The 37th Annual Symposium on Exegetical Theology
Male and Female He Created Them: Recovering a Theology of the Body
Professor of Exegetical Theology Dr. Walter A. Maier III led the first symposium with “You Are Not Your Own, So Glorify God in Your Body.” In this paper, the body is explored through Old and New Testament lenses, from Genesis’ “high view of the human body so carefully made by God” to Romans 12:1: “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Dr. Maier also quotes the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 6: 19-20—“. . . your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body”—noting that it compactly forms both “the essence of the Gospel and its implications for the Christian life.”
How do we glorify God with our bodies? “With our hands, feet, and muscles we carry out acts of service for the glory of the Lord and for the good of our fellow man.” This also involves how we use all of our other parts, from our eyes and ears to our brains, one of the organs of the body. Mention of the brain reminds us that, to borrow an observation from John Kleinig, “the whole body with its respective organs is not only involved in perception and action but also in all mental and emotional activity.”
Professor and Chairman of Exegetical Theology Dr. Peter J. Scaer presented “Critical Theory, Intersectionality: The Abolition of Man .” In his paper, Dr. Scaer likens some of the secular culture to “the birth of a new religion” in which “orthodoxy is enforced, and confession is mandatory.” Within this culture, Scaer contends that the average person does not have the freedom to exist peacefully without criticism unless he or she openly and actively commits to the cause endorsed by the majority. He laments that perceived microaggressions often cannot be avoided because they “can never be known in advance.” In this modern societal context, Scaer poses questions regarding the origins of cultural standards and how we define what behavior is acceptable and what is not.
Dr. Joseph C. Atkinson—associate professor of sacred Scripture at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family at The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC—presented “The Body As Icon: Making Visible What Is Invisible .” As founder of the Theology of the Family Project (which promotes the recovery of the biblical vision of marriage and family), Atkinson explores the earth’s first union, saying that “ever since the creation of the world, His [God’s] invisible nature, namely His eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made.” Atkinson is an authority on the concept of the domestic church which means, as Pope Benedict XVI explains, “every home is called to become a ‘domestic church’ in which family life is completely centered on the lordship of Christ and the love of husband and wife mirrors the mystery of Christ’s love for the Church, his bride.” He notes that “the one-flesh reality where man and woman become a psycho-somatic unity is the pinnacle of creation.” The union of man and woman is “one of the densest symbols in created order,” going far beyond sex, and the moment each consents, they give themselves fully as a gift to one another, “irreducibly, unchangeably, and forever.” Adam and Eve, seeing each other’s nakedness, was “not just a participation in exterior perception,” but also has an interior dimension of participation in the simplicity and fullness of the Creator’s vision, “in which understanding the meaning of the body comes about at the very heart of their community-communion.” Atkinson perhaps best sums up the flaws in modern, secular perceptions of the body and human sexuality—speaking on the fullness of vision—by saying “pornography is not evil not because it shows so much, but because it shows so little.”
Assistant Professor of Exegetical Theology Dr. Adam C. Koontz presented “A Biblical Theology of Human Fertility .” He spoke of his gratitude that this subject matter served as a topic this year for our exegetical symposium, reflecting “a discussion of and something helpful to the church because “our culture is currently in wild revolt to any order to human bodies or lives.” “Human bodies are divinely made, divinely limited, divinely ordered.” We tend to think we fully know and understand all issues surrounding the body, but even though “the hairs in our head are numbered . . . we do not know the number.” It is only through God that we have any understanding of our bodies and their limits. “Being human is being limited,” and those limits are “the Lord’s to set.” God is also in charge of how our bodies are used to bring forth new life. “Creatures either do or do not multiply by God‘s command.” All in all, despite the opposing secular notions, “we are not the result of our choices, our life and all that it is are from the Father’s hand.” God-given limits are a blessing and a result of “His kindness and His wisdom.”
