What we believe matters: this affirmation, embedded in both the mission and vision of this place, gets at why I count myself extremely fortunate to teach at Augsburg University. I challenge students to recognize that questions, their questions, their philosophical and existential questions (who am I? why am I here?) have theological answers. I can be explicit about the ways the Christian theological tradition answers those questions and I can be explicit about the disagreements among Christians in many of those responses. The commitment of the Lutheran tradition to intellectual freedom coupled with the University’s commitment to diversity means I can be explicit about the ways people from religious traditions and perspectives other than Christianity answer those same questions. And I can show students that dialogue across traditions does not pose a threat to one’s own religious affirmations, but holds out the possibility for a better understanding and renewed commitment to one’s own position, hopefully with new insight and appreciation for the position of that conversation partner.
I count myself fortunate to teach at Augsburg University because it is a place where I can push the students with every bit of academic rigor to understand, interpret, analyze, and evaluate religious claims and sacred texts, and can do so without denying the real and ineffable presence of the God who calls us. At Augsburg, in answering philosophical questions with theological answers, I can push students to answer first, what does it mean? And then, what does it mean for me? And finally, what difference does it make?
What we believe matters; it matters for how we live our lives in the world. What we believe shapes who we are, what we do, what we say, and how we live with others. Taking this idea seriously is the way Augsburg “nurtures future leaders to the world” and this responsibility is, without question, a value shaped by the values of the Christian tradition. Living responsibly in this world, living in its duties and complexities is how, in the words of twentieth-century theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, one learns to have faith. “In so doing, we throw ourselves completely into the arms of God, taking seriously not our own sufferings, but those of God in the world – watching with Christ in Gethsemane. That, I think, is faith; that is metanoia.” And that is transforming education.
- B.A. University of Iowa (History and Religion)
- M.A. University of Chicago, Divinity School (Divinity)
- Ph.D. University of Virginia (Religious Studies – Philosophical Theology)