St. Olaf College: Lutheran Identity in an Age of Pluralism
Imagine a setting in which a group of St. Olaf students and faculty are discussing the Lutheran identity of the College. Student A worries that increasing religious diversity among its faculty and students will undermine the Lutheran identity of the college. Student B expresses a different concern–that too narrow an understanding of its religious identity will leave students ill-equipped to deal with the religious pluralism of today’s world. These concerns are both important, but how important each is depends largely on how St. Olaf understands its Lutheran identity.
Our society provides two default models for categorizing private colleges. One is sectarian. This model assumes that a church-related college should be relatively uniform in its religious outlook, with as many faculty, staff, and students as possible representing a particular faith tradition. They may be asked to sign a statement of belief, or the agreement may be less formal but no less real. A sectarian college is a religious enclave; religious diversity is either absent or not acknowledged. Believers feel supported and protected, but challenges and alternatives are not likely to be considered, making the sectarian college less able to foster a mature and resilient faith. Such a college is religiously rooted, but not inclusive, either in the sense of welcoming religious diversity or in the sense of interacting with the contemporary world. Student A may very well operate with a vision for St. Olaf that reflects a sectarian model.
The second model is non-sectarian. It assumes that a private college should be a microcosm of the surrounding society, inclusive of the same religious diversity that is found there. To accomplish this, the non-sectarian college has chosen to sever all ties with a particular faith tradition, including the one that founded it. Religion is no longer a formative part of the college’s identity. Religious diversity, though present, is not engaged. In effect, students, faculty, and staff are expected to check their religious identity at the gate, because religion is regarded as a private matter. Thus the non-sectarian college is also not well equipped to nurture a mature and resilient faith. The challenges are there, but they are not considered in an atmosphere where faith is taken seriously. The non-sectarian college is inclusive, but not rooted. Student B may have a vision for St. Olaf that reflects a non-sectarian model.
A Third Path
What these two students likely have in common is an assumption that there are only two models: a college is either sectarian or non-sectarian. If a college moves away from one model, it must automatically move toward the other. I would like to suggest that there is a third model, a third path. This third path follows a vision for the college that is both rooted and inclusive. The college remains deeply rooted in a religious tradition that provides the ingredients for an educational vision, access to human wisdom, and reflections on the mystery of life. Such a faith tradition taps into insights uncovered by generations or centuries of experience and reflection. It is deep and resilient. It has weathered the storms of disappointment, conflict, and loss, as well as celebrated glimpses of compassion, justice, and shalom. A third path college is inclusive both in the sense of wanting to serve the larger society and in the sense of welcoming persons of different religious persuasions, since they too can be inspired and equipped to serve society. This kind of college is like a deep well that nourishes the whole community.
A college on this path provides opportunities for students and others to practice their faith and learn more about it, while at the same time encountering other faiths and challenges to their own. It models a healthy relationship between faith and learning. It practices inter-religious dialogue. A college following the third path supports the kind of religious outlook that fosters cooperation, peace, and justice rather than aggression or conflict. In this way and in others, it contributes to the wellbeing of the larger society.
The purpose of this essay is to explain how and why the Lutheran tradition supports a third path approach. It explains the contours of such a third path and, more specifically, indicates how the Lutheran identity of St. Olaf supports inter-religious hospitality.
Claiming a Particular Religious Tradition
If a college is to follow the third path, it must claim a particular religious tradition. From the perspective offered by this tradition, it is then equipped to appreciate others. Some find the particularity of one tradition problematic, but no alternative exists — there is no neutral starting point. It is not possible to practice all religions, so a person who tries is inevitably selective. Just as a person cannot be human in general but is always particular (masculine, feminine, American, Japanese, old, young, etc.), so religion is always particular. The discomfort some feel in the face of particularity is misplaced. Particularity is unavoidable. The more important issue is how particularity is understood and practiced. Is it used to draw lines or to connect with others?
How should we label this particularity? Some would prefer to use the word “Christian,” but in our society Christian is a highly contested term. For many, it signals a specific way of being Christian, and as such, it is often filled with connotations, such as biblical inerrancy or a disparagement of other religions, that do not fit the St. Olaf tradition. Replacing Lutheran with Christian turns out not to be a workable option.
The clearest way to describe the religious identity of St. Olaf is to explain that it follows the third path and is rooted in the Lutheran tradition. The Lutheran tradition enables the College to be both inclusive and rooted.
