2017 Abstracts


“Here I Stand, I Cannot Do Otherwise”! 500 Years of Reformation: What Would Luther Say to Us Today? by Dr Bernd Brandl from International University Liebenzell in Germany

This paper is a critical evaluation of the actual celebrations of the Luther Jubilee by Lutheran Churches in Germany and Europe. It argues that this celebration appears to be inconsistent with the historical Luther and the Reformation. The paper will ask and attempt to address the following questions: What was the heart of Luther’s theology and what would Luther say to us today? How can the relevance of Luther’s sixteenth century emphasis on sola scriptura, sola gratia, sola fide and solus Christus be demonstrated and developed for the twenty-first century West?


Imperialism in the Age of Reformation by Mr Kevin Burrell from Burman University

The Reformation, which marks its beginning from the year 1517, is most often remembered as a time of monumental change in European culture. Its effects are far reaching: from theology, to politics, to the social realms of literature, music, and the arts. And it is rightly celebrated for these tremendous achievements. Yet, the Reformation is seldom discussed in the context of the expansion of Christianity across the face of the globe beginning in the early modern period, despite the fact that it was only during the “age of Reformation” that the Christian religion was able to attain its global dominance. Well into the twentieth-century the expansion of European Christianity was predicated on ideologies of a universal corpus Christianum mandated by Providence and imbued with visions of a New Israel conquering indigenous Canaanites. Inescapably, the Reformation and Christian expansion have been historically contiguous and mutually impacting, and the aftermath of that expansion remains with us today. In a word, both Catholic and Protestant world evangelization were coterminous with and made possible only by Western military expansion. It is the contention of this brief analysis that Reformation Christianity, for all of its grand accomplishments, did little to challenge Western ideologies of empire building, and failed in its self-appointed mission to create a more humanitarian colonial venture. To the contrary, it can be maintained that in spite of the best intentions, the net effect of Christian evangelization—Catholic and Protestant alike—was the consolidation of imperial control over indigenous peoples and their lands. From this perspective then, Luther’s Reformation, which challenged papal supremacy over temporal authority, did little to disrupt the historical dalliance between Christianity and Western imperial ambitions. Rather, as the most potent ideology of the Western imperial project, Christianity provided the moral justification for conquest and unmitigated greed.

The Theology of the Cross as Foundation for the Compassionate Care of the Bereaved by Rev Darren Dressler

This paper will argue that Luther’s theology of the cross establishes an enduring theological basis for providing compassionate care to the dying and the bereaved.  For at its heart, and in contrast to a theology of glory, it does not see suffering as a mark of failure or weakness but as a part of our humanity.  As John Swinton has written, “The comfort and consolation of the theology of the cross comes . . . from the knowledge that where there is suffering, there is God.  And where God is, there is the hope of redemption.”  We find examples of compassionate care in Luther’s ‘Comfort for Women Who Have Had a Miscarriage,’ his advice for the care of schizophrenics, in Bugenhagen’s sermon at Luther’s funeral, and Calvin’s letter to a grieving father.  In our day, the theologian of glory’s approach to the care of the dying and the bereaved is reflected in much of the ‘managed care’ which attempts to gloriously restore people or remove suffering as quick as possible.  It has, in many areas, confused efficiency for effectiveness (this is reflected in the refrain, “It’ll be easier if. . .”).  The theologian of the cross, however, is free to enter into the suffering of others without the need to gloriously restore health or quickly end the suffering.  Through presence and care, he/she can assure people that while suffering may be filled with horror, it is also a place where Jesus may be found. 

Religious and Paranormal Experiences as Evidence for Purgatory by Dr Travis Dumsday from Concordia University Edmonton

In debates concerning the existence of purgatory, four main types of argument have been employed: (1)philosophical arguments (e.g., reason tells us there must be an opportunity after death to make satisfaction for unrecompensed sins and/or to make further moral progress before attaining heaven); (2)Biblical arguments (attempts to show a scriptural foundation for the doctrine); (3)tradition-based arguments (attempts to show that the doctrine was upheld in the early Church); and (4)arguments from religious and paranormal experiences (attempts to show that there is direct and/or indirect experiential evidence for the reality of purgatory). Recent debates have focused on the first three types of argument. However, the fourth category has played a prominent role historically (in particular during the Reformation), and may be worth another look. To that end, I first supply a taxonomy of types of experiential evidences that have been offered for the reality of purgatory. I then engage in a brief (and very much preliminary) evaluation of their respective evidential weights.

