Symposia: Boasting in the Rags of Scripture: Johann Georg Hamann as an Advocate for Classical Lutheran Theology to its Unenlightened Critics

Dr. John Kleinig, Professor Emeritus at Luther College, Adelaide, South Australia

The triune God is an author. In fact, He is the only true author. The Father is the author of the world He created, and its story. The Son is the author of the Church that He has redeemed, and its story. The Spirit is the author of the Scriptures that He has inspired, and its story.

Yet the word that has been authored by the Spirit is by far the greatest of all these wonders, for the Word of the Spirit discloses the mysteries of creation and redemption. It is the mystery of all mysteries. The Bible, the Scriptures as the word of the spirit. That’s Johann Georg Hamann’s great theme in his London writings.

Hamann was, in fact, not a theologian, but a humble employee in the bureaucracy of the Prussian Empire, which he hated. He was a man of letters—of journalism. He never published the London writings, nor did he intend to publish them. They were for himself; a kind of spiritual journal shared only with his father, brother, and two friends. But these personal writings reveal that he was one of the few theologians of the cross in his day.

Hamann lived from 1730-1788, living most of his life in East Prussia on the southeast corner of the Baltic Sea. Born to parents of modest means, he had a rather conventional Lutheran upbringing, with a father who was still largely orthodox and a mother influenced by Lutheran pietism. He studied theology and then switched over to law. While at his university, he became a fashionable advocate of the Enlightenment with his two best friends. He had a speech impediment that precluded him from becoming a pastor or lawyer, and a haphazard class attendance pattern; he failed to graduate. But by the end of his life, he was considered one of the best read men of his generation.

While on a trade mission to London (to make a secret trade deal, of which we still don’t know many details), he fell into bad company, including a group of homosexuals. He got lost. He got deep into debt because he was a generous person and a soft touch. He suffered ill health from overindulgence and experienced a deep bout of depression from social isolation. He was a gregarious person who felt only comfortable in the company of like minds. A young Christian couple provided him cheap accommodation and he went into conclusion, living on a diet of porridge. “Which did him a world of good, he said.”

He found no consolation in the books he had previously bought, and on impulse he bought himself an English Bible. As he read, he became aware of the veil between his reading and his understanding of the Bible. On Palm Sunday, 1758, it struck him for the first time that God was speaking to him personally as he was reading it. And he switched over: he no longer read it critically, but meditatively, particularly as it critiqued him and his rationalism.

On the day that he began to read the Bible for the second time in a new way (as God speaking to him), he began to write down the results of his meditations in a kind of spiritual journal. Then on a Friday evening in March, he fell into a deep reverie as he was reading Deuteronomy 5: the passage where God spoke to His people face to face, speaking the Decalogue to them on Mount Sinai, that was so terrifying that they asked God to provide Moses as mediator. Here is how he described what happened to him on that evening:

“I recognized my own offenses in the history of the Jewish people. I read the story of my own life, and thanked God for His forbearance with His people. Because nothing but such an example could justify a similar hope for me…I could no longer hide from God that I was the killer of my brother, the murderer of His begotten Son. Despite my weakness, my long resistance I had put up against His witness, the Spirit of God kept on revealing to me still more and more the mystery of divine love and the benefit of faith in our gracious, only Savior.”

In his broken heart he heard how the blood of Jesus, which cried out for vengeance, was also proclaiming God’s grace and love to him. And that Word broke his blind, hard, rocky, stubborn heart, and he surrendered it to God for re-creation by His Holy Spirit.

He was not converted as he was already a Christian, but rather transformed. His meditation from March 19–April 21, 1758, reveal his spiritual awakening and transformation from a rational intellectual to a faithful confessor of the triune God. He meditates on those parts that strike him, that address him personally or challenge him intellectually as a child of the Enlightenment. They identify his blind spots, in order to grant him deeper and more accurate insight into the spiritual realities that they portray.

From April 29–May 6, 1758, he meditated devotionally on six hymns which all consider the hidden glory of Christians who are not only made in God’s image but also participate in the communion of the Son with Father by the Holy spirit.

May 16, 1758: Apart from illumination by the Holy Spirit, both reason and faith are blind. Our knowledge is there limited and partial. Then in undated meditations on Newton’s Study on Prophecies, he observed that the Old Testament does not just record some Messianic prophecies, but that “every biblical story is a prophecy that would be fulfilled through all centuries—and in every human soul.”

The tone throughout his meditations changes. The comments become less abstract and intellectual and become more personal and devotional. By the end, he wrote a biographical look back at his life in light of his new understanding of Scripture.

From an undated piece, “On the Interpretation of Sacred Scripture”:

“Who would, like Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:25, be so bold as to speak of God’s weakness? No one, except the Spirit who searches the depths of the godhead, could have disclosed to us this prophecy, which has, more than ever before, been fulfilled in our own times, the prophecy that not many who are wise according to the flesh, not many who are mighty, not many who are of noble birth, are called to the kingdom of heaven, and that the great God has desired to reveal His wisdom and power by deliberately choosing what is foolish in the world to shame the mighty, choosing what is lowly and despised, yes things that are not, in order to bring to nothing things that are, things that boast of what they are (1 Cor. 1:26-28).”

Or, in the words of 1 Corinthians 1:25-31:

For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Today’s partial summary was taken from both Dr. Kleinig’s lecture as well as his handout that quickly sketches Hamann’s London writings, which he shared with the audience. 