Professor Emeritus Dr. John Kleinig (of Luther College in Adelaide, Australia), joined the crowd in Sihler remotely from across the world to present “Wonderfully Made: A Lutheran and Protestant Theology of the Body .” Dr. Kleinig discussed the misled modern perception of separation between body and personhood, quoting a young woman who said that people looking at her did not see her, they saw her body. There is a popular belief that our bodies do not factor into our inherent identity–endless alterations are possible, especially with the notion that modifications could help a body better suit who a person truly is. Kleinig noted that this alleged separation is a false, manmade, devaluing construct: “The whole body with its respective organs is not only involved in perception and action but also in all mental and emotional activity.”
Professor of Exegetical Theology Dr. Arthur A. Just Jr. spoke on “Taking Care of the Body of Jesus: Towards a Theology of Suffering.” Dr. Just opens with a reference to Hebrews 10 (:5–10):
Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,
“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
Just notes how the author of The Palliative Society, Byung-Chul Han, “narrates how our world does not permit pain to be enlivened into a passion, to be given a language.” Han also speaks of the Spanish mystic, Theresa of Ávila, “Pain is highly articulate. It is with pain that narration begins. Christian narrative gives pain a language. It transforms her body into a stage.”
Christ’s body is a human and suffering body, “a body prepared to do the will of the Father, a body that is the source of our holiness.” Through the words of Cyril of Alexandria, Just speaks of how it is through Christ’s human suffering and death that we find this holiness, healing, and purpose in our pain. He demonstrated active presence, within His body “the instrument by which He performed miracles . . . how great is the usefulness of the touch of His holy flesh. For it both drives away diseases of various kinds, and a crowd of demons, and overthrows the power of the devil. It heals a very great multitude of people in one moment of time.” Just concludes, “Within a world where suffering and pain have no meaning, only the passion narrative of Christ’s suffering and our participation in His sufferings, give meaning to suffering.”
Dr. Charles Gieschen moderated the exegetical symposium’s discussion panel and expressed the joy the campus experienced “It has been very encouraging to see so many faithful pastors and laity from around the United States and world back on campus with an eagerness to reflect on the important theological subjects addressed in the symposia and participate in receiving God’s gifts in our Daily Chapel worship. This influx for a week each January is one of the highlights of our academic year.”
The 45th Annual Symposium on the Lutheran Confessions
500th Anniversary of Luther’s Translation of the New Testament: Taking a Look at the Scriptures
Dr. Cameron A. MacKenzie, the Forest E. and Frances H. Ellis Professor of Historical Theology, presented “Luther’s 1522 Translation of the New Testament ,” noting that it is “by far, the most important anniversary of the year . . . 500 years of Luther’s German Bible that began with the New Testament, first published in Wittenberg in September 1522.” MacKenzie explains why this is such an important milestone in church history. “By the time Luther’s September Testament came off the press, he and his colleagues were already hard at work on the Old Testament . . producing the best possible Bible in the German language remained Luther’s objective for the rest of his life, but the September Testament of 1522 was the first step.” MacKenzie conveyed Luther’s thoughts: that obeying our Lord’s final admonition in the Sermon on the Mount—to both hear and do what Jesus has said—requires faith. “All works that look good but are done without faith are sin, but, where faith is present, works that are truly good must follow. When Christ says, ‘Do,’ he means, ‘Do it from a pure heart.’” Luther has brought our Lord’s sermon into the framework of what Luther always taught about the Christian life: faith and good works in that order.
