Ph.D. Dissertations, 2021

More information on the scholarship of Concordia Seminary’s Ph.D. graduates can be found in the Seminary’s Scholar archive: https://scholar.csl.edu/phd/.

Michael Fieberkorn

Fieberkorn, Michael T. “From Vice to Virtue: Contours of Idolatry and New Obedience.” Ph.D. diss., Concordia Seminary, 2021. 290 pp.

What are the specific contours of life lived in accordance with God’s will? That is the primary question this dissertation seeks to answer. Discerning the particular shape of Christian sanctification is difficult. Radical Lutheranism attempts to define sanctification simply as “love,” which lacks the specificity necessary to adjudicate between competing and mutually exclusive claims concerning Christian morality. Theologians attempting to address this insufficiency by incorporating virtue ethics within a Lutheran theological construct must clearly articulate the particularly Christian telos.

Reading Luther through the lens of virtue ethics suggests a distinctively Christian ethic defined with more precision than the radical account. In the medieval church, sanctification is cast into a specific shape by the vice/virtue tradition of the capital vices and particular dispositions of the cardinal-theological/contrarian virtues. Observing how this shape is both appropriated and adapted in light of Reformation insight regarding anthropology and the nature of justification reveals a differentiated concept of vice and virtue.

As the vice/virtue tradition is refracted through the Reformation, vice is recast as particular manifestations of idolatry and virtues proper are rendered penultimate to outward works of obedient service towards the neighbor, even as the category of virtue is extended to include not solely dispositions but also the good works of the Decalogue, which comprise the proper contours of Christian sanctification.

Discerning this particular telos raises a subsequent question that seeks to understand the potential implications of a Christian failing to strive towards this end. The placing of vice and virtue into the context of the Decalogue not only offers the Lutheran faith tradition an alternate framework through which to comprehend the essence of the sanctified life, but also its task, further revealing the necessity of active participation in the battle against idolatrous vice, and demonstrating the paradoxical role human responsibility plays alongside divine monergism in the perseverance of saving faith though the intentional cultivation of virtue by which the believer mortifies the sinful flesh and engages in the fight of Christian faith.

Brian Gauthier

Gauthier, Brian A. “Jesus In, With, and Under the Spirit: The Spirit’s Presence and Activity in Christ in the Sacrament of the Altar.” Ph.D. diss., Concordia Seminary, 2021. 282 pp.

Contemporary theological scholarship has seen a turn toward pneumatology and the use of a pneumatological lens for exploring and [re]considering Christian doctrines. Spirit Christology has long been considered the first major, successful work in this movement of scholarship which has come to be called Third Article Theology.

This study proposes to consider the Lord’s Supper pneumatologically through use of a Trinitarian Spirit Christology. Three primary aspects of a traditional account of the Lord’s Supper will be the subject of pneumatological reimagining. Spirit Christology will inquire into the Spirit’s presence and activity in the presence and activity of Jesus through his Words (the Verba), his presence (Real Presence), and the benefits of His sacrament in the participant.

In this way, this dissertation attempts to contribute to the field of pneumatology and sacramentology, broadly speaking to the Christian church at large and narrowly speaking to Lutheran theology, through a pneumatic reading of the soteriological, Christological and ethical aspects of a theology of the Lord’s Supper informed by a Spirit Christology.

Kevin Gingrich

Gingrich, Kevin, L. “Parechesis in the Undisputed Pauline Epistles: Definition, Identification, and Discovery.” Ph.D. diss., Concordia Seminary, 2020. 291 pp.

Throughout the undisputed Pauline epistles, the author employs ancient rhetorical figures of soundplay. In particular, this dissertation focuses on a stylistic device known since Homer and, a century or so after Paul, labeled “parechesis.” Parechesis refers to similar sounding words of different lexical roots that lie in some collocation. The device is so pervasive in Paul as to be deemed a defining characteristic of Pauline style.

Aaron Goldstein

Goldstein, Aaron, J. “‘If You Are Willing to Receive It’: The Presentation of John The Baptist as Elijah in Matthew’s Gospel.” Ph.D. diss., Concordia Seminary, 2021. 214pp.

In Matthew’s Gospel, John the Baptist demonstrates a viewpoint of himself and Jesus, in their respective roles in the in–breaking kingdom of heaven, which is correct, but also insufficient. An exploration is undertaken to better understand this phenomenon.

With John identified in the Gospel as ‘Elijah who is to come,’ Malachian texts concerning expectations for Elijah’s return are examined. From this context, three figures emerge, each with an expected role: ‘My messenger’/Elijah, the Lord/Messenger of the Covenant, and Yahweh himself.