We need first to clarify the role that Lutheran principles play in a college that follows the third path.
Let us imagine that the college journey takes place over a long and wide pedestrian bridge. At one end is enrollment. At the other end is graduation. Every aspect of college life occurs on this bridge—classes, laboratories, dormitory life, chapel, athletic events. The bridge is populated not only with students but also with professors, administrators, secretaries, cooks, custodians, and carpenters. To extend the metaphor, this bridge is held up by pillars. They are the educational values that influence teaching and decision-making. These pillars are in turn anchored by footings which are only partially visible. These footings are the distinctively Lutheran theological principles that anchor the operative educational values. An individual employee or student can function on the deck without stepping back to see the whole structure, but understanding the structure clarifies what to expect while on the bridge and equips people to discern what fits within the college’s shared values.
If St. Olaf were a non-sectarian college, the footings would be abandoned, or at least the tie between them and the pillars would be broken. On the other hand, if St. Olaf were a sectarian college, there would be no intermediary between the footings and the deck. The religious principles themselves would be the priorities for what happens on the deck. At St. Olaf the pillars draw on themes grounded in distinctively Lutheran theological principles but are formulated as broader educational values that can be supported by individuals who hold alternate religious commitments.
The distinction between footings and pillars is made possible by the dual character of the Lutheran outlook. Unlike denominations that emphasize the dividing line between the natural and the supernatural, the Lutheran tradition finds the sacred in the midst of the ordinary. This means that God is understood to work in and through humans and the natural world. When two persons look at an act of generosity or service, one observer may see a human behaving in a moral way, while the other may see both God and the human at work. The educational values that I am describing as pillars can be supported both by Lutherans and by those who are not.
The essay first examines the footings to identify the theological basis for a Lutheran college that follows the third path. The two students with whom we began both have legitimate concerns. Our purpose here is to show why we do not need to choose between Lutheran identity and diversity. The six footings that I will discuss are tied together, but for purposes of clarity I will consider them separately and let the explanations signal some overlap.
The Footings: Lutheran Theological Principles that Anchor the College’s Identity
The priority of the gospel. Lutherans understand “gospel” as the good news that God takes the initiative to overcome our estrangement and adopts humans without any prerequisites. For the Lutheran tradition, this is the core teaching of the Bible, and forgetting it leads to a misunderstanding of Christianity. The gospel is not a set of ideas so much as it is a communication event. That is, the same words can strike some people in some circumstances as bad news and others as good news. If a person very much wants to “do it myself,” the message that God has done the reconciling may not seem at all like good news. Moreover, words are not the only way to communicate. Actions can also convey the gospel. So gospel has to do with the message, with how it is conveyed, and with how it is heard.
If the gospel has priority, then the focus is on God’s generosity rather than our faith—and faith is not a pre-requisite. For Luther, faith does not come first, as in “if you believe, then you will be right with God.” Faith instead tags along after God’s initiative. Faith is acknowledging what God has already been doing.6 Over time, such acknowledging develops into trust—a trust in God and the promises of God. Because faith is a matter of trust, it is inherently relational. In its strictest sense, gospel has to do with the God-human relationship. It is all about God restoring and healing a damaged relationship. But, once perceived here, God’s gifting can be seen elsewhere as well. Human life is itself a gift. The created world is a gift. The requisite amount of social order is a gift. When giftedness is recognized, gratitude is the appropriate human response.
A down-to-earth image of God. Lutherans do not expect God to be in control of every world event. God gave humans enough freedom so that many choices are contrary to the will of God. But neither do Lutherans expect a disengaged God. They see God at work behind the scenes, in and through humans and creatures and events, fostering wholeness and working against injustice, oppression, and anything that undermines shalom. So God does not control, does not ignore, does not regularly interrupt, but does engage with and interact with humans and the world.
As already mentioned, Lutherans do not assume that something must be either supernatural or natural. Instead, they exhibit what can be called a “sacramental sense.” Things in the world and in experience, even things that are not perfect examples of goodness, are regarded to be transparent to the presence of God and capable of serving as channels of God’s activity. This understanding of God’s presence allows for the dual view that has already been described, where one person sees both God and humans at work in an event while another sees only human agency. Such a dual view is important in a college that follows the third path, because persons who do see God active in the world and those who do not can work together and can share an educational vision, even if they do not have the same theological commitments.