Dr. Roland F. Ziegler—the Chairman of Systematic Theology and the Robert D. Preus Professor of Systematic Theology and Confessional Lutheran Studies—shared “The Gospel ‘Came Through the Medium of Languages’: Luther on Language and Translation .” Ziegler says that “Gospel came through the medium of the languages . . . language and translation.” Luther refers to God as “talkative,” that Scripture’s patriarchs had a God who spoke with them. Luther also calls Him “communicative,” “speaking to us daily through the administration of the Sacraments.” Although some may argue that Christ was not part of the communication between God and our Old Testament forefathers, “There is no speech of God without Christ being in it.” When people connect with God through Scripture—the Word—they do so through Christ. “God speaks to man always through the Son, and when man relates to God through God’s Word, men are relating to God through the Son.” As Luther says in To the Councilmen of All Cities in Germany in 1524:
And let us be sure of this: we shall not long preserve the Gospel without languages. Languages are the sheath in which this sword of the Spirit is contained. They are the case in which we carry this jewel. They are the vessel in which we hold this wine. They are the larder in which this food is stored. And, as the Gospel itself says, they are the baskets in which we bear these loaves and fishes and fragments.
Although the Gospel comes to us through the Holy Spirit alone, Scripture is “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12). As Luther put it, the language in Scripture is God actively speaking to us, “the verbum Dei infallible,” absolute Truth and final authority.
“Echoes of Scriptures: But Is It Enough?” was the title of the presentation by Dr. David P. Scaer, the David P. Scaer Professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology. Dr. Scaer relays how “a prefiguration reading of the Old Testament can be astoundingly Christologically productive.” Each synoptic Gospel offers a nuanced theological interpretation of the events of Jesus’s life. In telling the story of Jesus receiving the child, Matthew 18:5 says, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me.” In telling the same story, Luke goes one step further with a fuller Trinitarian theology, and the child receives not only Jesus but the Father. “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me (Luke 9:46).” Like Luke, the child receives not only Jesus but the one who sent him. Mark 9:37 says, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.” Jesus is distinct from God, but has no other existence than what He has with God, as also illustrated in John 10:30: “I and the Father are one.” Scaer also speaks of the Gospels and Christological prefiguration back into the Old Testament. Matthew 27:9 says, “Then was fulfilled what had been spoken by the prophet Jeremiah, saying, ‘And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him on whom a price had been set by some of the sons of Israel.’” As Scaer put it, “Hearing this the reader would think back to the brothers of Joseph selling him. to the Ishmaelites (Genisis 27:38), just as Judas would do selling Jesus to the high priests and high priests buying Jesus.”
Associate Professor of Systematic Theology Dr. Gifford A. Grobien presented “Mystical Union as Unifying Biblical Theme.” At the beginning of his first epistle, St. John declares the purpose of his writing, and the result that will come from hearing his epistle for those who heed and believe his message. In exploring the first epistle by St. John, Grobien notes that the apostle “is announcing all that he has perceived and experienced, by which he has koinōnia with the Father and the Son, so that his recipients also have koinōnia with him, and with the Father and the Son. Those who hear and believe his testimony of Jesus also walk in the light, confess their sins, are cleansed of their sins by Jesus blood, and have fellowship with God and with other Christians.” Quoting Luther:
His flesh is not of flesh, or fleshly, but spiritual; therefore it cannot be consumed, digested, and transformed, for it is imperishable as is all that is of the Spirit, and a food of an entirely different kind from perishable food. Perishable food is transformed into the body which eats it; this food, however, transforms the person who eats it into what it is itself, and makes him like itself, spiritual, alive, and eternal; as Christ says, “This is the bread from heaven, which gives life to the world” (John 6:33).
The fact “that this union is a gracious and precious gift in view of our perfection in Christ compels us to make use of it. It is not fitting to neglect the precious, priceless treasures of the King but to put them to use, working together in his purpose.” Gifford’s conclusions regarding the mystical union: “Faithfully eating and drinking of the forgiveness of sins is communion with God in Christ, and communion with one another. This parallels John’s statement of purpose: hearing and believing his report, Christians are cleansed of their sins and have communion with God and with one another.”
