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Course on the History of the Modern Church

Dr. Lawrence Rast, a guest professor, gave lectures on the history of the modern church for the fourth-year students at the Lutheran Theological Seminary from February 21st to March 4th. Dr. Rast has served as a Professor of Historical Theology at Concordia Theological Seminary (Fort Wayne, Indiana, U.S.A.) since 1996. At present he is also an assistant to the Academic Dean there. Dr. Rast is also President of Concordia Historical Institute. The course that he delivered to the students in Novosibirsk is one that he regularly teaches at Fort Wayne.

At the end of his stay in Novosibirsk Dr. Rast shared his impressions:

The chapel of the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Novosibirsk is the center of this school. Upon entering the chapel, ones eyes are drawn immediately to the altar, font, and pulpit Christs sacraments through which he acts as the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). Not coincidentally, in the center of ones view is a crucifix, reminding us that we preach Christ and him crucified (1 Corinthians 1:23). The church transcends the boundaries of culture, gender, and ethnicity, for there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female in Christ (Galatians 3:28).

These are the constitutive realities of Christs church, which is established throughout time and throughout the world by the preaching of the gospel and administration of the sacraments. And so for me, coming to teach at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Novosibirsk is a homecoming, even though it is halfway around the world from my home at Concordia Theological Seminary in Indiana. Christ, who is present in word and sacrament, binds us together as one.

I am The Rev. Dr. Lawrence R. Rast Jr, Associate Professor of Historical Theology at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne. I am in Novosibirsk, my second trip to this wonderful part of the world, to teach Modern Church History. This course is an introduction to the narrative of the churchs history in Eastern and Western Europe, as well as America, in the period following the Reformation to the present. It is a large task!

One of the striking things about this course is how clearly it underscores Gods faithfulness in a world of disloyalty, infidelity, and betrayal. This is one of the more difficult periods of church history to study because there are so many examples of the church departing from the biblical witness rightly confessed by the church catholic. Repeatedly it appears that Christians themselves have expended their energies in an attempt to obscure the gospel, whether in the form of Pietism, Rationalism, Ecumenism, or the other movements of the modern church.

In the face of overwhelming odds, however, Christs church has survived and the word of the Lord continues to be proclaimed. Christ is faithful and promises us that his word will achieve the purpose for which he sends it. Whether is was the resurgence of Confessional Lutheranism in the nineteenth century, or the emergence of a Confessional Lutheran Church in Siberia in the 1990s, we see God at work establishing, nurturing, and extending his kingdom, as the faith once delivered to the saints is maintained and proclaimed. Soli Deo Gloria!

My wife, Amy, and I seek to pass this faith along to our children, Lawrence III (16), Karl (11), and Joanna (9). I work to share this unchanging message with my students at Fort Wayne and with my own Lutheran ChurchMissouri Synod. It has been an honor and a privilege to share the unchanging gift of Christs presence and grace with the community that is Lutheran Theological Seminary in Novosibirsk. May God continue to bless this seminary community and the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church richly with the gifts of his immeasurable love.

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