Eero Saarinen and CTSFW

One of the highlights of our campus (which you may have recently seen in a Facebook live tour led by Director of Admission Rev. Matt Wietfeldt) is the architecture, designed by Eero Saarinen, who is famous for the St. Louis arch. We had a follow-up question from one of our viewers, asking with Saarinen was a Christian. Our resident Saarinen expert, Prof. Robert Roethemeyer, Director of our Library, had this to say:

Yes, the evidence suggests that he was a Christian, even a Lutheran in confession. His father’s father was a Lutheran pastor in Finland. His father was a Finnish-American architect whose last project was First Lutheran Church in Minneapolis.

Our chapel is one of five Saarinen-designed sacred buildings.

Eliel Saarinen (Eero’s father) designed two churches:
First Christian Church in Columbus, Indiana (1942)
Christ Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota (1949)

Eero Saarinen designed two chapels and one church:
Chapel at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts (1955)
Chapel at Concordia Senior College, now CTSFW (1958)
North Christian Church in Columbus, Indiana (1964)

The two chapels are notable for their simplicity of design. The chapel at MIT is in the shape of a cylinder, giving us architecturally the circle and theologically eternity. The chapel at CTSFW is architecturally a triangle and theologically symbolizes the Trinity.

Another architectural piece to note on campus are the bricks all throughout the buildings. The lay horizontal through most of the campus, symbolizing our connection with one another in community. In the chapel, they lay vertically, emphasizing God coming to us.

Eero Saarinen (left) and Kevin Roche (right), Bloomfield Hills, Michigan; between 1953 and 1961. Photo from the Korab Collection at the Library of Congress.

2020 Symposia Recordings Now Available

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

Videos include:

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

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

Overwhelming Generosity

We have been, quite literally, overwhelmed with you generosity! In just the first day and a half of open drop-off at the Clothing Co-op, Spiegel Hall (where free shopping for the students is organized across the many rooms of the former dormitory building) has received items from two trailers and 40 cars. In fact, our Clothing Co-op staff has asked if our donors could please take another break from drop-off for at least another couple of weeks. After that, they hope that donors can then continue to spread out drop-off times over the next couple of months. Because so many donations have come into our doors, these gifts are actually blocking the hallways for our student shoppers as they seek items to serve their families.

Part of the struggle is that our students haven’t been able to shop in the Co-op for months, so the shelves are still abnormally full for this time of year. Students are at last able to shop once more and have begun picking up clothing, furniture, kitchen wares, and other household items, but that number is only just beginning to increase with the start of Summer Greek this Monday. That number will jump again as we get closer to the end of summer and begin to see our second- and fourth-years (plus those first-years who already had their language requirements) return to campus for Opening Service in September.

That said, our Clothing Co-op staff stressed the need to make sure that we were very careful with how we passed on this request: we still continue to depend on your generosity to provide so many good things for our students and their families. They do not want to discourage that flow of love and care; they’re simply hoping to spread out the drop-off of items so that they have time to sort and organize.

So please bear with us as life returns to normal over the next couple of months! And please know that we are incredibly thankful for your donations (what a blessing to have such a problem!), and look forward to receiving them over the summer and throughout the school year, as always. We could not care for our future church workers as we do without all of you making it possible.

500th Anniversary of the Papal Bull

Yesterday, June 15, 2020, was the 500th anniversary of the date on the papal bull issued to excommunicate Luther. From the “What Does This Mean?” blog created by CTSFW librarian Rev. Bob Smith:

“In January of 1520, the Pope convened a commission to condemn Luther’s teachings. In the meantime, the Pope intensified his previous efforts to achieve a resolution. Pressure on Luther’s immediate supervisor, Johann von Staupitz, finally responded to the pressure by resigning in May. In order to assist in the effort, Johann Eck came to Rome to pressure the commission into issuing a Bull against Luther. The result was a document cataloging 41 ‘errors’ of Luther and threatening to excommunicate him if he did not retract them.

“A Papal bull is a proclamation called that because of the lead seal used to certify such as official. (Latin for the seal is Bulla.) This document is known as the Bull Exsurge Domine (“Arise O Lord”) for the opening words of the work. It was dated June 15, 1520 and proclaimed on 24 July, when it was posted on the door of St. Peter’s Basillica. It would not go into effect until it was published in Saxony and delivered to Luther personally. (Much like a legal summons is today in the United States.) This did not happen until October of 1520.”