Professor of Divinity Dr. Carl L. Beckwith, of the Beeson Divinity School at Samford University, (Birmingham, Alabama) spoke about “Trinity and the Bible.” Beckwith begins by quoting a question posed by Robert Jenson in a 2004 Symposia paper, “Does the Bible teach the Trinity?” While he notes that most Lutherans would answer confidently that it does, far less would be able to have the same confidence in articulating how the Bible accomplishes this. He notes that Didymus the Blind notes that we base our knowledge of the divinity, separateness, and unity of all three persons of the triune God by “proof-texts from the Scriptures” alone. Gregory of Nissa addressed Trinity opponents with this same reliance on the Bible:
We shall answer nothing new, nothing of our own invention, though they challenge us to it; we shall fall back upon the testimony in Holy Scripture about the Spirit, whence we learn that the Holy Spirit is Divine, and is to be called so. Now, if they allow this, and will not contradict the words of inspiration, then they, with all their eagerness to fight with us, must tell us why they are for contending with us, instead of with Scripture. We say nothing different from that which Scripture says.—But in a Divine nature, as such, when once we have believed in it, we can recognize no distinctions suggested either by the Scripture teaching or by our own common sense; distinctions, that is, that would divide that Divine and transcendent nature within itself by any degrees of intensity and remission, so as to be altered from itself by being more or less. Because we firmly believe that it is simple, uniform, incomposite, because we see in it no complicity or composition of dissimilars, therefore it is that, when once our minds have grasped the idea of Deity, we accept by the implication of that very name the perfection in it of every conceivable thing that befits the Deity. Deity, in fact, exhibits perfection in every line in which the good can be found. If it fails and comes short of perfection in any single point, in that point the conception of Deity will be impaired, so that it cannot, therein, be or be called Deity at all; for how could we apply that word to a thing that is imperfect and deficient, and requiring an addition external to itself?
Luther also noted that the Trinity is taught with “the greatest of clarity in both the Old and New Testament.” John 5:19 speaks to the authority of Jesus and His oneness with the Father, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.” Because Jesus did things that only God could do, He must be God. Oneness of activity indicates oneness in substance. The Trinity is further indicated in verses such as John 15:26 when Jesus says of the Holy Spirit: “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.”
In Scripture, Peter says that we are “called out of darkness into His marvelous light,” with John clarifying that this Light is Jesus. Early church fathers, therefore, often referred to Baptism, movement from darkness to light—our regeneration through the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—as Illumination.
Dr. James G. Bushur, the Carl and Erna Weinrich Associate Professor of New Testament and Early Church Studies at CTSFW, presented on “Who Spoke by the Prophets: Inspiration in the Early Church.” Bushur quotes Frances Young, author of Biblical Exegesis and the Formation of Christian Culture:
They (the Jewish scriptures) were physically “taken over”—not just re-read but re-formed. In the act of appropriation, they were subordinated, denoted, long before they were accorded the title “Old Testament.” They had been, as it were, wrested away from their original community, and another community was taking charge of this literary heritage. These books were informing a new culture for a new community which received them differently and accorded them a different kind of status.
Though it seemed that the Old Testament took on a place of lesser importance, Jesus Himself gave His Jewish opponents a new exegetical method for interpreting sacred texts: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life, and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life” (John 5:39-40). In 180 A.D. Irenaeus, the Bishop of Lyons, describes the relationship between the Old and New Testaments as the movement from hearing to seeing. “Thus, one and the same Lord has granted, by means of his advent, a greater gift of grace to those of a later period…. For they (O.T. believers) used to hear by means of servants that the King would come… but those, who have seen him actually present, have obtained liberty…” (Against Heresies IV, 11, 3).
Beloved CTSFW professor Dr. William C. Weinrich was presented (in absentia) with a Festschrift compiled in his honor. While the collection was temporarily out of stock post-Symposia, it is expected to be back in stock at the bookstore by the second week in February, if not sooner. To find this collection, along with works by Weinrich and other Seminary professors, visit the bookstore page on the CTSFW website. (If the book does not show up in search results, that means it is temporarily not in stock but will be again soon. Call the bookstore with any questions at 260.452.2160.)