A survey of relevant Second Temple Jewish literature aids in reading as Matthew’s implied reader. This survey demonstrates diversity, but also certain general contours of Elijanic expectation during the period.

Analysis of the Matthean Baptist’s narrative arc focuses on the insufficient viewpoint demonstrated in the narrative by John and others. Interest is taken in the nature of this insufficiency and how the Gospel’s narrator supplements the portrayal of John and Jesus. This occurs prominently through the use of Isaianic texts, as well as the narrative’s development and the use of other Old Testament texts.

Regarding this supplementing work of the narrator, four major themes emerge. First, rather than enacting immediate and full eschatological judgement, in the manifestation of the kingdom’s in–breaking, there is an emphasis instead on eschatological blessing in the ministry of Jesus. Second, when Jesus does take on the role of eschatological judge, the expressions of judgement are all, in some sense, partial in nature. Third, though the kingdom has broken in with the ministries of John and Jesus, it continues to suffer violence at the hands of violent men, such that both John and Jesus will suffer and die. Fourth, the narrator of Matthew’s Gospel expands the portrayal of Jesus’ messianic identity, such that Old Testament texts and themes associated with Yahweh are associated with Jesus.

Michael Hanson

Hanson, Michael B. “Christian Identity Meets Identity Politics: A Lutheran Approach to Political Engagement.” Ph.D. diss., Concordia Seminary, 2021. 253 pp.

Identity politics has become a frequently referenced and much maligned term used to describe a trend in political engagement in the early 21st century. Identity politics is employed across the political spectrum and has critics on both the left and right in the United States. Christian Identity Meets Identity Politics examines the contours of identity politics to understand and consider the concerns which lead neighbors to engage in identity politics, accounts for the needs of those neighbors who are denied God’s gift of justice through the state, considers criticisms leveled against identity politics within the greater view of Western liberalism, critically examines how various forms of Christian political engagement function in ways that are congruent with identity politics, and finally posits that proper Lutheran engagement is able to avoid the negative tendencies of identity politics while also affording the Lutheran the opportunity to account for the needs of neighbors highlighted by the turn to identity politics.

In order to accomplish this, Christian Identity Meets Identity Politics proposes a lens as a model for examining the relationship between core convictions, identity, relationship to neighbors, and goals for the state. Using this lens, four common Christian approaches to political engagement are explored, and their inability properly to account for the concerns of identity politics, either by themselves engaging in a form of identity politics, or by failing to account for the legitimate concerns of the neighbors in the state. Finally, Christian Identity Meets Identity Politics explores the work of contemporary Lutheran scholars to argue that a properly formed Lutheran identity accounts for the legitimate needs of the neighbors in the state and does so while avoiding the temptation to participate in an identity politics form of political engagement.

Chan-U “Vincent” Kam

Kam, Chan-U Fortuita Misericordia: Luther on the Unchosen Figures in the Patriarchal History as Shown in His Lectures on Genesis.” Ph.D. diss., Concordia Seminary, 2021. 296pp.

In this study, we attend to Luther’s Lectures on Genesis with a specific focus—Luther’s idea of fortuita misericordia and his view of the unchosen figures in Genesis, including Cain, Hagar, Ishmael, Esau, and the Egyptians. We suggest that Luther’s use of fortuita misericordia and his treatment of the unchosen exemplify the highpoint of his evangelical theology.

Fortuita misericordia can be understood in two ways, one personal, and another salvation-historical. Regarding the person, fortuita misericordia is part of Luther’s explanation for why God generously spared some from deserved punishment, and instead provided temporal subsistence and blessings. Regarding salvation-history, fortuita misericordia opens up the possibility for the inclusion of covenantal outsiders in the true church. We contend that there are four interpretive principles underlying Luther’s dealing with the unchosen: the universality of the divine mercy, the distinction between two kinds of attachment to the promise, the porosity of the true and false church, and the holistic understanding of salvation history.

Furthermore, Luther’s exposition of the unchosen contributes to the long-standing question in the history of Christian theology concerning the salvation of those who lived before the incarnation. Instead of asking whether and on what basis the pious and virtuous pagan may be accepted by God, Luther wondered whether the unchosen in the biblical narratives could be saved. This shift represents the way that Luther relativized the traditional requirement for objective knowledge of the revelation (fides quae creditur) in favor of the qualitative importance of one’s subjective faith (fides qua creditur) in the promise.