Simul Presbyter et Peccator: Reading Reformation Ecclesiology in Post-Abuse Crisis Catholicism by Mr Brett Fawcett from Newman Theological Seminary

Since the 2002 exposure of the extent of the sex abuse cover-up by elements within the Catholic Church, Catholics must come to a renewed appreciation of Augustine’s refutation of the Donatists and defence of the principle that Christ’s merits make the Church’s Sacraments efficacious, not those of her ministers.  Luther anticipated this in his own thought on the co-existence of Christ’s holiness and the subject’s personal sinfulness within the believer’s individual soul, but less well known is how he “institutionalized” this principle to apply to the public ministers of Word and Sacrament operating within the liturgical space of the Church. For Luther, this does not have to do with an indelible sacramental character imprinted on the priest’s soul, but rather on the minister’s ecclesial situation, for which reason he continued to value and defend his own Roman Catholic ordination, even in the face of rampant “Babylonian” corruption within the clergy.  This paper will analyze the history of Roman Catholicism’s interaction with Luther’s theology of ministry, from Luther’s own experience saying the Catholic Mass to the 20th century Catholic theologians whose re-assessment of Reformation theology helped shape Vatican II’s reform of the Mass, concluding with reflections on that teaching’s implications for Catholics and Christians generally trying to make sense of their mission within the world in light of the Church’s well-documented public failings.


Reflections on Luther 500 in Germany 2015 by Mr Michael Gillingham from University of Alberta

As a Lutheran professional church worker and a scholar of Religious Studies, I was delighted to have the opportunity to travel to Germany for the Luther500 Festival Leader’s trip in the fall of 2015. Lutheran church leaders and laypeople from the United States and Canada gathered to visit important Luther sites and prepare to bring a group for the Luther500 Festival in 2017. We visited Wittenburg, Erfurt, Eisleben, Wartburg Castle, Leipzig, and ended our tour in the city of Berlin. While I was interested in visiting the Luther sites, I was surprised by the numerous additional questions the trip raised for me personally. Syrian refugee families were crowding into the various German train stations during our trip. In addition to the very real refugee crisis impacting Germany at the time, I was challenged to think through issues of nationalism, history, politics, public memory, church fellowship, and the role of the Christian church in modern Western Europe. During my presentation, I’ll be sharing some photos, some stories, and some basic reflections on the issues the trip raised for me as a church worker, a scholar, a Canadian, and a Lutheran Christian.

The Nazification of Martin Luther by Dr John Hellwege from Concordia Lutheran Seminary

For the Lutheran historian of the Third Reich, studying this time period can leave one scratching one’s head.  One is left wondering how the monk and priest turned university professor and reformer of the church, the man who trumpeted God’s grace and mercy, could 400 years later be trumpeted as the de facto patron saint of the Third Reich.  In fact, since the end of the Second World War, there has been an ongoing scholarly debate over whether or not Luther was the true ideological ancestor of Nazism.
In order to shed some light on this question, this paper will explore the ways that the Nazi party, as well as German theologians of the era discussed, pictured and, explained Luther in order to point to him as one of their ideological forerunners.  This study will draw upon both secondary and some primary literature in order to look at how Luther was depicted as a Germanic hero and an archetypic anti-Semite, as well as how certain theological themes from Luther’s teachings were used to grant theological and philosophical grounding for Nazism.  The goal of this study is to learn what form of Luther was presented to the German people and thereby used to support the Nazi agenda.


Simul Justus et Peccator: Luther, Bonhoeffer and the “Rhine Capitalism” by Professor Harald Jung from International University Liebenzell in Germany

In summer 1942 Dietrich Bonhoeffer asked secretly a group of christian economists, lawyers and philosophical scholars at the university town Freiburg – far in the German south west, near the swiss border – to develop a model for a social and economic order for a Germany after the Nazi-Regime.

