the hint.

Chaplain Ficken was serving Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church in Plover, Wisconsin, in his first (and current) call as a second-career pastor when he began working as a chaplain with the police department. His church encouraged him, seeing it as an opportunity to reach out with the Gospel. In a small community, local tragedies ripple across the entire town, and it put him in a place where he could reach out to many different people outside the church. Though not an extrovert by nature, he’s found that chaplaincy naturally manufactures opportunities that are an extension of his work in the parish.

He recalled one woman with whom he shared the Gospel. “She had never actually heard that God loved her and was there with His loving embrace to forgive her of her sins,” he said. “She broke down. I was able to touch her in that time with God’s love and mercy. It opened up my eyes to the needs of the community, and opened up Beautiful Savior to get to their community and get to know their needs.” Law enforcement is a tight knit community who don’t easily let down their walls, but now that he’s been with them for years, they automatically reach out to him when they need spiritual care following terrible accidents, suicides, and other soul-shattering tragedies. “It’s a blessing to be able to walk with these people in the trials and troubles they face in their worst moments.” He has now expanded to the sheriff’s office and to nearby fire stations (one volunteer and the other full-time, which each have their own tight-knit cultures).

Both men serve on the Synod’s Specialized Pastoral Ministry (SPM) Planning committee, working to encourage more pastors to consider chaplaincy as either a full-time vocation or a part-time addition to their duties. “You meet with people in their needs,” Chaplain Wolter said of the vocation. “We work with people who are at the edges of society, who are at points in their lives where they are very broken. It’s a type of ministry that is uncertain in the fact that you don’t know who you’re going to encounter, but very empowering knowing that you’re going to meet someone when they in their deepest need.” He compared it to Philip meeting the Ethiopian Eunuch: you’re there at the right time in the right place.

He recalled the first time his unit—he currently serves as Wing Chaplain for a reserve air force unit in Wisconsin—really turned to him. There was a plane crash. “All of a sudden, BAM, everyone’s looking to the chaplain,” he said. “Survivor’s guilt, family grief, you’re right there at the moment of the need. It’s very, very powerful.” Both men, specifically because of their positions as chaplains, encounter people far outside the parish, who themselves have never encountered a pastor or priest because they’re not plugged into any sort of church community.

Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) training is required for Specialized Pastoral Ministry**, with at least two CPE quarters required for institutional chaplains who work in hospitals and prisons. Police and fire agencies don’t require the training (they look for pastors in good standing to serve them and the community, with ICPC and FFC week-long training courses that help pastors get to know police and fire culture). However, the Missouri Synod requires it as an endorsement, so that they can guarantee that our chaplains are trained to a certain standard and have the skills to respond appropriately to any situation.

Made up of clinical hours and academic hours, CPE is not Lutheran, nor are there many opportunities to train in a Lutheran setting. All religions and denominations study together. Though challenging and at times overwhelming, there is also a distinct blessing to this format. “You’re going through this system where you’re expected to be who you are theologically but you’re also being challenged—not to your doctrine—but to how you participate and present that doctrine in the midst of a need,” Chaplain Wolter explained. “Can you bring the presence of God to people who are outside of your doctrine in the midst of need?”

Though Western culture has become largely anti-religion over the past few generations, swelling underneath this sentiment is an increased interest in spiritual care. More and more institutions are recognizing that need and reaching out for people who are trained and CPE-qualified to care for the spiritual needs of their patients or even their employees. In healthcare, there is an interest in in the holistic approach: care for physical, mental, and spiritual health. It is also a teaching opportunity: when people of faith are coming to the end of their lives, they often begin to say they desire that end. This is not suicidal ideation as (especially new) healthcare workers may think, but how people of faith begin to transition to the next phase. It’s the chaplain’s role, then, to explain to the healthcare worker: this is not a desire for suicide—she is anticipating coming to the end of her life and being called into the arms of her savior.

In another example, Chaplain Wolter has seen many episodes of repressed trauma and guilt among old veterans, arising from acts done in war a lifetime ago. A mental health care specialist will be inclined to put the WWII veteran on medication for depression, but the chaplain recognizes the spiritual problem, which requires spiritual care. In this case: confession and absolution. They also deal with the families in their grief, as well as the staff members who work in an environment in which they experience the result of sin every day. They, too, need time to grieve and process.

As institutions begin to look more and more for spiritual care, we have a huge mission opportunity as a church body, to bring an understanding of Christ and the need for mercy and redemption. “We need people who are trained theologically in compassion and mercy, in Law and Gospel, in confession and absolution,” Chaplain Wolter explained. The United Church of Christ already requires their pastors to have CPEs, so they’re ready to fill these positions. Chaplain Ficken added, “There are wiccan chaplains, so it behooves us to get out there with Christ as much as we can.”

More and more entities—in healthcare but also across government agencies and corporate businesses—are hiring chaplains on site to care for spiritual needs. “Society is seeing that part of taking care of employees involves spiritual care,” Chaplain Wolter said. “SPM is *Macedonia, guys: we’re crying out. We need chaplains.”