Symposia: A Confessional Lutheran Church in a Lutheran Environment

Dr. Werner Klän, Professor Emeritus of Lutherische Theologische Hochschule, Oberursel, Germany

The Word creates the faith that is necessary to receive the Gospel. In Luther’s confession of 1528, Luther’s eschatological concepts were both a personal testimony and a true exposition of the faith of all Christendom; what all true Christians believe and Scripture teaches.

The question that has always been asked was: what is the pastoral relevance of the controversial issues and theological minutia on the discussion? What solution in addition to its conformity to Scripture is helpful and comforting? The confession both formulates the precise rejection of extreme positions both on the left and on the right, but also extends beyond that as a guideline for personal care. Therefore it is both meaningful and helpful in asserting our Lutheran identify, and the answers that can be found in the condensed documents of the 16th century can offer at the very least guidance for communicating faith today as well. It has significance for our contemporaries.

If we inquire after the Lutheran church, if it’s not an idea but a reality, it is not mute. It speaks.

I do not see God promising us that the Church will be a force of secular influence and moral authority in the world. No, we are the Lord’s little flock, but we do have this promise: the gates of hell will not prevail against it. Living as I do in a post-Christian environment, I see this. That old seductive dream belongs to another era. It’s hard to leave behind. We will be marginalized, mocked, neglected. But we speak. Our task continually recalls the words of the Old and New Testaments. Our confession must be repeatedly called to mind as it reflects God’s Word. In this way, by reconsidering over again the Scripture and the confessions, we are taken into a movement that connects being called and being sent. We’re not standing at the margins, we’re standing at the center.

Concerning the task that lies ahead in postmodern times: formation and education in other emerging church bodies. It is a matter of prayer and patience, that the Lord will show us what he has in store for us. We must pass on the doctrine that is tied to the Scriptures to the emerging southern churches, that was once granted to us. As long as we have churches bound to the Scriptures and the Lutheran confessions, the effectiveness is not ours. It is effective through God’s work and Sacraments. It is Him that will do the work. His name be praised forever.

Apologies for the much shorter summary than usual. The trade-off is that we have Epiphany Evening Prayer, featuring the Kantorei (plus Kantorei alumni, who will be joining their brethren in one of tonight’s pieces), beginning at 5 p.m. Eastern Time—i.e. in about half an hour. We will be livestreaming this service here on our Facebook page and at

Symposia: The Splintering of Missouri: How our American Context Gave Rise to Micro-Synods as a Solution to Theological Conflict

Rev. Todd Peperkorn, Pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Rocklin, CA

The religious scene in 1950 America: America is on the top of the world, everyone has children, and everything is looking up for American religion. The good guys won. The ecumenical movement is in full swing. Billy Graham is a study in American evangelicalism.

Formation of several synods in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. Controversies began and continued on, with issues ramping up and stacking one on the other. In truth, this was another lecture that involved telling historical stories, which makes summarizing and sharing difficult. Very compelling to listen to, but because of its dependence on details that lead one into the other, difficult to capture quickly by writing (particularly if you also want to be accurate).

And how did our American context shape the creation and the outcome of the three particular splits Rev. Peperkorn talked about? Once we have a sense of the history (you’ll have to watch the lecture to get this sense at, we then step back and gain some perspective:

The split in the 1950s was a result of the pick yourself up by your bootstraps individualism mentality while the 60s and 70s was the hippy freedom of the 60s and 70s. But what they had in common, whether they were moderates or conservatives: it was a question of autonomy. In each of these three groups, they held up the congregation as the only true expression of the church. Anything beyond it is advisory at best and intrusive at worst. All of these express an individuality that was getting lost as the LCMS was becoming larger. Saw the growth coming at the expense of right doctrine and practice. They wanted freedom to express or not express as they saw fit. Basically: “I do what I want and if I don’t what you do then I will take my things and go my way.”

This insistence on autonomy explains the impulse to split into different synods. Highlighted the American impulse to resent authority and trust local, individual governance. Here is the problem: on the one hand you have the clarion call for disciplinary action against pastors, teachers, etc. but at the very same time is the claim that only the local congregation is, properly speaking, “Church.” Only the local congregation could reproach.

There are three different approaches when dealing with controversies in the church: admit that the culture is changing and we have to change with it (typified by AELC); run everything by vote (essentially the politicization in the Missouri Synod: candidates, elections, with winners and losers; if you don’t like what happens, ignore it or work to win the vote next time); or separation, in which the only choice is to leave and form your own church or join one of the existing (OLC, LCR, and FAL).

These approaches beg different questions: Can there be such a thing as good politics in the Church? Is there any way to do it? Is leaving the church good or divisiveness? All three of these approaches are distinctly American and reflect our history and culture.

Indeed, every era of the church there are people who profess the Gospel in their specific circumstances. It’s impossible to answer how you would have lived and responded in a certain era without sounding a little like Peter in Matthew 26:33 in the same chapter in which he would deny Jesus three times: “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.”

The Church thrives under many different systems; even in tyrannical governments the Church survives. Christ our Lord calls us to be faithful in who and what we confess, urging us to be one just as He is one with the Father. At the same time, the only way we exist as a Church is living in forgiveness under the Gospel. The Church cannot survive unless we overlook and pardon many things. So we ask ourselves this question: How will we live under the Gospel together, calling each other to faithfulness in all things, while at the same time learning to overlook and pardon many things? Only time will tell.

Symposia: Synod or Sects? The Emergences of Partisanship in the LCMS

Dr. Lawrence Rast Jr., CTSFW President and Professor of Historical Theology

“Therefore it says,

‘When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
and he gave gifts to men.’