Brent Olson

Olson, Brent, M. “Exodus 14–15 as an Anti-Baal Polemic and Its Implications for Interpreting and Dating These Chapters.” Ph.D. diss., Concordia Seminary, 2020. 257 pp.

This dissertation seeks to answer the following questions: What is the relationship of Baal-zephon worship and its governing narrative, the Baal Myth, to the accounts of the Sea Event in Exodus 14–15? Secondly, what are the implications of this relationship for interpreting and dating these chapters? Building upon scholarship’s engagement with these questions since the Ras Shamra discoveries, the dissertation makes the case that Exodus 14–15 function in part as an anti-Baal polemic. Four pieces of evidence are adduced: (1) the Baal Myth parallels in the Song of the Sea; (2) the Baal-zephon cultic site references in the Song’s immediate canonical context; (3) the theme of Yahweh’s defeat of the gods of Egypt in Exodus 1–15; and (4) the historical evidence for the centrality of Baal-zephon worship in the East Nile Delta—particularly as controller of waterways—during the New Kingdom period, precisely the historical context for the exodus presented in the biblical canon. To confirm this case, the dissertation employs Yairah Amit’s methodology for identifying biblical polemics, demonstrating these chapters’ fulfillment of Amit’s criteria for an implicit anti-Baal polemic—namely, the occurrence of other anti-Baal polemics in the Bible, striking signs by which the author indicates a polemic, and the identification of the text’s anti-Baal polemical subject by others within the history of exegesis. Finally, the dissertation argues that an anti-Baal polemic in Exodus 14–15 has implications for dating these chapters and for interpreting the referent of Exod. 15:17. Evidence for the zenith of Baal-zephon worship in Egypt during the New Kingdom supports the plausibility of a Mosaic era dating for the narrative traditions constituting these chapters. The Song’s polemical paralleling of the Baal Myth also implies that Yahweh’s “mountain of inheritance” in Exod. 15:17 is likely as discrete and at least as permanent as Baal’s “mountain of inheritance,” Mount Zaphon.

Charles Schulz

Schulz, Charles R. “I Said, You Are Gods: Pastoral Motivations for Patristic Citations of Psalm 82:6 (LXX 81:6).” PhD diss., Concordia Seminary, 2020. 386 pp.

The early church fathers frequently cited Ps. 82:6 (LXX 81:6), “I said, You are gods and all sons of the Most High,” a passage Jesus himself quoted (John 10:34) to defend his own title as the Son of God. Scholars agree that the patristic use of verse underwrote the developing doctrine of deification, which promised that Christians would become “gods” in some sense by bearing God’s image and likeness and participating in Christ and his saving work. In order to deepen and focus our understanding of the significance and role of this passage for patristic theology—and particularly for pastoral practice—this study identified every use of the verse in extant texts from the first six centuries of Christian history (from the middle of the second century through Maximus the Confessor). The categories of pastoral employment of the passage include the defense of monotheism, instruction in Christology, exhortations to virtue, praise for salvation, delineations of authority roles in church and state, and eschatological depictions of glorification to come, with shifting emphasis amid the shifting contexts over the course of the centuries. While Ps. 82:6 (LXX 81:6) happened to lay the foundation for the doctrine of deification, the immediate reasons for its citation arose out of the near historical context with its accompanying pastoral needs and concerns. The survey of the usage of this text also illustrates the patristic practice of intertextual exegesis and precise reading of the Bible (ἀκρίβεια), as well as constructive engagement with classical philosophical concepts. The church fathers emerge as pastoral practitioners, motivated by the care of souls, who boldly deployed this perplexing text for the practical goals of proclaiming Christ and calling human beings to experience the fullness of his salvation—as gods. Their examples hold the promise of inspiring pastors today toward fresh contemporary and creative engagement with the text. The appendix offers the reader 123 newly translated patristic passages with citations of Ps. 82:6 (LXX 81:6).

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3 Comments

  1. Pastor Tom Eckstein June 4, 2021
    Reply

    Can we obtain one or more of these dissertations in digital format?

    • Travis Scholl June 4, 2021

      Yes. The title of each dissertation above is hyperlinked to its page in the Scholar archive. If you click on the link, you can view/download the dissertation as a PDF on its Scholar page. Or you can click on the link at the top to see a list in Scholar of all of the dissertations.

  2. Rebecca O’Brien June 18, 2021
    Reply

    Kudos to Michael Hanson! I’ve downloaded his work onto my iPad and am reading it. We need more of this type of scholarly work.

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