My observations on the Fort Wayne Symposia

I got back from the CTS Fort Wayne 2009 Symposia yesterday, after getting a flat tire along the way. Despite that little mishap, it was a very enjoyable week. I hadn’t been back to Symposia for three years, since I got sick. So it was a welcome homecoming for me. And since this Symposia was on LCMS history, it was right up my alley. Here are my initial thoughts on the presentations that I was able to attend. I didn’t make it for the exegetical Symposia, save one.

* Dr. Arthur A. Just, Jr. Topic: “Lex orandi, lex credendi: Sacramental Unity in the Midst of Biblical Diversity”

This was basically a paper on liturgical, or churchly hermeneutics. Braaten/Jensen and Brevard Childs sort of talk. I did not consider it to be plowing new ground, since I’ve had Dr. Just for about ever class he’s ever taught. But he did a very nice job of putting the pieces together, and helping us to understand how the interpretation of Scripture happens most clearly in a liturgical and churchly context. Although he didn’t really expound upon it, the obvious connection in my mind is that the Scriptures are most clearly interpreted according to their intent in preaching. More on that another time.

* Dr. Lawrence R. Rast, Jr. Topic: “J. A. O. Preus: Theologian, Churchman, or Both”

I only heard the second half of this paper, much to my great chagrin. What I heard was quite good. He rightly observes that JAO Preus should not be villified as a political hack out for power, nor sainted as a “pure” theologian. The true is probably somewhere in between. I didn’t hear enough of it to speak more on this one.

* The Reverend Paul Robert Sauer. Topic: “Out of Step or Before His Times: Berthold von Schenk”

This was probably the paper that I found the most interesting, along with Shuta’s. He basically gave a biography in summary of the life of Berthold von Schenk, the founder of the St. James Society and early proponent for liturgical renewal in the LCMS. It was a largely uncritical presentation, as Sauer is the pastor at von Schenk’s former congregation. However, given the fact that nobody in the LCMS knows anything about this man, that didn’t bother me overmuch. We’ll have to wait for a more critical evaluation.

* Dr. David P. Scaer. Topic: “Making a Difference: The Theology of Robert D. Preus”

This one is hard to evaluate. Scaer’s life is so intertwined with RDP’s life, it’s difficult to separate if you are Scaer. I’ll frankly have to reread it in order to really understand it. One thing that I did take with me on this one was his observation about “top down” verses “bottom up” Christology, comparing Marquart’s to his view. I’d like to think on that more.

* Dr. David R. Schmitt. Topic: “Goal, Malady, Means as Law-Gospel Ersatz in the Theology of Richard R. Caemmerer”

This was a paper I wasn’t intending to hear, but he kinda sucked me in. First of all, it was masterfully presented. Clear, well thought out and rehearsed I’d even say. His point was that Caemmerer’s Goal/Malady/Means was laudable, but that it is now caricatured to such a degree that it is almost unrecognizable. I’d like to read more on the topic.

* Dr. Philip J. Secker. Topic: “”A Pilgrimage not Taken: Arthur Carl Piepkorn”

This was one of the paper’s I was most looking forward to hearing, and hence I was most disappointed. I have always found Piepkorn to be one of the greatest enigmas in the history of the LCMS. I want to know more about him. Unfortunately, Secker is not the man to do that. His paper was hesitant and sometimes just plain bombastic. I think his goal was to demonstrate that A) Piepkorn would have walked out had he been alive and B) That Piepkorn would support women’s ordination to day were he alive. I find both of those really hard to believe, given the evidence, and Secker just made the presentation difficult to hear. Bummer. It could have been great.

* Dr. Richard J. Shuta. Topic: “Dr. Walter A. Maier as Evangelical Preacher”

This one was worth the price of admission. Shuta is a bit of a difficult person to hear sometimes, but the topic was dynamite. He began to demonstrate that WAM I is the missing link between Billy Sunday and Billy Graham. He had evidence, and lots of it. I can’t wait to read the paper, and more of what he has to say. With WAM I and Piepkorn, you really see two of the major strands that influence the LCMS today. What a history.

* Dr. Robert L. Wilken. Topic: “A Pilgrim from Wittenberg to Constantinople: Jaroslav Pelikan”

This paper was gentle and beautiful. Wilken, a student and longtime friend of Pelikan, basically showed how Pelikan’s move from Lutheranism to Eastern Orthodoxy was much more of a kind of inevitable move of his studies than anything else. Pelikan also had simply no use for Protestantism, and the more he say American Lutheranism take on the characteristics of mainline Protestantism, the more he disliked it. See the comments on WAM I above.

It wasn’t a critical read, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Well, that’s my initial thoughts on the symposia. What are yours?

P

Symposia: Exegetical and Confessional Theology (Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN)

5 thoughts on “My observations on the Fort Wayne Symposia

  1. What was stunning to me about Secker was that he gave no real overview of Piepkorn’s confessional theology…and for whatever reason chose not to highlight his role in the Lutheran-Catholic dialogues of the 60’s. I think that Neuhaus and Wilken would have been far better choices for a paper on Piepkorn. (As someone who has researched Piepkorn, I can’t help but think that I could have done a better job than Secker…I wrote a paper…more than one actually… that summarized and analyzed Piepkorn’s confessional and ecumenical theology.)

    As far as Shuta goes, he was vintage Shuta. I am very biased as I was his student assistant for 2 years and consider him to be one of by Fathers in the faith. Shuta has a convincing case to make about WAM. I hope to help him get it out there…I am amazed that he is now willing to be more public about his research. I think WAM is way more influential than Piepkorn ever was.

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