(In saying, ‘He ascended,’ what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”

Ephesians 4:8-14

They key phrase of this passage: “until we all attain to the unity of…” There’s the implied “Now and not yet,” in it. And why do we strive to all attain it? “That we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine…”

We are the church militant. Where is that battle most brutally fought out? Within and without. As Bilbo Baggins said on the occasion of his 111 birthday: “I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.” Dr. Rast immediately added, to appreciative laughter, “That’s how I feel about all of you.”

The Church is God’s gift, and as God’s gift is divine. But it is a mess. The Synod is a mess. You are a mess. And above all, I am a mess. The good news is this: God is not a mess. He’s busy at work building His Church, even if it is hard for us to see it at times.

How do Synods fit into all this? Take our own history of presidential overturns in our history. The first time was in 1935: John Behnken unseated Friedrich Pfotenhauer.
1969: J.A.O. Preus defeats Oliver Harms
1992: A.L. Barry captures the presidency from Ralph Bohlmann
2010: Matthew Harrison defeats Gerald Kieschnick on the first ballot

These kinds of events call for an assessment on part of the church body. Why is our Synod so at odds? In 1969, both men were gracious. Jack Preus denounced politicking, and Oliver Harms graciously passed his presidency to his successor. However, shortly following a pastor and his congregation left the Synod, following the publication of, “Why True Christians in the Missouri Synod are Conscience-Bound to Leave Missouri.” Then in the 1992 unseating, Ralph Bohlmann publicly called the actions of his adversary (and/or his supporters) leading up to the vote as sinful.

Why do we spend so much money on these when the real work of the Church is the preaching of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments, which happens at the local congregational level? Because though the Church is a divine gift, but that gift is lived out in the context of sinful man.

Dr. Rast then went on to detail much of our history of controversies, beginning from the formation (and pre-formation) of Synod. Wyneken pleaded with Synod to stay unified, but any unification was lost almost immediately. Goerg Schieferdecker (1815-1891) was the first to bring serious theological controversy. He began openly advocating a form of millennialism. In 1857, after he refused to recant his heretical position, he was de-vested and deposed from his congregation, made even harder by the fact that he was District President. However, in 1875 in Der Lutheraner he publicly denounced his former heresy and rejoined the LCMS in 1876 and served in the Missouri Synod for the rest of his life.

Then followed other controversies, like the error of predestination of the 1870s and 1880s, resulted in a reshuffling. Those who could not accept the LCMS’s position on the doctrine of election found an external synod that did agree with them. And those who were in other synods, like the Ohio synod, found their way into the Missouri Synod. You found the Synod that fit your confession. What changed? While the controversy of Schieferdecker’s millennialism was relatively tame, the later controversies were brutal. Arguments became personal and friendships were destroyed.

What begins to change in the movement into the 20th century is the way that this aligning on the part of individual pastors and laypeople shifts. Where previously you would seek the synod that best reflected your position, now people began to internally seek to change the position of their synod. That would lead to some significant challenges.

Flying past his storytelling (here’s my usual plug: if you want to watch it in full, purchase a $20 ticket for online access at of our history of controversies, here’s what we conclude:

When one looks at the history of the Missouri synod, what we must avoid is a false romanticism that at one point all was good, all was unified, all was harmonious. To fall into that kind of temptation really keeps us from understanding what the Church is as the Church Militant. We have to strive every day with our own sinful flesh and have to work every day to work with one another and offer to the world the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That work never ends. It will always go on and we must always be engaged in it.

What history can show us in this: we don’t have to pine after something that never was. But we can still be encouraged that we gather here today at the grace of God. The Church is a divine gift, and Christ is the one who creates it and sustains it. We must strive to be faithful to it, to the Gospel, to Scripture until His return.

Symposia: Hermann Sasse: A Stand Alone Lutheran

The 43rd Annual Symposium on the Lutheran Confessions on the theme of “Ecclesiology: Locating Confessional Boundaries” opened with LCMS President, Dr. Matthew Harrison, on the topic of “Hermann Sasse: A Stand Alone Lutheran.”

Hermann Sasse was a theologian. He served in WWI as a chaplain, after which he served and worked in Berlin. He first publicly criticized the Nazi party in 1932. He was harassed, punished financially, but survived the party.

WWI was a turning point for Sasse for several reasons: for the great losses he had seen and suffered in the war, and for the Lutheran renaissance that was taking place around the same time. He wrote: “We who had been students of Holl suddenly began to realize that the Lutheran Reformation meant something also for modern mankind. ‘ Man is nothing, and nothing is left to us but to despair of ourselves and hope in Christ.’ This word of Luther’s became important to our generation.”

Following WWI, he served in Berlin in desperate circumstances. He also studied in America, where he saw the downfall of American Christianity was the secularization of the church. “Worship has been, as we say, developed. There must always be something new and everything must be affected.” Music had to be affecting, light had to, liturgy had to. American churches aimed to meet their business goals. They acted as societies. In this secular mish-mash or protestant America, Sasse entered into the ecumenical movement (worldwide Christian unity/cooperation). But how different churches answer the questions of Church order and where authority comes from had practical consequences.

Christ is not an intermediate being but very God. Where is Christ, there’s the Church. “First our mouths are dumb, then he [the Lord] speaks. If we with our wisdom and our power are at an end, then he speaks his great Word to us: “Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age!” [Matthew 28] With these words he once sent his apostles into the world, to tasks which humanly speaking were impossible, to destinations, which they knew not. And they joyously went the unknown way. They knew that his forgiveness, his peace, his power were with them. “Behold, I am with always”—this is the mystery of the church. For upon what does the church rest?”