In “Modern Lutheran Replacements for Biblical Authority: An Evaluation,” Chairman and Assistant Professor of Historical Theology Dr. Benjamin T. G. Mayes addresses how Herman Sasse, who so often affirmed biblical authority, in some ways undermined his defense of the full inerrancy of Scripture by applying the theory of accommodation:
While inspiration and inerrancy may be compatible with a broad use of accommodation, biblical authority is not, because accommodation allows the interpreter to read as figurative any and every challenging passage of Scripture. And if there is no challenge as Scripture confronts contemporary worldviews, then it has no authority. Whether or not Sasse knowingly made use of a specific doctrine of accommodation, it will be demonstrated that this is, in fact, the strategy he used to adjust exegesis to fit contemporary biblical studies and science.
Words of Scripture not taken as ultimate authority traces back to European philosophies of the 17th century and the Darwinian theory of evolution of the 19th century, the latter presenting a challenge that has led many Christians “to reject biblical authority, since macro-evolution has come to be viewed as fact and as incompatible with the account of creation in Genesis 1–3.” Nineteenth and 20th century Christians have reacted in three ways: the orthodox is rejected or relativized science wherever it conflicted with traditional understandings of Scripture, adjustments to Christian theology to allow the results of science to stand, and the creation of a wall between science and theology with no overlapping. Robert Preus classified two groups: those who believe Genesis 1–3 is an account of real happenings, and those who do not believe it could have really happened. Many Lutherans have fallen into the latter group, attempting to reject biblical inspiration and inerrancy while still maintaining standing in the Lutheran tradition.” “While inspiration and inerrancy may be compatible with a broad use of accommodation, biblical authority is not, because accommodation allows the interpreter to read as figurative any and every challenging passage of Scripture.”
The last of our speakers was Professor of Historical Theology and President of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne Dr. Lawrence R. Rast Jr. with “Battle for the Bible: Historical Perspectives on the LCMS Controversy over Scripture, 1947–1977.” Rast spoke of the controversies of the day referring to Seminex, the Walkout, etc. as the “battle for the Bible.” “At its heart, everything touched on the question of the Scriptures—their nature, their character, their infallibility, their inerrancy, plenary inspiration, and so forth.” He notes that the roots of the issues went back further than the dates in the title of his paper.
The number of baptized LCMS members peaked in 1959, with confirmation numbers following that generation through 1971; however, at this later date, the church had already begun to decline. Rast spoke of the influence that early LCMS leaders such as Franz August Otto Pieper had on the church. Quoting Carl Meijer, “The history of the Missouri Synod in the first half of the 20th Century testifies to the thorough indoctrination which the future pastors had received. It testifies to the confessional loyalty and the desire to conserve the traditions of the first generation of Missouri’s theology, the heritage of the 17th-century orthodox theologians, and the treasure that had come from Martin Luther as it was understood by them.” The ALC’s adherence to the Chicago theses created division in the LCMS, with some agreeing with fellowship due to shared views of Scripture. During John William Behnken’s time as president, the LCMS really entered into the mainstream with all that it entails, including “profound controversies within and among Missouri itself.” “A Statement” published in 1945 regarding legalism pushed the issue of how to move forward with fundamental internal divisions. “Radical orthodoxy” became the natural response to perceived increasing radicalism. Martin Henry Scharlemann sought to safeguard fundamentals for orthodox teaching, and some colleagues disagreed. Thus, the stage was set for Seminex.
