LIA Blog and Updates

May 2024 Newsletter

Doctrine that Surpasses Context

Greetings, Dear Friend!

The final course in the LST students' calendar before the summer break was Lutheran Confessions 2. The professor for this course, Rev. Andrew Preus from Trinity Lutheran Church, New Haven, MO, wrote an article reflecting upon the impact of cultural context in pastoral ministry in the light of his recent experience of teaching in Africa. Notice also the new development info concerning LIA and LST websites following Rev. Preus's article.

Lutheran School of Theology: Doctrine that Surpasses Context

Years ago, I asked a pastor why he doesn’t teach Luther’s great hymn on Psalm 98, “Dear Christians, One and All, Rejoice,” to his congregation. His response to me about his congregation, which exists in an American suburb, was, “That’s not their context.” Since then, I have noticed this term “context” thrown around quite frequently by a number of fellow pastors in the LCMS.

Of course, the importance of context isn’t lost on me. I realize that there are cultural gaps between urban, suburban, and rural communities. We shouldn’t ignore such things. We should seek to learn about the lives of people to whom we are sent to serve with God’s Word. The gospel of Christ meets people where they are.
I was aware of this when I prepared to travel to Kenya to teach at the Lutheran School of Theology beside the Ngong Hills. My students came from four different countries in Africa. After my class, bishops from five different countries gathered at the school for the annual meeting of Lutherans in Africa. They all come from different contexts. They come from people displaced by war, burdened with heavy government regulations, and struck with various levels of poverty. But one thing unites all these men and their students. They are devoted to the doctrine of the Scriptures as faithfully laid out in the Lutheran Confessions. They see a need for pastors who will teach this doctrine faithfully, with the saving and forgiving righteousness of Jesus Christ as the chief cornerstone.
The classes are taught in English, partly due to the different mother tongues among the students. Despite the various languages and tribes of the students – despite each unique context – they all thirsted for the clear teaching of Scripture. Judging by their attentiveness in class, their scores on quizzes and exams, and their final research presentations, it was clear that they gladly read the material from the Book of Concord and other reading assignments. They were reading the same kinds of material as I did when I studied in St. Catharines, ON and Fort Wayne, IN. They were interested in the same articles of faith, such as original sin, the ministry, the sacraments, the distinction between law and gospel, and the justification of the sinner before God through faith on account of Christ.
While the school works toward accreditation, the library is still in the process of cataloging books. Nonetheless, we made use of the collection of Luther’s works neatly arranged on the bookshelves downstairs. I asked each student which article from the Confessions he wanted to research. I would then give each of them a writing of Martin Luther to compare with an article or two from the Book of Concord. One of my students, Adelino, gave a clear presentation of free will and the bondage of the will based on his reading of the Augsburg Confessions, the Formula of Concord, and certain excerpts of Luther’s Bondage of the Will . Others read from Luther’s Genesis Lectures , Galatians Lectures , his Treatise on Baptism , Disputation on Justification , and his Great Confession on the Lord’s Supper . I also delivered a gift of books from Christian News, catching students reading them on their free time. They were especially interested in Islam in the Crucible by Montecroce and Luther.
Their contexts vary, but they gladly learn and read the doctrine of the Scriptures. They learned by heart the Scandinavian hymn, “Christ Alone is Our Salvation.” When I would burst out into singing a number of Lutheran chorales, they would often join me. Chapel included the suffrages for morning and evening, the daily offices of Matins and Vespers, and the divine service on Sunday mornings. On a couple of occasions, I overheard one of my students from Kenya singing to himself, “O Living Bread from Heaven.” Perhaps these hymns and services wouldn’t fit the “context” of certain middle-class suburbanites in the Midwest. But these students, most of whom had at least a two-day journey home from the school, learned and sang these hymns with joy.
It was a privilege for me to travel to Africa and teach these fine Christian men who are aspiring for the noble task of the ministry. I was blessed by the hospitality of the May family as well as other guests such as the Arndts and the Ankers. I missed the pleasure of being with the Ristau family by only a day, but I was happy to hear they made it safely to Wyoming. I was especially grateful to two of my parishioners, Jonathan Finck and Ben Howard, who accompanied me and offered their labors in the agricultural part of the school.
Lutheran School of Theology has benefited by various talents and supporters through the years. The school has blessings as well as struggles, which I am confident God will work out for the betterment of his church as he prepares laborers in his harvest. But the main blessing, which God will certainly bless, is the teaching, the learning, and the confessing of the pure doctrine of the gospel. God grant it to every tribe and nation! Amen.

New Websites for LIA and LST!

Rev. Paul Arndt recently visited the LST and Meru region in Kenya for a duration of a couple of months. In addition to teaching, preaching, filming, and helping in several other ways, Rev. Arndt overhauled the website for LIA and built a new site for the LST.

On these sites, you can find general info about ...

Please check out these new websites and let us know what you think!
You can support the work of Lutherans In Africa ... here.