Where do we find Christ? Sasse saw that a concrete, classical, Christology is the only remedy for theologies that saw in the New Testament only pietism and useful ethics. Sasse saw several attempts to Christianize the world, which goes against the Word of God (what we recognize as the doctrine of the two kingdoms). That, per Article 16, “the gospel should not enthrone or remove kings, nor do away with secular obedience, or prescribe laws for secular power and secular affairs. As Christ said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world.’”

Attempts to Christianize the world will only secularize the Church.

The question of the ecclesiastical office (relating to the church/its clergy/hierarchy) has practical consequences depending on how you answer it. Sasse asserts that Lutheran doctrine says something useful, though it’s only a beginning. That:

1. The priesthood was first introduced in connection with the doctrine of the sacrifice of the mass (1 Peter 2:9 and Revelation 1:6).

2. The office can never be derived from the general priesthood of believers, but only from the apostolate.

3. “Apostle” appears in the NT with a double meaning: a.) messenger, and b.) the strictly theological usage in Acts and Paul regarding his office.

4. The essence of prophecy is the struggle between error and truth. In the NT, prophecy has become a discreet church office, the apostolic office now superior to prophecy. In the NT there are binding rules for the church’s present constitution. The office which keeps doctrine pure is maintained.

5. The Church of Christ appears in the congregation sanctorum; in the ministry docendi evangelii et porrigendi sacramenta (note here: forgive my misspellings; corrections that commenters post will be incorporated). The office is a divine institution. The apostles never conferred this Christ-given authority to a congregation but from person to person.

How is the Lutheran view of the office distinguished from other views? The proclamation of the Gospel belongs to the essence of the Church. The Law is completely subordinate to the Gospel. The office is established as the gift of God to humanity and this office has nothing to give beyond the Gospel (office of the keys).

This is only a summarized part of the first half of Dr. Harrison’s lecture. You can watch the full lecture (and all the rest) online by purchasing livestream access for $20 at

Symposia: Christ Under God’s Wrath: A Pauline Perspective

Prof. Adam Koontz, CTSFW Assistant Professor of Exegetical Theology

Substitutionary atonement’s importance is obvious throughout the Old Testament and New Testament, as well as to the Church’s theological battles following. Indeed, penal substitutionary atonement comes naturally to Christians. Every biblical doctrine is related to every other doctrine (generally) as the truth of God’s Word is all interconnected. The atonement and the forgiveness of sins are respectively cause and effect to the penitent. Without Jesus’ sacrifice, there is no forgiveness.

The biblical doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement is undergirded by the doctrine and nature of divine wrath. When this doctrine is properly understood, so is atonement understood. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (Romans 1:18). Throughout Romans, Paul speaks of unrighteousness as so manifest that it is practiced both openly and secretly.

There are both open and secret idolaters. Neither class of ungodly men shall escape the judgment of God. There is no inheritance for the sexually immoral or unclean. There is a present tense reality of divine wrath upon sin that will be revealed. “Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:3-4). Even here, the purpose is made clear: not to harden men’s hearts further, but to bring man to repentance.

The righteousness of divine wrath, so obvious to Paul in Romans 2:2 and 3:5, asks this question: “But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.)”

No! Or, per verse 6: “By no means!” This mystery is revealed through His grace, for He judges the secrets of mankind according to His grace, “when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus” (Romans 2:16). Even outwardly being a Jew will be insufficient; our present justification is only possible in His blood. Our salvation from divine wrath at the second coming of Jesus is also according to His grace because present realities of and reconciliation through the death of Jesus are the seals of God’s mercy toward believers. We are saved from God’s wrath, saved by Christ’s death.

The nature of God’s utterly kind and gracious nature is put forth in Christ’s blood. Wrath will not be absent from the second coming, but believers look forward to safe shelter from His wrath; it is Jesus who saves us from the coming wrath. “But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day [of the Lord] to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness…For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:4-5, 9). He has also “endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy” (Romans 9:23, 24).

The connection of wrath, the second coming, and grace are all solely dependent on God’s determination. Judgment on sin and salvation for His people will occur at the time of His own choosing. This is simultaneously so basic as to go unmentioned in our sermons but so profound as to be the basis of the salvation we preach. Yet it is incomprehensible without the knowledge that wrath is coming for sin. Everyone will appear before God’s judgment seat, and will have to give an account for his own doings, not his brother’s.

This also explains and clarifies the purpose of excommunication, as in the case of the man in 1 Corinthians 5 who was sleeping with his mother-in-law. The purpose isn’t to be judgmental for judgment’s sake, but as an act of discipline. Excommunication is intended to discipline the man’s flesh so that his spirit might be saved in the Day of the Lord, in view of Christ’s coming. It’s a practice that aims toward repentance. If the man had not been excommunicated, the congregation would have confessed that sexual immorality was not actually a sin and/or that they did not care enough about the man’s sin to discipline his flesh. When denied, the discipline of the flesh that is temporary becomes unending away from the face of the Lord; discipline of the flesh is meant to save someone from the certain and unending ruin under the wrath of God apart from Christ. “For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God” (1 Peter 4:17).

“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.”

Philippians 1:27-30

This was the last lecture of the Exegetical Symposium, which concludes with a panel discussion that is going on right now. The 43rd Annual Symposium on the Lutheran Confessions will then begin this afternoon at 1:15 p.m. (Eastern Time). Today’s lineup includes topics from both LCMS President Matthew Harrison and CTSFW President Lawrence Rast Jr.