According to a central theme in the Bible, the goal of this divine presence is shalom. The Bible holds up many images of shalom: swords beaten into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks, wolves lying down with lambs, a heavenly city coming down to earth with space and food and water and medicine for all, with gates that never close, and with God so close at hand that no temple is needed. For Luther, the Bible reveals God’s character and purpose, but at the same time much about God remains hidden. As a result, no human can detect precisely what God is currently doing to foster shalom. Our knowing is too limited and is too influenced by our own interests. But, as both the Old Testament and the New Testament demonstrate, important messages can come from individuals who are neither Israelites nor members of the church. So, because anything or anyone can be a “mask” of God’s presence and a channel of God’s gifting, dialogue between people of differing religious traditions can be beneficial. Either dialogue partner, or both, can become a channel of God’s gifting.
Student A was worried that religious diversity would undermine the Lutheran identity of the College. This need not happen if there is genuine religious dialogue. Student B was worried about preparing students for a society comprised of people with differing religious identities. Inter-religious dialogue, combined with the study of religion, provides this preparation. In other words, the College does not need to reduce its Lutheran ties in order to prepare students for life in a religiously pluralistic society.
A sense of vocation. Luther expanded the concept of vocation to include all believers and any activity that is of benefit to the community. Prior to the Reformation, only monks, nuns, and priests were understood to have a vocation, a calling from God to do what they were doing. Luther’s idea was that farmers could understand themselves as called by God to provide healthy food to the community, parents could understand themselves as called by God to raise their children in ways that would benefit the community, teachers could understand themselves to be called to equip children to become wise and discerning adults, and so on. So, vocation became the calling of every human to serve the neighbor and the community in and through all areas of life—in and through one’s work, family relations, treatment of nature, and citizenship.
Since Luther’s day, vocation has sometimes been misunderstood as merely an endorsement of work. It is not. It encompasses more than work, and it can challenge our work. It raises questions about who is being helped and who is being hurt by every one of our decisions and our actions. Our calling is to serve those who need it most.
A deeper sense of freedom. Luther recognized that humans have freedom of choice. They can choose to dress this way or that, to marry this person or another, and so on. But he also observed that freedom of choice operates only on one level. Freedom on the level of choice does not imply freedom on the level of underlying attachments. A deeper un-freedom influences our choices. This un-freedom Luther described as enslavement to the self or to some other “god.”
The gospel overcomes this enslavement. To be gifted by God and by other humans is to be set free — to be “opened up” to the other. The resulting freedom is relational and hence paradoxical. The person is both a “perfectly free lord of all, subject to none, [and] a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.” When this free, a person is able to listen, to perceive what the neighbor needs, and to make service to the neighbor the highest ethical priority.
A distinction between two ways in which God interacts with the world. In the arena of God-human relations, Lutherans see God as generous and gifting, “slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” They also affirm that, in order to protect humans, God also works through structures, institutions, and governments, where coercion often is needed to restrain evil and limit injustice. The same God with the same motivation interacts with the world in two ways. Just as a parent may rush to comfort an injured child in one moment and restrain that child from fighting with his or her sibling in another, so God both shows mercy to humans and seeks justice through institutions.
The distinction is important for a college that pursues a third path. Both kinds of activity can be found in a college built on Lutheran footings. St. Olaf has a chapel where worship services are held and to which everyone is invited, but the College as a whole is not a church, a Bible camp, or a monastery; it is an educational institution. Without this distinction, St. Olaf would become either a religious enclave or a non-sectarian college. A sectarian college typically melds the two modes of divine action, giving religious sanction to its rules, while a non-sectarian college abandons any desire to celebrate the generosity of God and inspire generosity in its on-campus relationships. Generosity is not absent but no ethos supports it, and as a result, an ethos of competitiveness often prevails.
A theology of the cross. Luther objected to what he called a “theology of glory”— that is, any mixture of revealed truths and human inferences that passes itself off as “the faith” and requires acceptance. A theology of glory claims to know more about God than has been revealed and often produces subservience rather than thoughtfulness. In contrast, Luther supported a theology of the cross which recognizes the limits of its knowledge, does not suppress doubts, and lives with unanswered questions.