Chaplains Ficken and Wolter stayed afterwards to answer additional questions from seminarians, some of whom served in the military before coming to the seminary.

For more information, you can reach Chaplain Wolter at [email protected]

*Macedonia is a reference to Acts 16:9: “And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’”

**Editing Note, from Craig Muehler: “Just a correction. CPE is *Not Required* for Military Chaplaincy. For information on Ministry to the Armed Forces. Please go to https://www.lcms.org/ministry-to-the-armed-forces. Ministry to the Armed Forces is separate from Specialized Pastoral Ministry. We have different requirements.”

Seminary Guild: Mail Services

The Seminary Guild meeting opened with a hymn, followed by a devotion by Rev. James Fundum (on the piano, leading LSB 414).

The Seminary Guild always breaks for January, but now that we’re into February and it’s the second Tuesday of the month, they’re back in business. Business this month is represented by the project-covered table in Luther Hall. Upcoming projects include: a $2,500 project goal to purchase a water bottle filling station (as requested by the students), a box for birthday skillet cookies, samples of handmade CTSFW t-shirts for the newborn babies, and a signup sheet for snacks during finals week. “We need 5 ladies to provide 50-60 servings each per day (Examples, cookies, brownies, Rice Krispies treats, fresh fruit & individually wrapped snacks of any kind — chips, candy, granola bars, etc.),” a handwritten note in the left-hand margin politely explains.

Printing and Postal Services Manager, Kim Hosier

Today, the Guild invited Kim Hosier, Printing and Postal Services Manager, to speak on her vocation here at CTSFW. Kim has served at CTSFW since May of 1992; in a few short months she’ll have been here for 28 years. She started as bookstore secretary before moving to editorial assistant of Concordia Theological Quarterly and secretary for Distance Education, then became manager of Printing and Postal Services in 2004. She orders office supplies for staff on campus, prints CTSFW letters, flyers, and brochures, supervises four student workers in the mailroom, sends international packages (she’s the go-to for navigating the specialized forms and rules involved in international shipping), and creates weekly and monthly reports, to name a few duties. If you’ve ever worshiped in Kramer Chapel then you’ve seen her work: she prints the chapel and Kantorei bulletins we use in services. “Believe it or not, but my degree in college was theater,” she laughed.

Much of her talk today focused on specifics of mailing (rather than her printing duties), as she felt that would be most useful to the ladies of the Seminary Guild. She went over prices, package sizes, and, with 15 years of experience in the mailing room, helpful suggestions on the least expensive way to send mail depending on destination, size, weight, etc. She had a lot of tips on international shipping, as our Seminary has a lot of connections overseas.

She also shared a little known fact: that anyone is welcome to use our mailing services. Kim is not a US postal worker as she is employed by the Seminary, but as she operates a recognized mailroom she is able to offer nearly all the same services as a regular post office, except for registered mail service (used when sending high value items like stocks and bonds, jewelry, etc.). The CTSFW mailroom is located down the hall from the bookstore. Hours:

When classes are in session: 8:30a.m.–4:30p.m. M-F
During quarter breaks and summers: 8:30–11:30a.m., 12:30–3:30p.m. M-F

She is also an excellent resource. The mailroom can be reached at (260) 452-2221. You can also ask her about printing services and fees; we tend to be much more affordable than the usual places around town.

“This is truly a blessed place to work,” she said. “I couldn’t ask for a better place to work. It’s wonderful working with the students and the staff and the faculty and it’s just really been a blessing. [This job] is nothing I would have expected or planned for myself.”

To learn more about the Seminary Guild and how to become involved in their works, go to www.ctsfw.edu/SemGuild. They can also be reached at [email protected] or (260) 485-0209.

Workshop: The Blessings of a Christian Funeral

This weekend, Indiana District President Dr. Daniel Brege presented on “The Blessings of a Christian Funeral” here at CTSFW. He began with a Latin phrase: simul Justus et peccator. The English translation is probably more familiar to you: Simultaneously saint (justified) and sinner. In death we are often tempted to self-justify according to our own behavior, but as Christians we take real comfort, even as we grieve, in the knowledge that we are justified—but through Christ.

Death is the result of sin. It is not the way God designed things. Yet as obvious as this is to us, the world does not believe it. The world around us is constantly trying to tell us that death is natural and necessary (for example, that it is the mechanism of evolution; we need death). Only when we preach the law correctly do we understand why our children die in utero, why teenagers die of cancer, why we lose family and friends throughout our lives.

Death can be understood in terms of separation. The three separations are:

1.      Separation of man from God: spiritual death, which first took place in the Garden. Genesis 2:17: “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Man became spiritually dead right away; we stand in the realm of Satan. “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:1-2). This is why baptism liturgies in the early church began with an exorcism. We still retain a remnant of that: do you renounce the devil and all his works and all his ways?

2.      Separation of body from spirit: physical death. This is totally unnatural. Both Old Testament Israelites as well as Christians throughout history have believed that the body is the person; when we die, our spirits depart. Jews traditionally held that the spirit departed from the body in 2-3 days; we typically look for biological signs, though what we look for has changed over the years: breathing, heartbeat, brain waves. That’s not bad, nor is it wrong. We are biological creatures.