This project of resistance circles within the Bekennende Kirche lead to the famous “Freiburg Memorandum” of 1942/43 which legitimately can be viewed as the first outline of the later “social market economy”, the post-war “German model”. Having in mind this conspirative paper by Walter Eucken, G. Ritter, C. v. Dietze, A. Lampe and others, published 1945 after the end of the war, one could claim that the model of “Soziale Marktwirtschaft” (social market economy) was an “Auftragsarbeit” (“comission work”) for Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
The presentation wants to show, that the connection between lutheran social ethics and the “German model” of social market economy can not just be drawn because of these interesting historical lines, but that also systematicly an ethics grounded in the thoughts of reformation finds it legitimate expression in the “ordo-liberal” tradition of economic policy connected to Freiburg and later Bonn.
The presentation shows how the ethos of social market economy can be rooted in the core of Luthers reformation thought of justification and the central “simul” of being justified in Jesus Christ and yet living in a world under sin.
Outlining five “Idealtypen” (ideal types, Max Weber) of the relation of the ethos of god’s kingdom and the conditions of living in a sinful world it becomes clear, how an authentic reformational ethics refutes socialist utopias as well as an idea of “an autonomous realm” of a non-moral sphere of “pure economic rationality”.
That opens the space for a “responsible order” for the “mandate” (Bonhoeffer) of business and economy.


Spirituality: Definitions and Accomodations at the Workplace by Dr Mark Loo from Concordia University of Edmonton

Although Luther was raised in an agrarian society, he had strong views about work ethic and communism. He cited that Joseph was not obliged to support all Egyptians nor would that have been advisable. He argued that communism is not Christian as otherwise Paul would not have admonished the rich to give and help the poor gladly. Luther’s reformation was the foundation to the growth of western economies which have evolved to today’s workplace where immigrants are welcomed and foreign labour important to economic growth. With the increasing diversity, open attitude to inclusiveness and national governments’ call for multiculturalism, the spirituality needs of employees has become one of the key contemporary issues in organizational behaviour.
What is spirituality? From Luther’s days where Christianity and associated beliefs and practices such as prayer, Bible reading, work ethic and improving livelihood as well as helping others were the manifestations of spirituality, spirituality today has become a subject that is slippery and intangible for employers to manage. The aim of this paper is to discuss and provide definitions to spirituality, develop measurements for spirituality and identify the key accommodations for employee spirituality needs.
Literature review yields three streams of spirituality: vertical connectedness, other connectedness and inner connectedness. Secondary data research was conducted to examine 40 top employers’ accommodations for employee spirituality needs. The accommodations found were categorized into Formal and Informal Religions for Vertical Connectedness, Community Service for Other Connectedness and Creativity for Inner Connectedness. A questionnaire was developed based on these four constructs and 100 Canadians were surveyed. A hypothesis was set that employers preferred to provide accommodations for Creativity and Community Service than Formal and Informal Religions. The hypothesis was supported. The paper discusses managerial implications and proposed recommendations for spirituality accommodation at the workplace.

The Ambiguous Legacy of the Reformation in the Global South by Dr Stephen Martin from The King’s University

The Reformation is usually remembered by Christians as a doctrinal event concerning the mediation of grace in the church. But the Reformation was also caught up in longer-term processes which transformed the nature of political as well as ecclesial community. These processes led to the expansion of the church into the Global South, but also produced two forms of community which have bedevilled the work of the church: the nation-state and the denomination. This paper examines this ambiguous legacy, especially in sub-saharan Africa.


The Enduring Importance of Luther’s Exposition of the Old Testament as Christian Revelation by Dr John Maxfield from Concordia University of Edmonton

In this paper I will argue that Luther’s exegesis or exposition of the Old Testament has enduring appeal for present-day engagement, both in academic and in churchly contexts, as it was grounded in the literal-historical meaning of the text but at the same time recognized the spiritual significance appropriate to the text as divinely inspired revelation. This spiritual significance of the Old Testament writings was broadly recognized in its original Israelite context, in the historical development of Christianity and Judaism, and in Luther’s own context of the Reformation, but is often ignored or disparaged in modern scholarly research. I will place Luther’s biblical exposition in its historical context and argue that both its evaluation and its modern appeal are properly analyzed within that framework; in other words, Luther’s exegesis (as his thought and conduct generally) is properly understood by readers today, and both appreciated and criticized, in view of his own understanding of his vocation as professor of theology and of his role as an evangelical reformer and preacher of the word of God.