A theology of the cross acknowledges that theological thinking is relational. Its task is not primarily to formulate an organized set of teachings but to explore the character, purpose, and work of God, insofar as it affects humans in ways revealed through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Though the theology of the cross is not determined by a person’s own experience, individual beliefs are deeply influenced by that experience. In the words of Reformation scholar Richard Marius, “Since Luther throughout equates ‘truth’ with a dynamic, true knowledge of ourselves and God, … [a person] understands the truth only by experiencing it.” Of particular significance is the experience of suffering. A theology of the cross recognizes that, contrary to human expectations, God can be seen more clearly through suffering than through success. What is promised to the disciple is not immunity from suffering but hope in the midst of it—the kind of hope that can “be with” sufferers and can work to eliminate their suffering. A theology of the cross suggests that, because we do not have all the answers, inter-religious dialogue is beneficial. Dialogue yields new insights and takes religion seriously without insisting on uniformity. My own experience is that Jewish- Christian dialogue has alerted me to valuable insights found in my own tradition that I had overlooked. And it has helped me identify harmful patterns that need correcting. A third path is possible because dialogue strengthens faith and deepens one’s understanding of the faith, instead of undermining or weakening one’s faith, as some fear.
Luther was very clear that one person cannot know what God’s relationship is to another person.  If this is true, then groups of people cannot be pigeonholed, whether as all damned or all saved. Moreover, if God’s love has no pre-requisites, then one cannot say “you must do this or you must do that” in order to be right with God. Listening is crucial; dialogue depends on it.
We have already noted that the Lutheran tradition considers God to be hidden as well as revealed. Yes, humans can know God’s attitude toward them and something of God’s character and purpose, but they cannot see the world from God’s point of view. This means that, no matter how deep their commitment may be or how much theology they know, persons of faith must maintain a distinction between God and their ideas about God. Every believer has to be open to the possibility that the tradition may not have chosen the best words to express its experience of a generous, active, down-to-earth God. The incompleteness of our understanding makes dialogue valuable and allows challenges to our understanding of God to be constructive. Such challenges help faith mature, just as dialogue can open the door to a yet better understanding of the relational core of one’s own faith.
The Pillars: Operating Principles that Function as Shared Educational Values
The pillars inform the College’s policies and decisions, and they build on the theological footings enumerated above. They function as middle principles, borrowing insights from the theological footings and expressing them in a way that is useful for guiding life at the College. These pillars need broad support, because shared values are what make the College a community rather than a cluster of individuals. Shared values do not imply uniformity. They do not supply prescribed answers. They often take the form of questions that are deemed worthy of consideration.
Fostering a pervasive sense of giftedness and gratitude. The first footing we discussed was the priority of the gospel. The gospel is primarily a communication event in which individual humans are reconciled with God. When we move to the pillar it anchors, we encounter an educational value, which has to do with an understanding of life and of relationships.
First, an understanding of life. Unlike a sense of entitlement, a sense of giftedness acknowledges that we did not choose to be born, that we go to schools we did not build, drive on roads we did not construct, eat food we did not grow, benefit from medical knowledge we did not uncover, enjoy trees we did not plant, and so on. If we value education or know how to work, it is because someone taught us to do so. Indeed, everything that we are is a gift from others. This recognition is available both to those who believe in God and to those who do not. A college with this pillar seeks to provide the kind of community in which generosity is experienced, named, and celebrated. The resulting sense of gratitude is an outlook on life that makes possible a sense of vocation and fosters radical hospitality. When persons who do or do not consider themselves Christian experience a community of generosity and gratitude, they can acknowledge their giftedness and practice acts of gratitude and generosity.
Second, an understanding of relationships. Whatever form the practice of generosity and hospitality takes, it creates bonds. In the College as a whole, communal bonds make enlightening civil discourse far more likely—whether the issue is moral or intellectual or vocational. Good education is relational.
If St. Olaf is what it aspires to be, then any person who enters the college community will experience generosity—a generosity of words and actions not restricted to some “in” group. Just as there are no pre-requisites for God’s generosity, so there are no pre-requisites for experiencing the human-to-human graciousness that expresses itself in radical hospitality and in ongoing respect and concern.
