2018 Theological Symposium: Plenaries and Sectionals

“The Cross Alone is our Theology!”

“The cross of Christ is the only way of instruction in the Word of God, and the only true theology.”

—Martin Luther, 1519. Operationes (Ps 6:11): WA 5:217,2–3.

The cross has always stood at the center of the Christian faith, but what does it really mean to have a cross-centered theology, cross-centered pastoral care, or a cross-centered life? Neither a morbid obsession with death nor a dispirited resignation to suffering, to preach “nothing but Christ crucified” (St. Paul) or to be a “theologian of the cross” (Luther) is to set forth the central vision and lens by which we see our life and witness in the world. Through Christ’s death and by the strength of his resurrection, we are placed into a new relationship to both our sin and our piety, to God and our neighbor, to blessings and sufferings, to hope, happiness, joy and peace. Come learn about the many ways in which the cross and resurrection change everything!

Registration is now open and more information is available at the Theological Symposium web page.

For now, I’d like to introduce the plenaries and sectionals for this year:


Dr. Jeff Kloha
“Carry On: The Centrality of the Cross”

“The Cross” and the victory achieved by the resurrection are the decisive events of the New Testament. They not only accomplish salvation, they also define a new way of being in the world for those who have been saved. This essay seeks to describe the relationship between Jesus’ cross and the cross that all those who are in Christ are called to carry: Persecution, humiliation, weakness, self-denial, putting off the flesh, power, and victory all characterize those who have be “co-crucified with Christ.” What does it look like—in the midst of our own crooked and perverse generation–for the church to carry the cross?

Dr. Kent Burreson
Ad fontem in crucem: The Formative Function of the Cross as Artistic and Ritual Sign”

In Galatians 4:14, Paul says, “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” For Paul the cross is substantially more than a sign, but the way of life for those who live under the rule and reign of the Crucified and Risen One. The cross should never degenerate into mere sign. As an effective symbol it should do something to those who receive it. It should form the lives of those upon whom it has been inscribed, as it did for Paul. We will trace this formative power of the cross as a visual, auditory, physical, and ritual symbol, shaping the lives of Christian disciples from the New Testament to the present era. In a world in which crosses abound as detached signs, often in cheap and kitschy ways, we will seek to answer the question: How can the cross as symbol inscribed upon the eyes, ears, mouth, and body continue to form the lives of the disciples of the Crucified One today?

Dr. Joel Okamoto
The Word of the Cross and the Story of Everything”

When Christians think of the “word of the cross,” they usually think of the message about Christ’s death on the cross reconciling God and sinners. But Christ’s death on the cross matters to more than how to think of atonement. It bears on how to think of God and creation, that is, everything. Today Christians find themselves in situations where everything they believe, teach, and confess is subject to questions, doubts, suspicions, alternatives, and indifference. So it is vital that Christians today understand how Christ crucified matters in their story of everything, and also learn to speak the word of the cross in its fullness.


Track 1: Cross within Christian Theology

Dr. Jeff Gibbs
“Take Up Your Cross and Follow Me: Living the New Life in the Same Old Age”

The familiar “now/not yet” tension in theology is not just an idea; it is central to living as believers today.  The NT’s teaching about cross-bearing and paradoxical greatness remains as true today as ever, calling us to reject the lies of this present evil age and to live by faith in the new creation in Christ.

Dr. Tim Dost
“A Life that Sees Things God’s Way:  God’s Word versus Aristotelian Appearance in the Heidelberg Disputation”

In the Heidelberg Disputation, the cross for Luther simply represents the prime example of Christ’s work in our lives. Many other biblical examples could also be adduced. While the world judges by appearances, the Christian guided by this Word, sees things through new eyes and begins to see matters the way God also sees them. As a result, the believer is able to take action in life as well as pray, praise and give thanks to God, even when this does not appear to be the obvious response. In this way, our sufferings can be seen as a mirror of the sufferings of Christ who, in addition to forgiveness through the cross and sufferings, also empowers His believers to be “little Christs” to the world.

Dr. David Maxwell
“The Cross in Early Christian Art and Devotion”

The sixth century saw a turn towards the cross as the focal point of art, devotion, and even theological controversy.  As pieces of the “true cross” began to travel around the empire, hymns about the cross were composed, some of which are in our hymnal.  In the theological landscape, the theologians argued about whether we could affirm that “One of the Trinity was crucified in the flesh.”  What is behind this turn towards the cross?

Track 2: Cross within the Arts

Rev. Bob and Sarah Bernhardt
“Intersect: Beauty Between Theory and Practice”

Join the founder and director of Intersect Arts Center, Sarah Bernhardt, and pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Robert Bernhardt, to explore a conversation around the arts as a language for hospitality and inclusion, social justice work in an urban context, and the theology of beauty.  We will discuss hands-on approaches and examples from the Arts Center ministry, as well as the under-girding theory and theology for this work!

Kelly Schumacher
“The Cross Within the History of Christian Art”

Local artist Kelly Schumacher will be discussing the historical function of art in the church, and how it is relevant to the church today.  She will also be showing and explaining her own work that incorporates both classical painting and Lutheran theology.  In a world where art is about self-expression and everything goes, Kelly is aiming for art that glorifies God and ministers to the needs of the church.  She will be discussing narrative, realism, and scripture and the foundations for her artwork.

Prof. David Lewis
“The Cross and Cruciform Imagery in Christ-Figure Films”

In a Christ-figure film, one of the most common techniques by which the film identifies the Christ-figure is by depicting this character in cruciform or by associating this character with the cross of Jesus Christ. What is the function of a Christ-figure’s “crucifixion” in these films? This presentation will look at pivotal scenes in Cool Hand Luke, The Cowboys, and Gran Torino to answer how the cross is used in these films to present the mission and goal of a Christ-figure.

Track 3: Cross within Pastoral Theology

Dr. Peter Nafzger
“The Preacher of the Cross as Proclaimer and Teacher”

In recent years a helpful systematic distinction has been made between proclamation and explanation. Theology, it is rightly said, is for proclamation. Faithful proclamation, in turn, is God’s address to his people through preachers. Yet to “say what a thing is,” as Luther says of the theologian of the cross, preachers must speak both words from God and words about God. That is, they preach and teach, proclaim and explain, declare and exhort. In doing so, preachers of the cross bring hearers into a Christian understanding of the world and equip them for faithful living in it.

Dr. Erik Herrmann
“Luther’s Theology of Suffering and Pastoral Care: Trying to Make Sense of Suffering”

In today’s society, suffering is the great horizon for ethics: the effort to remove or avoid the experience of suffering is one of the criterion for what is just or good. But this has led to the justification of a great many moribund decisions, from abortion to euthanasia. Yet for Christians who find the cross as the touchstone for life, suffering can be transformed. Luther, in particular, believed that the word of the cross brought about a reformation of suffering.

Dr. Michael Zeigler
“Apologetics Under the Cross: ‘Comparative Eschatology’ and Reason for Our Hope”

The Apostle Peter instructs us to be ready to give a defense to all who ask about the reason for our hope. We should be ready, but the cross always stands in the way. The cross reflects how the world rejects our evidence for hope. It is also a scandal that underscores the hiddenness of God. A “comparative eschatology” can help our apologetics under the cross. Comparative eschatology studies the similarities and differences between the life-organizing stories that generate eschatological hope (secular and religious, theistic and atheistic). This aids Christian apologetics first by revealing how all stories of hope suffer from a scandal of their own, then by redirecting to the story of Jesus. Such an approach gives concrete direction for Christians to give reason for their hope, even under the cross.





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