Well, we have been in Indiana for several months now, and I can honestly say that this has been an incredible journey so far. Words like “amazing”, “frightening”, “humbling”, “gut-wrenching”, “inspiring”, all come to mind. But despite our feelings, we are firmly convinced that God has guided us here. Concordia Theological Seminary is a fabulous place to learn and I am honored to be here and sit at the feet of some of the greatest theological minds around. Here's a brief summary of what I studied last quarter....
New Testament Greek: There's no way I can effectively express the experience I had last fall in words. I have told many people that it was like trying to take a drink from an open fire hyrdrant without getting washed away. I know that my Greek skills pale in comparison with many of my younger colleagues. (I try very hard not to be envious of the guys who can “sight translate” text “cold”!) But it is still an honor and privilege to continue learning God's Word in its original tongue. If I had more time, I would try “auditing” the 10 week course to help fill in some of the gaps that happened when I was sick. So much that I missed then. Maybe next year...
Gospels I (Matthew): One word: “WOW!” For so long, I had viewed the four gospels as merely a set of chronological discourses of the life and teachings of Jesus. One of the most renown scholars on the gospel of Matthew challenges you to dispel this belief. When you consider the likelihood that Matthew (as well as the other authors) wrote his gospel with the intention to use it for catechesis (teaching), and that the text is arranged in more by topic or subject matter, you start seeing familiar passages in a different light. Book recommendation: “Discourses in Matthew”, by Dr. David Scaer.
Dr. Scaer is well-known in Lutheran as well as non-Lutheran theological circles and has published numerous books and journal articles.
Church History I: One of the more pertinent things I learned is that God is actively creating and interacting with His creation, and it is through the Person of the Logos (Word) He does this. Also, the forms of error that attack the Church today are essentially the same as it was back in the days of the early Church – it's just more high-tech. Gnosticism, for example, is not something that only happened “way back when”. Forms of it are very much alive today, even in some spiritual expressions that (sadly) some people think are compatible with Christianity. The “gospel” according “Oprah” or “Olsteen” are prime examples.
Liturgics I: Another “WOW!” I had a deep appreciation for liturgical worship when I came to seminary, but after this course, I have almost fallen in love with it. I already knew that the Liturgy is firmly grounded in Scripture, but to think that some parts of it are dated back to Christian worship of 500 AD or earlier is mind-boggling. Here are some examples:
• The Introit – 500 AD
• Sanctus (“Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might”) – 350 AD
• Gloria in Excelsis “Glory to God in the highest” – 500 AD (put into regular use around 1100 AD)
• Salutation (“The Lord be with you”... “and with thy Spirit”) - 300 AD
• The Collect – 500 -700 AD; some of these historic collects of prayer continue to be used today.
• Scripture Reading – Ancient Jewish custom in synagogues, continued in Christian Church
• “Alleluias”, used in association with the Gospel reading: 300 AD
• Nicene Creed – 451 AD
• Sermon - like the reading of Scripture and the “Prayers of the Church”, exposition of the Word of God was inherited from the worship of the Jewish synagogue. The decline of preaching during the Middle Ages was one of Luther's charges of “abuses of the Church”.
Book recommendation: “Heaven on Earth”, by Dr. Arthur Just – Get this book. His insights on the liturgy and its biblical ties to Word and Sacrament are incredible.
Dogmatics: A very challenging course, but well worth the time spent. Much of the time was spent with theological writings by great dogmaticians such as Francis Pieper, John Mueller, and Robert Preus; are great resources to have when learning (and eventually teaching) about subjects such as the Holy Trinity, Divine Providence, Authority of Scripture, Positive and Negative Attributes of God (yes, “negative”... but it's not what you're thinking!). I had a great time writing a paper comparing the viewpoints of Robert Preus and Arthur Piepkorn on the question of the inerrancy of Scripture.
My lineup for Spring quarter:
• Gospels II (Luke and Mark)
• Theologia – Baptism
• Homiletics I
• Confessing Christ in Today's World
• N.T. Greek Readings (yes, more!)
Also, I am so very grateful to so many of you who have been regularly praying for me and my family. Special thanks to our church family at Christ Lutheran in Kansas City. Thank you so much! To God be the glory!