Though our spirits depart in peace, we are not ourselves. It will only become natural when Christ returns and He raises all the dead (both believers and unbelievers). The resurrection of the body is a foundational belief and ought to be preached at every funeral service. The idea that we will be forever with God only in spirit is a pagan belief that has crept into our thinking.

If we didn’t believe this was so important, then why did Christ’s body have to rise from the dead? “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). We grieve, but not without hope. Throughout Scripture, hope is most often, if not always, used in the context of the resurrection. It’s not a wish, but a certainty.

3.      Eternal separation, body and soul, from God: hell. In truth, those in hell are those who have received precisely what they wished for: a place where God is not. The world who wants nothing to do with God will finally have their wish. They will be separated from His love and goodness forever.

Oftentimes you find people blaming God at a funeral. But if you want to blame someone for death, blame the devil and ourselves. God has simply followed through on His Word that the curse that follows sin is death. Psalm 14:2-3: “The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.” We are conceived with that infection of sin—our wills are born set against God. And so mankind is, as Job put it, “born to trouble as the sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7). Or as David said in Psalm 51:5: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.”

The Law is proclaimed at a funeral by the body in the casket. You don’t need to preach much law at a funeral. Still, remember those at the funeral who do not have an understanding of the price of sin; teach enough law to enable people to understand. But magnify Christ the victor, the conqueror, the one who died and rose again victorious, “who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (Romans 4:25).

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!
O Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my pleas for mercy!

If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
that you may be feared.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning.

O Israel, hope in the Lord!
For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
and with him is plentiful redemption.
And he will redeem Israel
from all his iniquities.

Psalm 130

This promise is uniquely bestowed in Baptism. The first thing done in the funeral liturgy, other than the invocation, is a reminder of Baptism. Recently, many congregations have returned to the tradition of putting the pall over the coffin, as a reminder that you are covered with the blood of Jesus. If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. Are you in Christ? How do you know? Because you’ve been baptized. Our assurance is in our Baptism.

This is one of the treasures of our Lutheran heritage, which hinges entirely on Scripture. We need not wonder, at the end, whether we truly accepted Jesus or whether we’ve done enough sanctified works to prove our faith. Our faith is proved by God working on us. “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4).

A word of comfort to those who have lost children in miscarriage: Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb. Wherever Jesus lived, He lived for you and me, including our life in utero. There is also comfort in John the Baptist leaping in the womb (in worshipful joy) when he heard the voice of His Lord’s mother. When you go to church, so too does your child in the womb hear God’s Word. When you receive the Lord’s Supper, so does your baby. And the Word never returns void.

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

Isaiah 55:10-11

Preachers aren’t called to eulogize at funerals. In fact, it’s alright if they don’t say any good things about those in the sleep of death. Rather, use the Law and Gospel, rightly understood, magnifying the Gospel as the Law is on full display in the casket. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2). And how do you know you are in Christ? Through Baptism.

A Christian funeral runs counter to the world. We don’t need to hide from the fact that death is ugly and unnatural. Instead, we see our loved ones in the sleep of death, from which Jesus will awaken them. So be comforted, and share comfort with one another.


This presentation was hosted by the Good Shepherd Institute. Dr. Grime, Co-director of the Institute and Dean of the Chapel, shared some additional thoughts about the funeral liturgy, as well as the following resources:

• The latest issue of “For the Life of the World,” which also highlighted death and dying and the immortal reality. You can read it or sign up for a subscription at www.ctsfw.edu/FLOW.

• Available through our bookstore: a short booklet on “Death and Life in Christ: Preparing for Death and a Funeral”; and

• The CD “Hymns of Comfort and Peace,” featuring hymns (2-3 stanzas each) sung by the Kantorei and soloists at https://bookstore.ctsfw.edu/hymns-comfort-and-peace-cd.

Convocation: Bo Giertz: “History Is Written by the Victors”

The Rev. Dr. Rune Imberg, who presented on mission diocese during Symposia last week, led today’s convocation. An ordained minister in the Church of Sweden, Dr. Imberg is also a part of their Mission Province, a religiously conservative group within the increasingly progressive Church of Sweden. In January 2019, Dr. Imberg was barred from practicing ordination as a priest by the Church of Sweden’s Gothenburg chapter (in response to his theological criticisms, particularly in regards to his scriptural stance on the ordination of women), but was re-authorized to participate in ordination services in October 2019 after he appealed and the chapter’s decision was overturned. He was also instrumental in bringing about the partnership between CTSFW and the seminary in Gothenburg, Sweden, through our shared STM Program.

Today’s convocation was on the idea that “history is written by the victors,” especially in regards to one of his brother pastors from the generation before him: Bo Giertz, most famous among English-speakers for his book, “The Hammer of God.” Bo Giertz was a Swedish theologian, novelist, and bishop of the Gothenburg Lutheran Diocese from 1949-1970 (ordained in 1934).