Inspiring a robust sense of vocation. Using the word vocation to describe a footing and again to describe a pillar can be confusing. It signals a linkage, but there is also a distinction. The theological footing of vocation is a calling from God. As a pillar, the educational goal has more to do with meaning and purpose in life. As the St. Olaf mission statement says, “In the conviction that life is more than a livelihood, it [a St. Olaf education] focuses on what is ultimately worthwhile.” No one prescribes what is “ultimately worthwhile.” It is left open for individual exploration and the incorporation of personal priorities and commitments. But, building on the Lutheran tradition, the college believes that service to others is part of what is “ultimately worthwhile.”
A sense of vocation has to do with perspective. How does one’s work, political activity, or avocation serve others? Vocation can be defined as (a) an understanding of the self, not as an isolated unit, but as nested in a larger community, and (b) an overarching ethical priority to serve the neighbor and the community in all areas of life. Vocation, as understood here, is primarily about the needs of other human beings. It is thus a calling that comes from outside the self. According to its mission statement, St. Olaf encourages students “to be seekers of truth, leading lives of unselfish service to others; and it challenges them to be responsible and knowledgeable citizens of the world.”
Though vocation is a Lutheran word, the concept is congenial to any humane understanding of religion. For example, an open letter to Jewish and Christian leaders in 2007 from 138 of the world’s leading Muslim scholars and intellectuals suggested that the two-fold invitation to “love the Lord your God with your heart, soul, and mind,” and to “love your neighbor as yourself ” could be the basis for Muslim-Christian-Jewish cooperation. This love of neighbor is at the heart of vocation.
Nurturing a deeper sense of freedom. Once again the words of the footing and the words of this pillar overlap. The distinction is that the footing focuses on the freedom experienced by the person of faith, while this pillar focuses on independent thought, independent moral judgment, and courageous ethical action. This kind of freedom can extricate a human from unthinkingly endorsing the assumptions of society (consumerism, careerism, American exceptionalism, and the like) and can nurture the courage to act justly and compassionately in the face of societal indifference or opposition. An important ingredient in this freedom is a sense of agency.
The word liberal in liberal arts means “free” and/or “freeing,” so the liberal arts are about those studies that set a person free and distinguish the free person from the slave. Because the liberal arts and the Lutheran tradition both seek to nourish freedom, they fit well together. The liberal arts aim to free a person both from prejudice, ignorance, and the like and for service to the neighbor and the community. This pillar suggests that teaching and learning at a Lutheran college should always pay attention to the significance of the subject matter for the learner and for those in need.
Holding up wisdom as the central goal of education. Such freedom has another dimension. In order to aid the neighbor and serve the community effectively, a person needs wisdom—that is, an understanding of humans and communities, what they need to be healthy and how they work. Admittedly, wisdom can come from more than one source, but education is key. By examining “the doings and sayings of the entire world, and how things went with various cities, kingdoms, princes, men and women” students can “gain from history the knowledge and understanding of what to seek and what to avoid in this outward life, and be able to advise and direct others accordingly.” For Luther, rather than rules of conduct, the Scriptures provide the kind of wisdom or guidance (Torah) that can help a person treat others in a way that upholds their God-given worth. It opens possibilities and invites creativity rather than only identifying limits.
Wisdom is complex enough to require interaction with others. A person can gather knowledge on one’s own but needs the added perspective of others with differing experiences and insights in order to decide what is good for the larger community and good for the individuals in it. It is no accident that St. Olaf is a residential college, with many opportunities for interaction, both in and outside of class.
Even in the Bible, wisdom is not the possession only of the Israelites. It is borrowed freely from other peoples. If the goal of higher education is enhanced wisdom, then one place wisdom may be found is in dialogue with people from other cultures and other religious traditions. This is why St. Olaf, in its mission statement, incorporates “a global perspective” and “strives to be an inclusive community, respecting those of differing backgrounds and beliefs.” A college following the third path will not be content with imparting knowledge and forming skills; it will seek to develop wisdom.
Emphasizing community and relationality. Given the priority of vocation and of wisdom, we can say that learning takes place in a community for the sake of the larger community. Because those who seek to serve the larger community often confront resistance to justice and pressures opposed to shalom, they need a support community. A support community equips students to act with courage and moral conviction, while at the same time helping them discern the course of action most likely to help others.
Given the pervasive individualism of our society, emphasizing the importance of community—a learning community, the larger community, and a support community–can be a genuine contribution to the public good.