Symposia: The Cross, the Atonement, and the Eucharist in Luke (and Hebrews)

Dr. Arthur Just Jr., CTSFW Professor of Exegetical Theology

The biblical story is a story of blood and sacrifice in the presence of God. To enter into the presence of God, one needs to pass through blood. The theology of divine presence is central to the Old Testament and continues into the New in the birth of Jesus Christ. Luke begins by moving from the temple to the baby in the womb of the Virgin Mary. There is a shift from God’s holy of holies in the temple to the flesh of Jesus, who is both God and man.

The story of everything is driven by atonement, by blood and sacrifice, and finally by Eucharist, which is where we join Christ in the blood and sacrifice.

Only Luke and Paul have the words of substitutionary atonement over the bread. “Given on behalf of you.” The language is reminiscent of the sacrificial system of the Old Testament, particularly Leviticus and Isaiah 53. Only in Luke do you also find this substitutionary language in the giving of the blood. As Luke T. Johnson, a historian of early Christianity, once wrote: “For you: the sacrifice is vicarious. The phrase “hyper hymon” ([Greek] ‘for you’) is found in verse 19 [Luke 22:19] and is repeated here; it means both ‘in place of you’ and even more ‘in your behalf.’”

Luke references the death of Jesus in his institution narrative in Luke 22. “Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed” (Luke 22:7). The narrative concerns two distinct and parallel events: the celebration of the Passover according to the old covenant, and an institution of a new covenant. The hearer must keep both of these in mind as the narrative progresses. The Passover lamb must be slain, the Passover feast must be prepared and eaten. But THIS feast will be unlike any other. It makes obsolete the sacrifice of the Old Testament.

The disciples prepared for this meal, with the expectations of celebrating another Jewish Passover. But what these disciples experienced was not another old covenant Passover but one given new meaning in terms of Christ Himself, making it His meal, on the night when He was betrayed. A meal that supersedes all other meals. This is Jesus’ Passover because on this night the Lamb who must be sacrificed stands on the threshold of the new era of salvation. After this Passover, there will be no more need for the Jewish Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7: “Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed”).

The world has passed over from death to life. His life is offered continually. This is the Passover for which all the other Passovers were preparation. Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, as it says in Revelation 5.

Jesus’ impending death is referenced in Luke 22:15 “before I suffer” and verse 37: “For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered [also translated “reckoned” as referenced in an earlier symposia lecture] with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.”

In Luke is also the pastoral character of the distinctively added, “for you” and poured out “for you” in the institution narrative. Where Matthew and Mark accent the universal atonement (as ransom for many), Luke makes it personal: for you. For the disciples. It transforms it into a liturgical statement that brings the universal atonements into the mouths of the disciples and us. The worshipper knows himself personally to be addressed by the Lord.

Is this not the Lutheran way? Do we not say, “The body of Christ given for you. The blood of Christ shed for you.” For me [Dr. Just said], this is one of the most pastoral moments in the ministry. When I am placing the body and blood of Christ in the mouths of the saints, and they are in that moment participating in the atonement of Christ. Luke has taken the historical event of atonement and placed that atonement in the mouths of his communicants.

Following the institution in Luke, an argument breaks out among the disciples about who’s the greatest and Jesus responds with the message that they are humble servants as He Himself is. “But I am among you [in certain translations “I am in the midst of you”] as the one who serves” (Luke 22:27). The one who gives His body and blood, for you—He reiterates that—will always be in their midst. The real presence of Jesus. Jesus will continue to be in the presence of his church in Communion as they dine. Goes from the universal to the particular, form the many to one, that what happened on Good Friday happens for every believer.

In Luke, Jesus called the cup “the new testament in my blood,” reflecting the language in the Passover account in Exodus 24, “the blood of the covenant.” They are brought into the cup and receive all its benefits made possible by the sacrifice of Jesus. Since God incarnate is the host and he gives His body and blood with the bread and wine, Luke stresses the new testament, which is unique to Luke. He alludes to the promise of a new covenant, which Jesus fulfills in the shedding of his blood. These are callbacks to the prophetic passages like Jeremiah 31:34: “And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

The accent of the Luke 22 institution narrative falls on the blood of Jesus. Being poured out suggests both the pouring of the cup and the blood that pours from the body of Jesus on the cross. Jesus fulfills all the many bloody sacrifices of the Old Testament, including the poured out in Exodus 24 and referenced in Isaiah 52:15: “until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the fruitful field is deemed a forest.”

The drinking of blood would have been an extreme offense to the Jews; and now, to refuse to recognize Christ’s body and blood in the Supper, is to court condemnation as Paul warns. As the Church now shares in the body and blood, it is bound together in the new creation in the body of Christ.

In conclusion, the evangelist Luke shows how Jesus, on the night in which He was betrayed, looks forward to His atonement for the sins on the cross in our behalf. And already here in this meal He gives His body for you, and pours out His blood for you. Luke’s atonement theology affirms that at our altars we receive the sacrifice Christ offered once for all on the altar of the cross, so that the body and blood of Christ Jesus as offered on the cross for the atonement of the sins of the whole world will nourish and strengthen us until at least we gather at the heavenly banquet to feast with the Lamb and all His saints.

This concludes the lectures for today. A short vespers service (which is not being livestreamed) is taking place right now, and the other excitement for the evening is our second annual King’s Men Alumni Game: current King’s Men versus King’s Men Alumni. All are invited to Wambsgans Gymnasium at 7:00 p.m.