“He was a rather impressive person,” Dr. Imberg said of the bishop. “If you have met Bo Giertz, you remember him through the rest of your life.” He was a person who could mesmerize people, he had a dozen honorary doctorates, and was brilliant in a number of ways. He had charisma and was an incredibly popular preacher. Even into his 80s he was preaching 300 times a year—always to a crowd of at least two or three hundred. When people knew he was going to preach, they wanted to be there. “He was like a renaissance priest,” Dr. Imberg explained. He was, in many ways, a winner.

But he was also a loser. The Church of Sweden has spent most of its history as a state church, and through history has adapted culturally to the times. Bo Giertz, despite his brilliance and his popularity, was ultimately punished for his adherence to God’s Word as the highest authority. Parliament didn’t like that. When he became a bishop, a medical doctor attacked him for a confirmation class book he wrote in 1943, writing to the civil authorities to have the book (which has been translated into multiple languages) scrutinized, claiming that it was dangerous—psychologically damaging to children. In 1958, the Church of Sweden voted to begin ordaining women; Bo Giertz stood by Scripture, and ended up on the losing side. Though he should have been up for archbishop over the church, at that point it was out of the question. In fighting these issues, he lost.

In 1970, when he was 65, he could see that his way of thinking had been abandoned by the Church of Sweden. In the 80s, he said, almost crying, if he was a student now he would never have become ordained. He was liked and loved by many people, and would remain one of Sweden’s two most famous bishops. But he lived to see his church body stray so far afield that, given a different time period, they never would have even accepted him as a priest.

Around this same time (1972, to be exact), he wrote a short novel called “The Knights of Rhodes.” The historical novel was based on very real events following a few centuries after the crusades (which, as Dr. Imberg quickly explained, were a kind of Christian defense against Muslim occupation of Christian territories). In 1522, several thousand Christian forces left on the island of Rhodes were besieged by 100,000 Muslim forces in the command of Sultan Suleiman. Outnumbered 20 to 1, six months later they lost, forced to surrender.

Dr. Imberg explained that the first third of the novel can be difficult to get through—complicated and even boring. It is a book about a hopeless fight, which will soon be lost. “But then you realize what it is doing,” he said. Bo Giertz used the novel to subtly teach the theology of the cross. There is a question at the heart of the book: what is God doing when everything seems to be going in the wrong way for Christians? “This is the thing which is called the hidden work of God.”

From the novel:

“…that is what most often happens in the world. God and the devil play chess. We are the pieces. But we are neither completely white nor black. In every heart there is a chessboard where God and the devil play.”

“There are many pieces to keep them busy.”

“And precisely for that reason, it is so hard for us to follow the game. Occasionally, God makes a move that we can’t understand. In order to check something only he sees coming. Or to get into a position only he can exploit. Up until the end all the small pieces stand together trying to discern what is happening in the big scheme of things.”

We look at horror, terror, and loss, and ask God how he could let this happen. How can he allow war? Why was this father of three paralyzed in an accident? Why did this two-year-old die of cancer? “And of course from our perspective it is terrible, but there are two more perspectives,” Dr. Imberg said, listing the reasons: “It can never be bad to die to come to heaven to be with God… [and] perhaps God needed to do that, perhaps he knew something else would have happened. This is a book which deals with the big questions in a subtle way.”

Another excerpt from “The Knights of Rhodes”:

“But first, Brother Grand Master has to be ready for that which the Savior gave him last time.”

The Grand Master looked curiously at his chaplain.

“To allow myself to be led to where I did not want to go? I am ready for that. I am willing.”

“For what Brother Grand Master? To die?”

“Yes, also to die.”

“But to live?”

The Grand Master was quiet and the priest continued.

“To continue—despite everything? To believe without seeing? To go into the darkness with God—only God?”

The Grand Master was the grand loser. He did not die in the siege; rather, he was called to lose. And in losing, in successfully negotiating a retreat for himself and his men, years later these forces (under another Grand Master) would defeat the Ottomons for good, halting their progression into Christian territories. “They prepared the way for a later victory,” Dr. Imberg pointed out.

That is also the legacy of Bo Giertz and all those who fight a good fight that we may appear to be losing in the here-and-now. Dr. Imberg put it this way: “We are fighting a fight against a lot of things—media and public opinion and politicians and a lot of things—and you are having the same fights in United States. I am quite certain, at least I suspect, that God is using that fight to prepare for forthcoming victories (in a spiritual way).”

Out of Bo Giertz’s own defeats in the 1940s and 50s would come this book that speaks quietly and teaches subtly about the theology of the cross. For Dr. Imberg, “The Knights of Rhodes” serves as a mirror to the state of things in the Swedish church today. For us, we can recognize our own hopeless fight and the battles we lose every day in our own country.

But we don’t have the long view. So we trust in our Lord and Savior and can, with full assurance and comfort, answer the question: is history written by the losers or the winners?

Yes, dear brothers and sisters in Christ. Of course it is.

Symposia: Martin Franzmann: Theologian in Between

Rev. Matthew E. Borrasso, STM, Pastor of Redeemer Evangelical Lutheran Church, Parkton, Maryland

Martin Franzmann is most well-known for his hymns, among them “Thy Strong Word” and “Preach the Word.” Franzmann never considered himself a genius in any sense (he was certainly a committed academic, though he abandoned his pursuit of his PhD in order to serve the Church). He was born on 1907 and died in 1976, retiring from the St. Louis Seminary faculty in 1969, shortly before Seminex. He held that the Word of God must be central in any understanding of theology, stood firmly on biblical inerrancy throughout his life.

