Studying Luther in Wittenberg 2012

During the first two weeks of November, Profs. Dieter and Wilson taught the 6th International Seminar “Studying Luther in Wittenberg,” which is offered every March and November; the Institute staff always lead the theological seminars of the November section. This year’s Seminar had a particular focus: “Studying Luther in Wittenberg, Teaching Luther Worldwide.” All 17 participants were teachers of Luther’s theology in their homelands: Taiwan, South Korea, Indonesia, India, Australia, South Africa, Tanzania, Malawi, Argentina, Brazil, the United States, Finland, Sweden, and Latvia. The Seminar was an opportunity for these teachers to focus afresh on Luther’s writings, deepening and refining their knowledge in order to enhance their own teaching back home.


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As always, the Seminar program was intensive. Each morning we had three hours of close textual work in Luther’s writings, and in the late afternoon we spent an hour and a half on open discussion of either the writings or interpretive/contextual issues that arose from them. In between the participants had several hours for private study or visits to the Lutherhaus. We started the first week with Luther’s Reformation “breakthrough” and the various testimonies to it found in his own early commentary on Romans, a letter to Johann Staupitz, and his remembrances late in life. From there we moved on to the early controversies surrounding the Heidelberg Disputation, the Ninety-Five Theses, and Luther’s less known but possibly more important 1518 Theses on the Remission of Sin. After the Sermon on Two Kinds of Righteousness, we spent a full day on the treatise The Freedom of a Christian to give wide scope to Luther’s doctrine of justification. We also considered his teaching on law and gospel as found in How Christians Should Regard Moses and A Brief Instruction on What to Look for and Expect in the Gospels.

In the second week, we turned to the subject of the sacraments. We started, fittingly, with baptism, focusing on Luther’s discussion in The Babylonian Captivity of the Church and On Rebaptism. We then spent several days on the many aspects of the Lord’s Supper, including communion in two kinds, the sacrifice of the mass, and the real presence of Christ, by looking again at The Babylonian Captivity as well as at Confession Concerning Christ’s Supper and The German Mass. We concluded our readings in the Large Catechism and Augsburg Confession on both sacraments. On the last day, the participants offered their own perspectives on what in particular they wished to take home and emphasize in their own teaching.

The study program was complemented as always by the LWF Center’s Pr. Hans-Wilhelm Kasch and his energetic organization of trips and visits. Participants visited the Lutherhaus and the Melanchthonhaus and heard lectures from resident scholars there; they spent a Saturday in Eisenach and visited the Wartburg; they traveled to Torgau to see the grave of Katharina von Bora and the first church built as a Lutheran church; several participants planted trees on behalf of their home churches in the Luthergarten. In addition, Pr. Kasch organized discussions with the mayor of Wittenberg, the local Lutheran bishop, and English speakers in Wittenberg. As usual, a highlight of the Seminar was the nightly global cuisine prepared by participants, from Korean bulgogi to Tanzanian pilau to Brazilian feijoada. The participants were enthusiastic all through both weeks of study, and they left Wittenberg passionate about Luther’s theology and eager to share more of his work with their own students back home.

The Seminars are open to members of LWF churches, and others are welcome to apply as well. They fill up quickly, so if you are interested in the 2013 Seminars, don’t hesitate to apply!