Please note to our livestream watchers that the short exegetical papers being presented tomorrow will not be streamed. Logistically there’s just too many of them, spread across too many classrooms. However, you can view the titles of all 10 papers and their presenters by clicking on the brochure at I would recommend contacting the speakers directly (most are pastors, so you should be able to find their emails through the LCMS locator) if you are interested in reading their paper. We will not be providing summaries for those.

Symposia: Penal Substitutionary Atonement?

Dr. Walter A. Maier III, CTSFW Professor of Exegetical Theology

The phrase “penal substitutionary atonement” captures the essence of what I was taught when I was young: that Jesus not only led the perfect life, He also took upon Himself the sins of the world and paid fully for those trespasses with His suffering and death on a cross. In other words, Jesus took our place and so made possible our salvation.

However, I became aware of another position of the saving work of Christ, which has some influence in the Christian Church, even among Lutherans. This creeping heresy, taught by Gerhard Forde (1927-2005), is why the Exegetical Department chose the theme “The Cross, the Atonement, and the Wrath of God” for this year’s Exegetical Symposium. A summary of Forde’s teachings:

God wants to be merciful, but natural man rejects God’s mercy. This arouses the wrath of God, in which God makes himself absent/hidden from human beings. God then becomes man and comes to us to be present for us. Christ must come this way in order to show His mercy. So Christ came, preaching forgiveness, and unilaterally forgiving sins without any so-called payment being made for the debt of sin, and we, being natural, unconverted man (i.e. works-righteousness legalists) killed Christ. Christ was put to death because he forgave sins. It was not for sins that He died, in order to make forgiveness possible. Instead, we considered what Christ did as wrong. Thus Christ bore our sins in His body not for a substitutionary reality, but because we sinned, beat His body, put a crown of thorns on His head, and nails in His hands.

An analogy of this goes as follows: A child is in the street, a man casts himself in the path of the truck, saves the child, but is in the process killed. He gave his life for another but it was an accident. In this analogy, we are the ones driving the truck of legalism. Jesus’ death was a sacrifice for us, but not in the sense of substitutionary atonement. He did not die for our sins, to pay the penalty for our transgressions. Forde explains that Christ’s death saves in part because it reveals our sin of rejecting the merciful God. Christ’s sacrifice unmasks our legalism and shows His grace and mercy. God is satisfied when we believe and trust in Him as the God who has and shows mercy.

Dr. Maier paused her for a brief comment: we would all agree that humanity is in bondage to works righteousness. Some aspects of Forde’s teachings even come close to the truth, so much so that, at first glance, much of it seems unobjectionable. But a longer looks reveals the untruths at its core.

Forde’s position demands: Why can’t God just pardon without payment for sin or fulfillment of the Law? Why can’t God unilaterally forgive as we do? If God is merciful, why must justice be satisfied before He can enact mercy?

If one says that God must be satisfied, then, according to Forde, “everything depends on Jesus’ punishment and death but not on the resurrection. There is no need for a resurrection really—one could just as well say that the Son of God suffered and was killed to pay the debt and that’s all there is to that. What need is there for anything more?” He argues: “The transfer of someone else’s sin to the innocent is absurd and improper, just as in reverse the transfer of someone else’s righteousness to the unrighteous.”

The deep problem undergirding Forde’s psotion is that Forde does not like or accept all of the teaching of Scripture about God. In a selective manner he holds to the passages he likes. He wants a God that conforms to his preconceived notion about who God should be. But we are to hold to the whole counsel of God’s Word, not parts of it. Certainly God is merciful, gracious, and loving, but so too is He holy, righteous, and just.

Forde does not have the proper balance between his mercy, grace, and love on the one hand, and his holy, righteousness, and justice on the other. “God had to be true to himself” (to borrow Forde’s phrase). God had to be God. In His holy, righteousness, and justice, He could not just ignore sin to unilaterally forgive man’s sin. Something had to be done to take away the offense to those attributes of God. To take from Forde, again: “Let God be God.”

Forde does not speak of God as holy, righteous, and just, but as a kind of celestial bookkeeper, a kind of tyrant. It’s not redemption, but a matter of God being bought off. It’s not His righteousness and holiness that demand blood, but a sort of divine cruelty.

Forde asks, incorrectly: why must God’s justice be satisfied before he can be merciful? We answer: justice is an attribute of God, and because of His mercy, grace, and love, God sent His Son to die for the world. Forde questions why God should find the death of the Son as acceptable and doubts whether His death is even enough to pay for the sins of the whole world. But teachings throughout the Word speak of Jesus as the perfect sacrifice. His death is acceptable because He was not only a man but also God. Because God was involved, redemption is complete and universal.

The whole of the Bible speaks to this truth, beginning with the Old Testament and the first Gospel announcement:

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15).

God always forgave in view of the coming deliverer, who would be wounded even unto death for the sins of Adam and Eve and their sinful descendants. Genesis 22 (when Abraham is tested, and obediently takes Isaac to the mountain to put Him to death, only to have the Angel of the Lord provide a ram as a substitutionary sacrifice), shows that substitutionary sacrifice is acceptable to God. This vicarious sacrifice foreshadowed both the mosaic sacrificial and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. One life takes the place of another. “The substitutions of one life for another is acceptable to God—that is what relieves us from sacrificing average sinful life” (Kaiser in “Hard Sayings of the Old Testament”).

Mosaic Law continues the foreshadowing of the substitutionary sacrifice who would be put to death once for all:

“He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him” (Leviticus 1:4).