Franzmann was never interested in a specific theological school of thought, but what God’s Word had to say. He was a theologian in between—but in between what? Between fellowships of the faith (differing church bodies, Lutheran and non-Lutheran), between fractures of the faith (when our own struggles begin to evidence themselves), and between the frames of the faith (meaning the polarities that should not be; i.e. when orthodoxy and love are set in antithesis to each other, which they should not be).

Franzmann saw the call to the ecumenical, and believe that when you are between the fellowships of the faith, the Word of God must remain central. If the Church lives in obedience to its Lord, the church is not ALSO ecumenical but IS ecumenical; the Church is hidden across the world in a variety of fellowships.

“The Nature of the Unity We Seek”—article written in 1957, came about because of a symposium with different church bodies based on this topic. He spoke from the Missouri Synod perspective; that God has, in immeasureless condescension, drawn near to man; that man should be united in a resolute and total submission in faith to God as He has revealed Himself in His Son, Jesus Christ, in the once for all historic act of His life, death, and resurrection. If we are to hear a Word of God that does not annihilate us, that must be the Word made flesh. The Word must remain central. What sets Missouri apart is the radicalness or stringency in which Missouri conceives of Christ and the Bible as central—no mere whim on our part but the revealed facts of the case in Scripture. We treasure and subscribe to the Lutheran Confessions because they spell out these truths; they are to our minds and hearts the classic response of the Church to the great and inspired Word. They do not, of course, make additional responses superfluous.

From this attitude we approach ecumenical endeavors. Such then is the unity we seek, and we do seek unity. If we have remained aloof (from specific ecumenical endeavors), it is because we have not seen in them any real or divinely given opportunity for unity. One may seek unity by forming a club, or one may seek it by setting standards around which we can gather. We seek this unity in meekness. We are deeply conscious that we hold this standard aloft with frail arms, and strive to hold it more firmly. We would ensure all men that we seek unity not on our terms but on our Lord’s. And that is an act of love.

A church that complacently deems itself above the possibility of belly service is already in danger of serving its belly. Romans 16:17: “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.” Franzmann saw many fractures of the faith in his time, including the walkout at the St. Louis Seminary in the 70s. He did not hide behind his desire for unity and peace, but rather because of his desire for unity and peace strove to bring brothers back together. His churchmanship is evident in his responses to poor or even heretical theology. He did not call out individuals, but rather affirmed and/or challenged specific positions on subjects, with the hope that this method would bring back his brother from his error; to bind the fractures of fellowship in the Missouri Synod.

As always, God’s Word remained central. Here, half-quoted/paraphrased from Franzmann’s words on a Brief Statement: Documents such as a brief statement are functional. They are intended to perform a service, and have validity in worth in so far as they do perform a service. We live in the conviction that the one functioning power in the life of the Church is the Word of God…ask whether the voice of God in the Scriptures has been heard and transmitted accurately. Is the exegetical function broad enough and full enough? Is our document letting Scripture speak on its own terms?

He advocated for unity no matter where he stood in between. When he stood between different fellowships, between fractures of the faith, along the narrow road between frames of the faith, the Word remained central. It had to.

Thy strong word did cleave the darkness;
At Thy speaking it was done,
For created light we thank Thee,
While Thine ordered seasons run.
Alleluia, alleluia!
Praise to Thee who light dost send!
Alleluia, alleluia!
Alleluia without end!

Lo, on those who dwelt in darkness,
Dark as night and deep as death,
Broke the light of Thy salvation,
Breathed Thine own life breathing breath.
Alleluia, alleluia!
Praise to Thee who light dost send!
Alleluia, alleluia!
Alleluia without end!

Thy strong word bespeaks us righteous;
Bright with Thine own holiness,
Glorious now, we press toward glory,
And our lives our hopes confess.
Alleluia, alleluia!
Praise to Thee who light dost send!
Alleluia, alleluia!
Alleluia without end!

From the cross Thy wisdom shining
Breaketh forth in conqu’ring might;
From the cross forever beameth
All Thy bright redeeming light.
Alleluia, alleluia!
Praise to Thee who light dost send!
Alleluia, alleluia!
Alleluia without end!

Give us lips to sing Thy glory,
Tongues Thy mercy to proclaim,
Throats that shout the hope that fills us,
Mouths to speak Thy holy name.
Alleluia, alleluia!
Praise to Thee who light dost send!
Alleluia, alleluia!
Alleluia without end!

God the Father, light-creator,
To Thee laud and honor be.
To Thee, Light of light begotten,
Praise be sung eternally.
Holy Spirit, light-revealer,
Glory, glory be to Thee.
Mortals, angels, now and ever
Praise the holy Trinity!


This was the final presentation of the 2020 Symposia Series. The second panel discussion (where the presenters of the Symposia on the Lutheran Confessions answer additional questions from the audience) is currently ongoing, and after that daily chapel will begin an hour later than normal at 11 a.m.