To read more about the history leading up to this significant date, click here.

This painting is actually of Jan Hus (John Huss) before the Council of Constance, by Václav Brožík; “Mistr Jan Hus před Kostnickým koncilem” 1883. John Huss was a predecessor to the reformation, excommunicated for preaching against indulgences and burned at the stake in 1415 under the charge of heresy against the doctrines of the Catholic Church.

LCMS Timeline

Below today’s post is a picture of an LCMS Timeline, which breaks down the Synod’s history from 1845 to the present according to LCMS President, CSL President, CTS President, CTS City, and Convention City. It was created by Jason Iwen, who both works in the IT Office here at CTSFW and is also attending the Seminary as an MDiv student. He explained why he created this timeline:

“As I began the pre-course readings about a week ago, I realized quickly that I was going to need some sort of a mental framework in which to fit all of these events. I thought what might help me was an LCMS timeline including presidents of synod, presidents of each seminary, where CTS has been located, and when and where all the conventions were held. Originally, I was only including the era covered in this class, but have expanded it to span from founding to present. It’s been a slow process, but I’ve referred to it often during class and while reading – even at various stages of incompleteness.”

He was gracious enough to allow me to share this personal project online, but with the caveat that it is a work-in-progress. If anyone notices any needed corrections, please share those with us either in the comments or by message, and we’ll pass that along to him. Please note that I also had to convert the version he sent to me into a picture file in order to share it; rendering it, unfortunately, nearly unreadable. If anyone would like a copy of the original Excel spreadsheet for their own use or edification, please contact us at to request a copy.

Alumni Reunion: Zoom Edition

Every year, we hold an alumni reunion right around graduation to celebrate their 5th, 10th, 15th, 20th, 25th, 30th, 35th, 40th, 45th, 50th, 55th, 60th, 65th, or 70th graduation anniversaries. Unfortunately, this year we had to postpone this year’s alumni reunion due to COVID-19 and are inviting everyone who graduated in the years ending in ‘0 and ‘5 to come instead to next year’s reunion in May 2021.

That said, the class of 1970 (who would have graduated from the Seminary during our Springfield years) made their 50th reunion happen anyways, through an online Zoom meeting. Thirty-four men and women (wives of these alumni) joined together to reconnect, remember, reflect, and rejoice. Many haven’t seen each other in 50 years; they spent the reunion catching up with each on where they’ve been and what they’ve been up to over the decades.

Hebrew at Lunch: Summer Exile Edition

Dr. Ryan Tietz, Assistant Professor of Exegetical Theology, has led “Hebrew at Lunch” every Friday at noon for the past couple of academic years. With remote work suddenly the temporary norm for the whole campus, Dr. Tietz has taken the opportunity to expand this informal class to include pastors and students from multiple states and even Brazil. In short, all are welcome to join him online, every Friday. Or, in his words:

“The Bible has many funny names. Join Dr. Tietz every Friday noon EDT via google hangouts to translate and discuss those guys with funny names, the Minor Prophets. Listen in or ask questions. It is up to you. We continue with Zephaniah 2 this week.”

You can join the Google Hangout at or email Dr. Tietz at to be added to the group. He plans to continue “Hebrew at Lunch” every Friday noon in a google meet format for the foreseeable future.

This photograph of a Hebrew Psalter is on display at The Jewish Museum. Description from wikimedia: “This manuscript, open to Psalms 6:7–9:19, was used as a schoolbook in the first half of the thirteenth century. At least three Christians annotated the Hebrew text extensively in Latin and French. The notes in the margin mainly concern Hebrew grammar and vocabulary. The Latin translation relies on the Vulgate, but also reflects knowledge of Jewish sources.”

COVID Update: Summer Session

As the summer sessions begin and we look forward to welcoming the next class of seminarians on campus with the beginning of Summer Greek on Monday, June 15, the question has come up: how are we, as a Seminary, handling the re-introduction of normal even as we remain cautious?

CTSFW President Dr. Rast wrote a letter to the incoming students, which I’ll share in part. But first, here are some of the essentials of the guidelines for the summer:

We’ll begin to open campus in June for residential courses, with guidelines in place, such as using larger classrooms, requiring masks during classes, with most assignments distributed electronically. Our absentee policy will also be more flexible as we are asking all to be very cautious about attending class if they have any question about their health. Summer courses will be recorded so that they are still available electronically.