“Speak to the people of Israel, saying, If anyone sins unintentionally in any of the Lord’s commandments about things not to be done, and does any of them, if it is the anointed priest who sins, thus bringing guilt on the people, then he shall offer for the sin that he was committed a bull from the herd without blemish to the Lord for a sin offering. He shall bring the bull to the entrance of the tent of meeting before the Lord and lay his hand on the head of the bull and kill the bull before the Lord…And the elders of the congregation shall lay their hands on the head of the bull before the Lord, and the bull shall e killed before the Lord” (Leviticus 4:2-4, 15).

Symbolically, God’s justice was carried out and thus the sinner was spared death. The sacrifice stands between (i.e. “atones for”) the sinner and God’s judgment. The priest atones for the sinner and he (or they) are forgiven. Indeed, the sacrificial directives in Mosaic Law have their roots in Genesis 3:15. The promised savior would be wounded unto death. Thus is demonstrated God’s nature: His holiness, righteousness, justice, as well as His grace, mercy, and life. Payment has been made to God for every sin. Jesus Christ has rendered full payment for our debt.

Zechariah, chapter 3:

Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, O Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?” Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.” And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the Lord was standing by.

And the angel of the Lord solemnly assured Joshua, “Thus says the Lord of hosts: If you will walk in my ways and keep my charge, then you shall rule my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you the right of access among those who are standing here. Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, you and your friends who sit before you, for they are men who are a sign: behold, I will bring my servant the Branch. For behold, on the stone that I have set before Joshua, on a single stone with seven eyes, I will engrave its inscription, declares the Lord of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of this land in a single day. In that day, declares the Lord of hosts, every one of you will invite his neighbor to come under his vine and under his fig tree.”

Symposia: Sacrificial Atonement and the Wrath of God in the Light of the Old Testament

Dr. John Kleinig, Professor Emeritus at Luther College Adelaide, South Australia

What I want to do is give you a broad stroke overview of atonement, primarily in the Old Testament and how that hinges on our understanding of the New Testament. People in the ancient world believed they could atone for their sins by offering sacrifices to the gods. That seems to be innate in our humanity. We’ve done something wrong, we’ve disturbed the powers that be, and we’ve got to make amends. I put it to you that’s still ingrained in our humanity.

In stark reversal to that common conviction, the Bible teaches that God Himself atones for the sins of the world by the sacrifice that He provides for them in and through His human Son, His incarnate Son. So not atonement that we make, but that atonement that God makes for us.

As you all know, God so loved the world that He sacrificed His Son that whoever believes him would not perish but have eternal life. And John adds, at the end of that chapter, a verse that is seldom regarded but is significant: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36).

Atonement should not be a matter of dispute for us, as it is laid out in the third article of the Augsburg Confession. Jesus was sacrificed not only for original sin but also for other sins, to propitiate God’s wrath. Then in the next article we confess that those who believe in Christ are justified for His sake because He has made satisfaction for their sin by His death.

The doctrine of the atonement doesn’t explain the significance/meaning of Christ’s death (although that’s implied in it), but rather teaches what Christ accomplishes by His death. Atonement isn’t a theory because it doesn’t have to do with idea but with realities, facts. Atonement is not a theory, it’s a reality.

The rite of atonement was part of the order of service in Israel; it was the first enactment every morning and every evening as the daily sacrifice was presented. It very much performs a similar role to our rite of Confession and Absolution in a Communion service. It’s the first act in the order of service. Now, these daily rites of atonement were expanded to include sin offering for purification from particular sins and guilt offerings for particular acts of desecration. In Leviticus 17:11-12, God makes this decree in the rite of atonement:

“For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life. Therefore I have said to the people of Israel, No person among you shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger who sojourns among you eat blood.”

God gives this blood from the sacrifice to His people on the altar, and He gives the blood to make atonement on the altar. Blood, atonement, altar belong together. It is the blood that makes atonement—it’s not the death of the animal that’s necessary. The rite of atonement is not the sacrifice, the killing of the atonement. It’s the splashing, the pouring out of the blood on the altar. Here, as elsewhere in liturgical context, the Hebrew verb for making atonement is the technical term that refers to the very simple act of splashing the blood—the high priest (who both represents the people and also represents God) pouring it out on the altar.

Now by the association of this verb “to make atonement” with the word for ransom in Hebrew, atonement is also to be understood as the payment that God makes to ransom His people.
These are words of institution. The focus on the blood and the application on the altar. God gives the blood. God institutes the use of blood by the means by which He Himself grants/accomplishes atonement. Second, God institutes this rite as a vicarious act by which the life of an animal is exchanged for the life of the people. The death of the animal provides life. Not from the animal, but life from God through the blood. Thirdly, the Israelite are ransomed from death by the blood of the lamb. Since God instituted the rite of atonement as part of the service of burnt offering every morning and evening, it’s placement in the service shows us its nature.

The act of atonement is no longer performed repeatedly as a regular rite each morning and evening as at the temple in Jerusalem, because Jesus has atoned for all human sin once and for all in human history by offering Himself as the perfect sacrificial victim. Secondly, through Jesus as high priest, all people—Jews and Gentiles—now have safe access to God the Father. Through Him and His blood, they may now draw near to God the Father with boldness and confidence to receive grace and mercy from him. “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

Since we have been justified by the blood of Jesus, says Paul in Romans 5, we have access to God’s grace (“Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God” Romans 5:2). That’s the term: access. As well as that, we have been consecrated through the blood of Jesus as members of God’s holy priesthood, to serve as holy priests already now with Jesus. Whereas atonement and cleansing was done in the Old Testament for admission to God’s presence in the earthly sanctuary (temporary), now in the New Testament it is for admission to His heavenly sanctuary. We worship with the angels and serve as holy priests even here on earth.