Epistemological humility. The footing, theology of the cross, primarily deals with our knowledge of God. This pillar extends the epistemological caution from the sphere of God to all knowledge. The warrant for this caution is not only theological. A variety of philosophers have reminded us that our knowledge is finite and incomplete. Given the ever-changing character of human knowledge, our finite perspective, and our proclivity to accept as true what benefits us, epistemological humility is crucial. It prevents ideas—whether scientific, political, religious, or ethical— from becoming ideologies that claim to provide complete answers, expect subscription from others, and often resort to coercion of one sort or another to win approval. Education aimed at wisdom simultaneously takes ideas seriously and recognizes their limits. It practices civil discourse and challenges polarizing certainties.
This pillar has two implications. The first is freedom of inquiry. The St. Olaf mission statement endorses “free inquiry and free expression.” Critical and constructive thinking are at stake. If we do not have complete or final knowledge, then everything human is reformable. Anything and everything is subject to scrutiny. Whether religion, politics, scientific proposals, or the operation of the College or our interpretation of the Bible, nothing is exempt—because critique is a way to test ideas and institutions and to discern where they may be damaging humane living. Such criticism is, however, preliminary. The ultimate goal of a college, following the third path, is not to tear things apart but to rebuild or reform them in such a way that they serve humans and the world more effectively. When understood this way, freedom of inquiry depends on epistemological humility and contributes to vocation.
The second implication is a commitment to dialogue, including both civil discourse and inter-religious relations. The third path enables the College both to appreciate its own tradition and welcome people from other faith traditions. Instead of insisting on a unified belief (sectarian), or ignoring belief (non-sectarian), a third path college takes faith traditions seriously and invites them into dialogue. In this way it offers a much-needed contribution to our polarized society.
Affirming mystery and cultivating a sense of wonder. As used here, the word mystery does not include what can, in principle, be known even if it is not yet understood. It thus goes beyond epistemological humility. Added knowledge does not make mystery disappear, rather it expands the mystery. With ever more powerful instruments, a person can map the universe and put everything in its place, but sheer magnitude of the universe inspires a deep sense of mystery. The human response to mystery is a sense of wonder. This sense of wonder inspires writers, artists, and scientists. It comes to expression in worship. It keeps an academy community from becoming pedantic and humans from over-reaching. That is, a sense of wonder recognizes the mystery of another person and thwarts any attempt to manipulate or control that person. A sense of wonder about the nature does the same. A college that follows the third path finds ways to acknowledge mystery and to encourage wonder.
The Importance of Anchoring the College in Lutheran Theological Principles
Because modern history shows how easily institutions of higher education can be co-opted, anchoring the pillars with footings is necessary. Knowledge alone, even when aided by the values of the Enlightenment, has not been able to withstand the pressure of popular political ideologies. Hence, it is not safe for a college to assume that un-anchored pillars are enough to keep it the kind of learning community it aspires to be. For example, the polarization of our society militates against civil discourse. Its individualism discourages healthy communities and civic engagement. Careerism undercuts a robust sense of vocation. Pervasive anxieties about climate change, the changing role of the US in the world, and increasing economic disparities, produce a paralysis that undermines service. A sense of entitlement undermines gratitude. The propensity within modern society to seek control interferes with a sense of mystery and threatens our relationship with the natural world. The massiveness of our society undermines a sense of agency. Consumerism, the ubiquity of choices in our overstocked stores, and the lure of so many distractions mask our underlying un-freedom, and this unacknowledged un-freedom has consequences both for the individual and the wider community.
But, if the anchor can hold, then outcomes of third path education will enable St. Olaf to continue to make a significant contribution to our society. Whatever a student’s personal religious commitments, if that student graduates with a robust sense of vocation, of giftedness and gratitude, of agency, of community, of epistemological humility, of mystery and wonder, of a deeper freedom, of wisdom, of commitment to civil discourse and inter-religious dialogue, then he/she will contribute in significant ways to the betterment of family, neighbors, communities, and society as a whole.
Darrell Jodock’62 serves as the Martin Marty Regents Chair in Religion and the Academy. A history major at St. Olaf, he earned an M.Div. from Luther Seminary and a Ph.D. from Yale University. In 2012 he retired from the Bernhardson Chair at Gustavus Adolphus College and previously taught at Muhlenberg College and Luther Seminary. His fields include Lutheran Studies, the history of Christian Thought, and Jewish-Christian Relations.Tags: academia, Christian, community, education, justice, liberal arts, religious, truth, university, vocation, wisdom, work