For now, chapel attendance is still closed and only available via livestreaming, but that will soon change. Beginning with Summer Session II on June 15, chapel will be open to students, faculty, instructors, and staff only; student families and visitors will need to wait longer for in-person attendance. Come June 15, you’ll see the additional protections in place on the livestream: physical distance and face coverings. Those leading worship, preaching, and teaching will not be required to wear masks (so that we can hear them), so we will rely on physical distance as a precaution. Weekly Holy Communion will resume in September.

For now the library will remain physically closed to visitors, with services continuing the way they have during Spring Quarter. Students can request books for pick up, scans of articles and book chapters not accessible online, and the Revs. Smith and Peters in the library are available by Google Hangout appointment for research assistance. The bookstore is slowly opening with regular hours resuming on June 15, though guidelines include masks, a limit of four customers, with time limited to 10 minutes.

The Clothing Co-op has had to take a break from accepting donations because of the overwhelming love and support we have received during this time. Director of the Co-op, Deaconess Katherine Rittner, let us know that she has been so inundated from the generosity that she and her staff need time to sort and organize. They intend to reopen on Monday, June 15, accepting donations on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

These are the guidelines for now; we’ll change as needed with the circumstances and restrictions on the state and federal levels. The plan is to update our guidelines for the latter half of the summer, prior to the start of Summer Session III in mid-July.

From Dr. Rast:

By resuming in-person classes in a few weeks, we are attempting something that very few other institutions of higher education in this country have yet considered. Because we highly value residential learning, we believe that it is time. But we must be cautious so that our return to normalcy is not disrupted…

Of course, our best laid plans may not prevent some in the seminary community from getting the virus. As the guidelines Dr. Gieschen sent you indicated, if you exhibit symptoms, stay home and keep us informed. We want you and the entire seminary community to be safe. Remembering the bigger picture, we all know that for the Christian this virus is ultimately nothing to be feared. But as the seminary attempts to navigate the difficult challenges ahead, including significant financial ones, we must be prudent in our actions so that we don’t unnecessarily open ourselves to a severe outbreak. Doing so would not make us good stewards of the seminary and of all that has been entrusted to us by our faithful supporters and our Lord. With nearly two-thirds of our faculty as well as a good number of staff over the age of 60—and some having serious underlying health issues—we must also consider how best to protect them so that they can continue serve as well…

Believe me when I say that the seminary administration had no idea what was about to hit us as we prepared to return from spring break less than three months ago. Events have moved so quickly that we, like just about everyone else, have struggled to keep up. Yet, by the grace of God, we will come through this with our mission intact, namely, to send you out into a world that needs to hear the good news of life in Christ. We accomplished that mission this past spring by keeping instruction going so that a new crop of pastors, vicars, and interns could be sent out. Now it’s your turn, as well as those who are just beginning the journey.

In his famous treatise, The Freedom of the Christian, Martin Luther posed two seemingly contradictory theses: “A Christian is a perfectly free lord, subject to none; a Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant, subject to all.” This is our opportunity to live out Luther’s insight as we carry on in the freedom of the Gospel all the while loving our neighbor.

With Dr. Rast, we thank you all for your understanding. Let us know if you have any questions and we’ll answer as we can in the comments. God’s richest blessings to you all. We daily look forward with joy to your comments and questions in the chapel livestream every weekday morning at 9:35 Eastern Time.

Here, in the Presence

Now that we’re a week out from perhaps the strangest graduation—and Spring Quarter—we’ve ever had in the nearly 175 year history of the Seminary, we asked Dr. Peter Scaer, Chairman and Professor of Exegetical Theology, to write up a piece reflecting on this time. We’re preparing to slowly open the campus over the summer, the plans for which we’ll post on Monday, but for today, as we go into the weekend, is this reflection on presence.

Here, in the Presence
By the Rev. Dr. Peter J. Scaer

Zoom fatigue is real, and online teaching just isn’t the same. The coronavirus has taught us quite a lot about the promise and pitfalls of technology. Certainly I have been grateful for video conferencing, emails, internet lectures, and all the rest. They have made it possible to continue our work of teaching the faith, reaching the lost, and caring for all. But they also remind us that this kind of living is not natural, that we were made for more.