It is by Christ’s suffering and death that He ushers us into His Father’s presence. Because Jesus is God’s Son, atonement is a Trinitarian enactment. You can’t make sense of it except in Trinitarian terms. Jesus was chosen by His Holy Father as the Lamb, the sacrificial offering before the creation of the world, and revealed in the last times for the sake of all men. Since God loved all people, He sent His Son to make atonement for their sins. God the Father offered His Son, once and for all, to bear the sins of the world:

“Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:26).

Jesus was offered up. The passive indicates that it is God the Father who offers up His Son. Through the eternal Spirit, Jesus, God’s incarnate Son, in turn offered Himself without blemish to God the Father (Hebrews 9:14). Since He loved the Church, He gave Himself up on her behalf as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God the Father.

Notice the Trinitarian movement. Up to down and then up again. Since it is a Trinitarian enactment, atonement is also eternal, eschatological (i.e. “relating to death, judgment, and the final destiny of the soul and of humankind,” as per Google) in nature. It occurs in human history for the benefit of all humanity, but it reaches God’s presence in heaven and, most importantly, anticipates the last judgment. Its practical purpose is the favorable reception of sinners by God now in the Divine Service and on the last day in the last judgment. We meet before God the Judge every Sunday and meet before God the Judge on the last day. Since it has to do with the last judgment, and is eschatological, therefore, the focus of the attention of the New Testament focus shifts from God’s holiness to God’s righteousness.

Also, please note: as per the last couple of summaries, much of this was pulled directly from the speaker as he presented on his topic. Thus the use of “I” throughout. That said, quotes are not perfect; some have been shortened and summarized to assist in the punctual upload of these summaries.

Symposia: Reckoned Among the Lawless: The Gospel as the Law’s Fulfillment

Dr. Peter Scaer, CTSFW Professor and Chairman of Exegetical Theology

Christ was born under the law to redeem those under the law. You were bought with a price, ransomed with the blood of Christ. Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness. Sin is a debt. It cannot be erased. Someone must foot the bill. “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matt. 5:17).

In loving and obeying His Father perfectly and denying the desires of the flesh, Jesus fulfills the first and second tables of the Law. He came to serve, not to be served. Our Lord had to drink the cup of suffering. The message to the nations becomes the Father’s message to the Son: you must drink. The chief priests were right: he could save others but not himself. There was no other way.

You can see examples of this fulfillment throughout the Bible. Luke repeatedly ties Christ’s death to the Passover, and Isaiah 53 foretold that he would be wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities. Our Lord identifies Himself as that very suffering servant. He was numbered with the lawless (Luke 22:37). The King James translation is even better: he was not merely numbered but reckoned among the lawless. Despite the fact that three times Pilate declared Him righteousness, as did Herod, on Good Friday. Even the centurion in Luke punctuates that truth: “Certainly this man was innocent!” (Luke 23:47).

This brings us back to Romans 4:22-25:

“That is why his faith was ‘counted to him as righteousness.’ But the words ‘it was counted to him’ were not written for his sake along, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.”

Perhaps this topic seems too simple for symposia, but when the truth is denied it is soon forgotten. Jesus takes the punishment that we deserved. That’s Lutheranism 101 and Christianity 101. All this is simple, but not simplistic. So much is accomplished by Christ’s death and resurrection, all the books written in the world could not contain it.

Dr. Peter Scaer spent much of his lecture hour then speaking on the perilous danger of creating “theories” about atonement. Theories by their nature are tentative; theology is for proclamation and must have content. If proclaiming Christ’s death as a payment for sin is a theory, it marginalizes the truth. For the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world isn’t only an 11th century opinion.

Multiple models of something, even atonement, can give us something to consider, especially as they often overlap. The faithful may hear all these as facets of one song, of melody and voices joined in harmony. In our Lutheran circles we do the same thing when we speak of a theology of vocation, a theology of mercy, a theology of the cross. We do not lose that they are parts of a deep and rich whole. Unfortunately, too often people use one model to take aim at another.

This is where some common heresies come from: that Christianity is an abusive theology that glorifies suffering. The idea of “divine child abuse.” Despite Christ himself saying that he would be lifted up so that all eyes would be drawn to him. It’s the ancient question asked by the serpent in the garden: “Did God really say…?”

Forgiveness affirms the necessity of Christ’s death. Traditional Lutheran atonement is not absurd; it is absurd to think that atonement came at no cost—that any gift has no cost. It’s hard, in some ways, to understand in an age when we give our gifts with a receipt. But given the fall into sin, God cannot simply say, “Let there be forgiveness.” Words have to be backed up by action. Anyone can write a check, but it does no good if there’s no money in the bank.

In the midst of His ministry of forgiveness, Christ prepared for the price He must pay. When Christ is baptized, the heavens are torn open just as the curtain in the temple will be torn upon His death. Jesus was killed by men for reasons of power and jealousy, but at a deeper level He was put to death as the Lamb of God. God’s favor precedes the sending of His Son. This forgiveness precedes death, but not because it is somehow untethered from Christ’s death. God sends his Son and the Son willingly obeys, out of love for the Father and for the world. The crucifixion happened in time, even as atonement is eternal.

This is compelling evidence. “And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins’” (Matt. 26:27-28).

Lectures are breaking for lunch and will resume in an hour. We’ll continue giving updates throughout the day, but to listen to the lectures in whole, purchase a livestream ticket at To a view and/or download the schedule (which includes all topics and speakers), go to