Please note that there is far more to this session than presented here. Franzmann was involved, at least peripherally, in Seminex as a former faculty of CSL, having retired the year before Tietjen took up the presidential post at the St. Louis Seminary. He had quite the view on fractures in our Synod. If you would like to hear more, you can still purchase a livestream ticket. While the lectures will no longer be streamed live (having passed), they will be available for re-watching for the next 6-9 months, until they are made publicly and freely available at video.ctsfw.edu. If you don’t like to wait, you can purchase that early access at www.ctsfw.edu/symposia-live.

Symposia: Confessional Provinces: Church or Not?

Dr. Rune Imberg, Professor in Church History, Lutheran School of Theology, Gothenburg, Sweden

The question of whether mission provinces are truly Church or not is an important one to Dr. Rune Imberg. The Church of Sweden has, for decades (the roots going back even farther), been marginalizing the confessional theologians who cling to Scripture against the tide of liberal interpretation of Scripture, female ordination, and other denials of major biblical teachings, whose priests no longer proclaim the faith of the apostles, with biblical ethics abandoned for modern norms. The Bible is not recognized as the Word of God nor the highest authority in the Church. Thus the Mission Province of the Church of Sweden was formed so that conservative, confessional candidates could be ordained as pastors and could be led by confessional bishops, in order to preach the Gospel.

First he began with an important lesson from Church history:

A great number of the historical churches and church provinces had disappeared or were destroyed in the time before the Reformation, including: all North African churches (except for the Coptic church in Egypt); church in Turkey (only a tiny remnant remaining); most of the churches in the Middle East; most of the old Christianity in Persia/Asia at large; most of the Nestorian churches; most of the churches using the Syriac language. What remained were the Latin- and Greek-speaking churches, or second and third generation daughter churches.

They were destroyed in wars or persecution, especially under Persian, Moslem [especially Arab] and Mongolian rulers. At the time of Augustine (400 AD), Christianity was basically an Asian and N. African religion with a number of European Christians. By the Reformation (1520 AD), Christianity had become almost totally a European/Wester religion (with a Roman Catholic majority), remaining so up to the Napoleonic wars (1800 AD), when came a mission revival. Today (2020 AD), a majority of Christians now live in the south (Africa).

You can break this down into four main eras of Lutheranism:

  1. Reformation Era (when the Church of Sweden originated)
  2. The LCMS
  3. Most/nearly all African Lutheran churches arose in the 3rd era
  4. The rise of mission provinces in Sweden, Finland, etc.

Sweden became recognized as a Lutheran country in 1593; the Lutheran reformation process in Sweden lasted more than 70 years with five kings trying to influence it (either to promote, contain, or destroy). In 1958, the Church opened the ministry to female pastors, but still recognized the validity of the old, traditional position. The decision was taken by the Swedish parliament and the Church Assembly in union. In 1993, they then decided not to allow any new ministerial candidates for ordination who opposed the ordination of women. The mission province, having a confessional/Bible conservation foundation was created in 2003 and got its first bishops in 2005/2006.

You can read more about the history in CTQ article “A Light Shining in a Dark Place: Can a Confessional Lutheran Voice Still Be Heard in the Church of Sweden?” by Dr. Imberg here: http://www.ctsfw.net/…/pd…/ImbergLightShiningInDarkPlace.pdf.

In short: the Mission Province is a remnant (to quote Isaiah 61) in an old, historically very rich national church. There are many things we have to criticize in the Church of Sweden, but we must not forget its rich history. One example: “The Hammer of God” by Bo Giertz. We have to think of these things.

The Mission Province in Sweden wishes to exist and serve as a confessional, orthodox, Lutheran Church Body in Sweden, trying to function apart from the Constantinian elements hidden in both history, theology, and our minds. They exist as a faithful, confessional, theologically conservative remnant of the first era of Lutheranism, who are now learning from the experience of the Lutheran mission churches around the word, especially in Africa (those that came out of era three); some may be our own daughter churches! They also cooperate with the LCMS and other sister churches within the ILC (era two/three) but also with other churches and Christian organization in Sweden and abroad.

“As you can see, in the Mission Province, we are moving in the four different eras of Lutheranism.” They have a distinct challenge as an era-4 Church body in an era-1 setting. They are Lutheran, orthodox, confessional while the Church of Sweden is endrenched in liberalism/politics/Church politics; they are influenced by experience from era 3 churches (especially mission churches in Africa); and learn a lot of things from you here in the Missouri Synod.

Dr. Imberg read from Jude 3: “Dear friends, although I was very eager to talk [write] to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to [write and] urge you to contend for the faith that was one for all entrust to the saints.” He added: “That is our situation.”

And their future is in God’s hands. “But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh (Jude 17-23).”


The full lecture provides not only an understanding of these Mission Province churches but also how our history shapes our challenges. Watch (for $20) at www.ctsfw.edu/symposia-live. In other news, Vespers service (followed by an organ recital) will begin within the next 10 minutes.

Symposia: Benedict XVI: Is He Really Catholic?