In light of the upcoming 50th anniversary of Seminex, Rast referenced Seminex in Print: A Comprehensive Bibliography of Published Material and Selected Archival Resources for Historical Research, a collaborative effort between Concordia Historical Society and Concordia Publishing House:
Nothing has shaken American Lutheranism more than the conflict within the Missouri Synod in the early 1970s. Faced with conflicting views on the inspiration, inerrancy, and interpretation of the Scriptures, a majority of faculty and students left Concordia Seminary, walking out to form their own ‘seminary in exile,’ Seminex. The Concordia Historical Institute’s new Seminex in Print: A Comprehensive Bibliography is the definitive collection of the history, politics, and theology of the walkout. Compiled by David Berger, professor emeritus and longtime director of Library Services at Concordia Seminary, Seminex in Printorganizes major printed works, book reviews, Lutheran periodicals, general periodicals, and other media and archival content relevant to the Seminary walk out of 1974.
Seminex in Print is the first volume of Concordia Historical Institute’s Monograph Series, dedicated not only to preserving Lutheran history but also to stimulating scholarship new scholarship on the same.
(Seminex in Print is available for purchase at the CTSFW Bookstore.)
The “Panel Discussion: Issues on Biblical Authority ” addressed concerns surrounding translations and unity among God’s people when it comes to His Word. Dr. Mayes noted that Martin Kemnitz (Council of Trent Vol. One) and Johann Gerhard (On Interpreting Sacred Scripture and Method of Theological Study) are the remedy for pastors seeking to explain why there are so many interpretations of Scripture. Dr. MacKenzie gave what he called, “the classic Lutheran answer”—“we base what we say on clear passages of Scripture”—with Dr. Rast concurring that we need to “keep them at the forefront of the discussion.” As Dr. Ziegler expressed, “Different interpretations can either be the problem of the text or the problem of the reader . . . [Those are] the two options that we have.” Noting that faulting the text seems a bit blasphemous, Ziegler places the responsibility in the court of the reader. Ziegler encourages people to read for themselves, just as Luther did when he drew from Scripture the conclusion that the Catholic Church and the pope in Rome were not the biblically-ordained authority and guardians of the Truth. “What does the opposite side say and how does it compare to Scripture? You have to do that work.” Rast notes points in the history of American Lutheranism where Scriptures were utilized to argue whatever perceived evil was of most concern at the moment “The tyranny of the moment takes over, and the Gospel disappears.”
In response to how we overcome disagreements and achieve unity–particularly on the subject of Scripture–Rast cites Paul in 1 Corinthians and notes that “unity in the church is ideal,” but while there is “desire to confess together,” there is also “a reality where we won’t agree.” We strive for unity, but our stance on the infallible, unchanging Word of God cannot and will not be a point of compromise.
The Daily Chapel services and musical events of Symposia are always a beloved highlight, and this year’s were no exception. As Kantor Kevin Hildebrand expressed, “We are so grateful to be able to have so many friends, students, and colleagues here in Kramer Chapel to gather around Christ’s altar and worship with us. After a year’s hiatus, it’s very rewarding to be able to sing together and to have the Kantorei and all our other talented students lead the church’s song in such a vibrant way. I often remark that when it comes to congregational singing during Symposia, there are two volume levels: loud and louder.” Between the Daily Chapel services, the Epiphany Choral Evening Prayer service with the Kantorei, the Vespers, and the organ recital with Charles Russell (director of parish music at Grace Lutheran Church in Little Rock, Arkansas), there was no shortage of beautiful music glorifying the Lord. “So many attendees let me know how much they appreciated the chapel services. I’ll add that the appreciation goes both ways since we were both thrilled and honored to have so many guests worshiping and singing with us. From the rich variety in the music of the liturgy used in back to back Divine Services, to plainchant and piano, to the organ and instrumental ensemble playing both a Luther hymn and a 20th century setting of the Te Deum, the treasury of the church’s song is always a highlight of this week.”
It is the prayer of everyone at CTSFW that this year’s Symposia proves to be fortifying, uplifting, and useful as you go forth and proclaim the Gospel and share God’s blessings with the world.
This year’s Symposia will be made available online the week of Easter 2022.
Soli Deo Gloria