The Enduring Legacy of William Tyndale by Dr Steve Reasor from Burman University
Perhaps no other person in history had as large an impact on the English Bible, and by extension the language of English-speaking Christianity, as did William Tyndale. Although he did not produce the first English translation, and died before he could complete his translation of the OT, his work still influences English readers of the Bible today. Tyndale sought to present an English translation of Scripture that the common Englishman could readily comprehend. A significant majority of the language of the Authorized Version traces back to Tyndale’s work. Through this avenue, he has influenced centuries of religious thought and language. The first to translate the entire NT into English from Erasmus’s Greek text, Tyndale moved the language of his translation away from the ecclesiological language of the Latin Vulgate. He translated with the listener, rather than the reader, in mind. His translation fueled growing religious unrest in England so that, posthumously, he played a significant role in the English Reformation.
Ecclesia Reformata, Semper Reformanda: An Intergenerational Perspective by Dr Cory Seibel from Central Baptist Church/Sioux Falls Seminary

Within the history of the Protestant movement, the phrase ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda (“always reformed, always being reformed”) has held special significance. Believed to have originated with the Seventeenth Century Dutch Pietist Jodocus van Lodenstein, this phrase reflects an understanding of the reformation of the church not only as a historical phenomenon, but also as an ongoing impulse that must characterize the church’s life. This paper will begin with a brief account of the meaning and historical significance of this phrase. The focus will then turn to an exploration of the role of generations in the ongoing reformation of the church. It will be argued that the contextual theologizing of each new generation, entailing a dialogical interplay between the accrued traditions passed down by prior generations, the prophetic voice of scripture, and the burning questions of their day, is essential to the church’s ongoing reformation. Conversely, this paper will assert that, when this generation-to-generation renewal dynamic is undermined, the church’s conception of its message and mission is at risk of becoming deformed over time. Darrell Guder’s work on reductionism will be employed to describe this potential pitfall. Contemporary and historical examples will be referenced briefly as illustrations of the paper’s central argument. Because this paper will be situated methodologically within the discipline of practical theology—an inherently interdisciplinary field—insights will be appropriated from the diverse disciplines of Church history, contextual theology, missiology, and others. This paper hopes to make a stimulating contribution to the ongoing discussions of church renewal, contextual theology, and intergenerational dynamics within the church.

Mistakes of Reason in Popular Lutheran Reasoning about Reason by Dr Jonathan Strand from Concordia University of Edmonton

This presentation will be about mistakes in reasoning in popular Lutheran (and other protestant) thought about reason. In particular it will be about popular thinking among Lutherans about the legitimacy of reasoning about (for or against) the faith. It will be less about the reasoning of professional theologians and more about popular-level reasoning about reasoning commonly heard in Lutheran circles. The reasoning critiqued is commonly articulated by pastors, however, and also sometimes by professional theologians. This reasoning is the reasoning often used to argue that 1) it is never legitimate to reason for the faith, or that 2) the faith is “contrary to reason.” Such claims are often made on the basis of various passages of scripture, or especially on the basis of certain doctrines stressed in Lutheran theology: the doctrines that 1) faith is a gift, that 2) faith is given through the means of grace (the Word), and that 3) reason functions well in the realm of the Law but not the Gospel. This presentation will argue that the chains of reasoning which commonly proceeds from these Lutheran commitments to the conclusion that “arguing for (or against) the faith” is illegitimate, inappropriate, or pointless, or that the faith is “contrary to reason,” all commit common logical fallacies.

Our Need for Article XV: Human Traditions in the Church by Lenora Wallden from Concordia University of Edmonton

Article XV in the Augsburg Confession is not generally considered one of the “hot topic” articles. Rarely do you see it debated in academic circles, and church groups rarely realize that they are talking about it at all. The declarations made in this small article may seem somewhat insignificant to the modern Lutherans, but it is connected to numerous other articles that have shaped the way the Lutheran Church operates The issue of Church Ceremonies appears not only in the Confessions and the Apology, but Luther himself addresses the problems that can arise from different church ceremonies in some of his other writings, including the Schwabach Articles and also in An Order of Mass. Beyond its admonitions of dietary regulations and the taking of orders, which we have mostly done away with, this article can remind us of how easily we can become ensnared by our favorite traditions to the point where the debate between traditional or contemporary worship styles can cause conflict within a congregation. It has been 500 years since this article was ratified, and although we may not talk about its contents very often, it is still of significant vale for today’s “Frozen Chosen.”