Dr. Roland F. Ziegler, The Robert D. Preus Associate Professor of Systematic Theology and Confessional Lutheran Studies; CTSFW Chairman of Systematic Theology

It is worth looking at our brothers in other denominations, for those points upon which we agree and can be allies. For this paper, Dr. Ziegler looked at the theology of Pope Benedict XVI (born Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger, who served from 2005 until 2013) in regards to atonement.

The paper went deep into the details of his theology, quoting many of Ratzinger’s theological writings, particularly since Ratzinger was a part of the Roman Catholic renewal towards a theology that was more biblical. So are there parts of Roman Catholic theology upon which we can be allies?

Ratzinger teaches that real sacrifice is total surrender to God. Sacrifice consists, then, as a process of transformation, of conforming man to God. Since there is evil, the way to unity and love is the way of purification, which takes the form of the cross. Passes through death and resurrection and meets the mediator, who draws all to himself and thus exalts us. Ratzinger sees Genesis 22 as proof for his view that the Old Testament sacrifices shows that sacrifice is about self-giving not destruction (as the ram replaced man as sacrifice).

Christ’s death as the sacrifice of the covenant thus binds God and world together. What fallen man is incapable to do, Christ does. All ritual theories of sacrifice become obsolete and the new covenant has also been concluded by a new sacrifice. Jesus the man who lays down his life is the true worship and glorification of God. The self-offering of Christ should not be understood in terms of sacrifice but in martyrdom and the complete giving of his person. Man cannot give himself and cannot replace himself, and so this seems hopeless. But then Christ substitutes himself for us. The Last Supper is the sacrifice that we keep with thanksgiving.

From Ratzinger: “The blood of animals could neither ‘atone’ for sin nor bring God and men together. It could only be a sign of hope, anticipating a greater obedience that would be truly redemptive. In Jesus’ words over the chalice, all this is summed up and fulfilled: he gives us the ‘new covenant in his blood.’ ‘His blood’ –that is, the total gift of himself, in which he suffers to end all human sinfulness and repairs every breach of fidelity by his unconditional fidelity. This is the new worship, which he establishes at the Last Supper, drawing mankind into his vicarious obedience.”

In another quote: “In Jesus’ Passion, all the filth of the world touches the infinitely pure one, the soul of Jesus Christ and, hence, the Son of God himself. While it is usually the case that anything unclean touching something clean renders it unclean, here it is the other way around: when the world, with all the injustice and cruelty that make it unclean, comes into contact with the infinitely pure one—then he, the pure one, is the stronger. Through this contact, the filth of the world is truly absorbed, wiped out, and transformed in the pain of infinite love. Because infinite good is now at hand in the man Jesus, the counterweight to all wickedness is present and active within world history, and the good is always infinitely greater than the vast mass of evil, however terrible it may be.”

This falls in line with the Roman Catholic teaching about atonement: that the death of Christ extends only to original sin.

So what do we Lutherans say to all that? Per Article 3 of the Augsburg Confession:

“Likewise we teach that the Word, that is, the Son of God, took upon himself human nature in the womb of the blessed virgin Mary. Therefore, he has two natures, one divine and the other human. They are united in one person and cannot be separated. Thus there is only one Christ, true God and true man, who was born of the virgin Mary. He truly suffered, was crucified, died, and was buried. He went through all this so that he could restore us to peace with the Father and be a sacrifice, not just for original sin, but also for all other sins.”

When you look at Ratzinger’s theology, it is impressive in his depth and breadth. But in regard to the atonement, there is a whole dimension he’s lacking. The scandal of the cross is mitigated, no longer of both God’s love and wrath. Reconciliation is through the judgment of sin, the punishment of death. Ratzinger doesn’t have any notion of God’s judgment over sin nor God’s wrath. There is no talk of God’s wrath. Compare that with Article 5 of the Book of Concord: “Indeed, what would be a more sobering and terrifying proclamation of the wrath of God than the suffering and death of Christ, His Son.”

Ratzinger’s theological understanding of the atonement also has consequence for other doctrines. Roman Catholic theologians do not like the idea that our sin is imputed to Christ because, if our sins can be imputed to Christ, then His righteousness can be imputed to us. (Then you have a forensic understanding of justification.) Rather, salvation is through the self-offering of Christ into which man is brought and thus man is saved as the one who offers himself, of course enabled by Christ’s self-offering. There is grace, but grace enables you to do what you ought to do, through the transformation of the sinner, not by the forgiveness of sins.

Ratzinger’s understanding of the atonement in the Lord’s Supper is then not about the receiving of forgiveness of sins, but at its center is an act of thanksgiving. It is Christ’s thanksgiving and self-giving and it becomes then man’s thanksgiving self-offering through Christ. So, though Ratzinger is certainly not merely a rehash of earlier theology, there remains a fundamental difference between his theology and the theology of the Book of Concord. Therefore, in understanding Christ’s death as punishment for sins, Ratzinger is not a resource that can help us.

So is the pope [Roman] Catholic? Of course.