I was one of the early advocates for online worship services, and was so grateful to pray and sing along as I logged onto Facebook. But, after a while, it does wear thin. We crave interaction and presence. A big part of seminary life is what we call the ungraded curriculum. This includes not only chapel together, where the voices of others make my voice stronger, but also coffee hour after chapel and Gemütlichkeit on Friday.

To be sure, we have had our share of online happy hours, but they’re never quite as happy as the real thing. While coffee hour leaves me invigorated, ready to get on with the work of studying and teaching, online gatherings often leave us flat, depleted of emotional energy. Apart from the body language of presence, it feels sometimes as if we are in a multi-person staring contest, and the awkward pauses are longer and more frequent.

So, we read the gospels and we see a ministry of presence. Christ is Emanuel, God with us. Not talking to us from a distance, but actually with us. Throughout His ministry, Christ ate and drank with His disciples, walked with them, and entered the boat as together they rowed to the other side. When Peter fell in the water, Jesus reached out with His hand. When our Lord came upon a leper, He touched him. When He saw a child, our Lord embraced him. And it went both ways. A woman reaches out to touch the hem of our Lord’s garment. A woman washes Jesus’ feet with her hair. Thomas wants the flesh and blood of Christ, the holes in His hands and feet. And at the Last Supper, the beloved disciple rests in the bosom of our Lord.

Technology is a blessing, yes, a wonderful supplement to all that we do, but it can never be a substitute for a potluck or pitch-in, or gathering together at the table of our Lord, eating real body and drinking real blood. Popular singers know this. Everyone needs a hand to hold onto.

We all need the human touch because we are flesh and blood human beings, created body and soul. We are not simply souls trapped in bodies; we live as embodied souls. To touch someone’s hand is not simply to touch their body—it is to touch the very person. In the early Church, there was the kiss of peace, perhaps not duplicated by the handshake of fellowship. But the lonely need a hug as much as a word. The elderly, the young, and all those in between need touch.

For the sake of safety, and in concern for our neighbor, we take precautions. Some wear masks, others not, but it must always be done so in love for others and to the glory of God, in a spirit of charity and understanding. But we can never get used to church online or a seminary that does not truly come together, body, soul, and mind, in the classroom, over coffee, at the cafeteria and chapel.

We don’t want symbols of Christ’s flesh and blood, we want the real thing. We are not content with emails, we want to talk face to face, to laugh and smile together. To comfort others in real and tangible ways, to enjoy the kind of human contact that comes naturally to us, as ones made for such things.

So pray for an end to the pandemic and pray that we can join together, replacing emoticons with real and interactive emotion, canned laughter with easy chuckles. Even more, pray that we soon come together, strengthened by each other’s singing, sitting, kneeling, and standing as one, truly together in our Lord’s presence.

Though online for this day and these times, soon we must come together to enjoy the fellowship of real presence, with each other, and with our Lord. More than an online chat, pray that we might soon be together in the house of our Lord.

“Suffer the Little Children to Come unto Me” by James Tissot, between 1886 and 1894.

The Rite of Ordination

In light of Call Day and our seminarians’ recent graduation, Rev. Bob Smith who works in our library, wrote the following about ordination:

“Soon an even more ancient rite will take place in about one hundred places around that continent. Called ordination, these new pastors will be recognized by the Church as men sent by God to care for his people. As their fathers in the ministry did for them, other pastors mostly from neighboring congregations, will place their hands on the new pastor, thereby designating the new pastor as minister of the word and sacraments. In an unbroken line stretching back through two thousand years to the day Jesus breathed on the Apostles the Holy Spirit and the church of Antioch laid hands on St. Paul, one generation entrusts to the next to take up the yoke of Christ.”

You can read the full article at The “What Does This Mean” run by Rev. Smith features several authors. Rev. Jason Kaspar, one of our grads from last year, recently joined with the first of three articles on the Athanasian Creed. There’s also another recent piece (also by Rev. Smith) on Luther’s Treatise on Good Works, which is 500 years ago the tail end of this month to the beginning of June. The blog often focuses on the intersection between historical events and Lutheran theology.

Rev. Smith is currently researching one on Leo X. On June 15th, his papal bull Exsurge Domine came out, threatening to excommunicate Luther. Luther threw this one into the flames in October.