Lutheran Studies Conference Thursday, September 20, 2012

What Has God To Do With Caesar? Lutheran Perspectives on Political Life

Dr. Larry Rasmussen
Dr. Larry Rasmussen

The 2012 Lutheran Studies Conference on Political Life will be held on Thursday, September 20, 2012, in the Scandinavian Cultural Center at the Anderson University Center. Dr. Doug Oakman (PLU New Testament), Dr. Seth Dowland (PLU American Church History), and Dr. Marit Trelstad (PLU Contemporary Theology) will be the featured speakers from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. Dr. Larry Rasmussen, Reinhold Niebuhr Professor Emeritus of Social Ethics (Union Theological Seminary, New York) will give the keynote address at 7:30 p.m. The conference is free and open to the public though registration is needed and will be available online beginning in August.

This election year is marked by a still shaky economy, highly polarized political sentiments, and seemingly intractable positions on the extreme religious left and right.  In this context, the second Lutheran Studies Conference highlights the distinctive voice of Lutheran scholarship on the relationship between faith and politics.

Through presentations, conversation, artwork, new publications, and the open exchange of ideas, participants will be inspired to consider the enduring question: What has God to do with Caesar?  Be welcome to this important conversation about Lutheran perspectives on political life.

Afternoon Presentations Schedule

Dr. Doug Oakman, Professor of New Testament, “Two Kingdoms, One Table: Jesus in Political Perspective” – Jesus’ historical activity was deeply political, and his political aims were formulated within an agrarian empire. This presentation will consider the disconnection between Jesus’ historical politics and the post-Easter Christian tradition, and the continuity of his political aims in connection with his table.

Douglas E. Oakman has been teaching at PLU since 1988. He was ordained in 1982 and is a pastor of the ELCA. He was chair of the Religion Department from 1996-2003 and Dean of Humanities from 2004-2010. He has published numerous articles applying the social sciences to biblical studies, and is the author (with K. C. Hanson) of the award-winning Palestine in the Time of Jesus: Social Structures and Social Conflicts (Fortress Press, 1998) and The Political Aims of Jesus (Fortress Press, 2012).

Dr. Marit Trelstad, Associate Professor Constructive Theology, “Luther and Lutheran Theology: A Force of Political, Social Rebellion?” – Dr. Trelstad will consider the possible contributions and limitations of Lutheran theology in addressing anti-Semitism, racism, and socio-political oppression in light of Luther’s writings on the Jews, Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s work in World War II Germany, and the Lutheran-led Namibian anti-apartheid struggle for independence in the 1980s and 1990s. Can Lutheran theology inspire action on behalf of the oppressed? Is it hamstrung by its own doctrines? Must Lutherans rely on other theologies in order to support social rebellion?

Since 2000, Marit Trelstad has been a member of the PLU Religion Department where she teaches courses in constructive and Lutheran theology with particular emphasis on the doctrine of God, Christology, soteriology, theological anthropology, and feminist and process theologies. She is increasingly concerned with building conversational bridges between conservative and liberal religious perspectives. Here most recent publication is Cross Examinations: Readings on the Meanings of the Cross Today (Fortress Press, 2006).

Dr. Seth Dowland, Assistant Professor of American Church History, “From Civil Rights to the Christian Right: King, Neuhaus, and Christian Political Action” – By the year 2000, one of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s most influential followers was Lutheran-turned-Roman Catholic Richard John Neuhaus, who founded the conservative journal First Things and became a close advisor to President George W. Bush. This presentation highlights one of the more unlikely legacies of the civil rights movement, showing how Neuhaus drew upon the language and ideals of the civil rights movement in order to support a movement of conservative Protestants and Catholics committed to the repeal of abortion rights and to steadfast support of Republican politics.

Seth Dowland joined the PLU faculty in 2011. He has published articles on conservative evangelical political action in the United States, controversy within the Southern Baptist convention, and the intersection of masculinity, sports, and war in American Christian history. His book Family Values: Gender, Authority, and the Rise of the Christian Right is forthcoming from the University of Pennsylvania Press.

Evening Keynote Lecture - In Honor of Dr. Thomas Krise Thirteenth President of Pacific Lutheran University

Dr. Larry Rasmussen, “New Wineskins: The Lutheran Contribution” – Science describes present changes to the planet as geophysical change and even announces a new geological age, the Anthropocene, as the successor to the present age, the late Holocene. For humans this is, to remember a parable of Jesus, “new wine” that requires some “new wineskins” (i.e., a different way of life). What are these new wineskins and what are the contributions of Lutherans to them

Dr. Larry Rasmussen, Reinhold Niebuhr Professor Emeritus of Social Ethics, Union Theological Seminary, New York City, lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where, among other activities, he organizes the decade project of Ghost Ranch, “Earth-honoring Faith: A Song of Songs.” His newest book, Earth-honoring Faith: Religious Ethics in a New Key, will be published in November by Oxford University Press.

For more information, contact Dr. Samuel Torvend, University Chair in Lutheran Studies

Promoting the intellectual gifts of the Lutheran tradition