Symposia: Trinity as Doctrine on Which the Church Stands

Dr. David P. Scaer, The David P. Scaer Professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology

Justification is the starting point of doing theology. In current popular theological proposals, justification has taken center stage and this is not without reason in the Lutheran context. Justification has been considered the key to the confessions. It is the doctrine by which the Church stands or falls. This [justification] could better be said: the resurrection of Jesus.

For some, Gospel has come to mean little more than telling people their sins are forgiven, now popularly paraphrased as ‘good news,’ an umbrella phrase that can embrace most any felicitious report like “I have good news for you. You got a raise.” In the New Testament, Gospel has to do with the oral or written proclamation of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

Faith is created by proclamation but its substance is derived in the historical event of the cross on which it focuses. Sub Pontio Pilato directs the faith to the historical event of crucifixion, and through it to the atonement where God through Christ is recociled to the world. When Paul showed up in Corinth, he preached a composite message that Christ died for sins, was buried, was raised on the third day (1 Cor. 15:1-7). These things were foundational for his apostleship, the message he preached to the Church.

The heart of the Gospel is Christ’s propitiation for sin and not its justifying effections. Current views put the weight of justification on the relational aspects of what the justifying Word does for the believer. For John the apostle, atonement is the cause and justification its effect (1 John 2:2). The order dare not be reversed, so the tail wags the dog.

We locate atonement and justification in God Himself as Trinity. If incarnation is the greatest mystery of all, how much more so is this true of the Trinity? In justifying us, God proves He is righteous because Christ has assumed the penalty we deserve. In loving us, He does not set aside His righteousness but confirms it. His justifying sinners does not compromise, offend, set aside, or ignore his righteousness, but affirms it by sacrificing His Son as atonement.

By absolving the sinner without payment, God would be unrighteous in exempting Himself from rules He imposes on us. If God forgave without atonement (payment), Satan would have reason to accuse God of unrighteousness. But he has no reason. Through the blood of the Lamb, the accuser has been thrown down (Rev. 6:10; 12:10). Since in making atonement, God shows us he is righteous in Himself, His promised to deliver His saints can be trusted.

God responds to Jesus’ cry of dereliction (that God had deserted Him) by raising Him from the dead and so proved He was righteous, as was Jesus. Since justification is commonly understood as the declaration that sin is forgiven, it might be off-putting to speak of God justifying Jesus, but that’s what Paul says: Jesus was justified in the Spirit, that is, God showed that Jesus was righteous in raising Him from the dead, who was wrongly put to death for crimes he did not commit (1 Ti 3:16). He is not acting contrary but in accord with who He is. Any word of justification or forgiveness spoken without atonement is a noisy gong or clanging cymbal. Forgiveness without atonement, even if done by God, would be an act of unrighteousness.

God’s justification of the sinner originates from within His Trinitarian existence. The Son is the personification of the Father’s love. In begetting the Son, the Father gives entirely of Himself so that the Son possesses everything that Father is and has. The divine giver shows himself to be eternally the father and the divine receiver to be eternally the son.

The God who gives Himself in begetting the Son, gives of Himself again in the atonement and justification. “In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:19). Reconciliation between God and the sinner is accomplished within God’s Trinitarian existence in which God shows Himself to be righteous by satisfying His wrath over sin by the sacrifice of His Son. Our being reconciled happens through faith created by the Word that depends and is extension of the greater mysteries of the atonement and the Trinity. God does not ignore but affirms His righteousness in forgiving sins. In Law and Gospel, God does not speak against himself.

From love, the Father spoke the Word by which the world was created, and this love was extended again by sacrificing His Son as a propitiation for the sin of the world. By the Spirit who aided Christ in His propitiatory death, God creates faith and thus the old creation is replaced by the new one.


This is quoted from only the first half of the paper Dr. David Scaer presented. He went on to speak of and focus on the third use of the Law. To watch in full, purchase a livestream ticket at www.ctsfw.edu/symposia-live.

From his last slide, on the third use of the law:

Law and gospel is the most existential and necessary of doctrines for sinners. Everyone stands coram deo as a sinner for accusation and a believer for justification. No one is exempt. In contrast to law as accusation, the third use lasts forever. “Law is in its third use is proleptic of that time when the second use will pass away and sanctification will replace it as the determinative reality between God and man. Paul said as much, ‘So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of this is love’ (1 Cor 13:7). We will see what we believed in and receive for what we hoped and so [faith and hope] will have outlived their purpose. Then the love by which we now love God and neighbor will reach its perfect and intended goal in the resurrection.”

The third use of the law is preview or the trailer of the life to come when like an old car the third use will no longer slip gears into the second. At that time the law gospel paradigm will give way to the triumph of the third use of the law as the overarching reality in which the redeemed will live under God. Put it like this, “we know that when he appears we shall be like him,” (1 Jn 3:2). That’s the third use of the law.

Tertius usus legis manet in aeternum.
[The third use of the law remains.]


A coworker pointed out his favorite line in the section on the third use of the law, so I’ll share it here: “[The commandments] were not prohibitions but descriptions of the lives of the godly who lives their lives before God.” The law is far, far deeper than a list of rules. The law is the description of who we are as God’s people.