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Scholarship in the service of the church: essays in honor of Ralph W. Klein.

For thirty years, Ralph Klein has been editing Currents in Theology and Mission. His work has been energetic and enthusiastic for this periodical that has done so much for church and academy. He has produced issues on many themes critical to the life of the church and the world. He has offered issues on upcoming lectionary cycles for preachers. He has invited and welcomed articles from people of diverse faiths and different denominations. He has provided for articles that were seminal for the academic world. He has offered a venue for many faculty members of ELCA colleges and seminaries to share their work in print. He has included preaching aids and book reviews. In the course of this, he has also honored retiring LSTC faculty members with a commemorative issue upon retirement. Now it is time for LSTC faculty members to honor Ralph.

Ralph's scholarship has been prodigious and of great import--books ranging on textual criticism, the Word Commentary on 1 Samuel, commentaries on Ezra and Nehemiah and the exile, and his three-volume magisterial commentary on 1 and 2 Chronicles, the first volume of which has been described in reviews as the premier commentary on Chronicles and as a work that will set the standard for decades. A look at his curriculum vitae shows that he has produced articles and books every year since he began teaching. He has an outstanding Web site that is consulted by many scholars. He has received honors and fellowships, including three Humboldt fellowships. He has been on the editorial board of a number of biblical periodicals. He is active in scholarly societies, including serving as president of the Chicago Society of Biblical Research.

In 2004, Ralph was feted by colleagues in the Chronicles Seminar of the Society of Biblical Literature. They presented him with an academic Festschrift to honor his work in this field. The editors and most of the contributors were scholars younger than Ralph who were eager to express their gratitude for the mentoring encouragement that Ralph had given to them in their careers. This expression of gratitude surely echoes the gratitude of so many others of us who have also benefitted from Ralph's encouragement of us personally and professionally.

Upon Ralph's retirement, therefore, we as an LSTC faculty were eager to honor him for his life and work among us. Instead of replicating a volume of essays from colleagues in his field, however, we decided to be the ones to write the articles. And we wanted to give recognition to the fact that Ralph has done his scholarship in the service of the church.

Ralph's contributions to the life of the church have been considerable. He was active in the formation of Seminex. He received the Micah award from the American Jewish Committee for his work in Jewish-Christian relations. He has given countless forums and presentations to church groups. He has been on the forefront of helping the church deal with the issue of same-gender relationships through programs and writing. For three decades he has edited this periodical without remuneration. Throughout his career, Ralph's scholarship has been an expression of his faith, and he has done his scholarship as a contribution to the life of faith.

To honor Ralph's scholarly contributions to the church, we invited faculty members to contribute essays in which they shared scholarship they themselves do in the service of the church. The response was immediate and overwhelming. The enthusiasm was so great that we need two issues of Currents to accommodate the essays. This is the first issue. Another dedicated to Ralph will follow this one.

This volume begins with a tribute by Kathleen D. Billman in which she recounts Ralph's many gifts as wise and faithful church leader, scholar, teacher, editor, educational technology pioneer, administrator, and so much more.

Kurt K. Hendel seeks to reconsider the theological claim Luther shared with his contemporaries that there is no salvation outside the church because it is present only through word and sacraments and the Holy Spirit. Luther argued that God revealed God's self in the weakness and shame of the cross and that any attempt to infer the nature of God from God's hidden reality in creation will lead to a misunderstanding of God and a theology of glory. Nevertheless, Hendel observes, Luther would agree that the just and merciful God revealed in the cross is the same God hidden outside the church; hence, we cannot say that God does not save outside the church any more than we can say for certain that God saves inside the church. That is a matter of trust.

Edgar Krentz explores Paul's use of civic language in the Letter to the Philippians. Paul's language reflects political groups, military events and personnel, ambassadors, public benefactors and their services, partnership, imperial ruler cult, honor and virtue, and calls for civic unity--all of which find their home in the Greek or Roman city. As such, Paul uses "contemporary societal norms and language to describe the life of the Philippian disciple community."

Jose D. Rodriguez shares his experience at an international conference in Bethlehem in reflection on Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18. Just as the prophet sought to offer a new narrative of restoration and reconciliation in the face of conflicting parties with different narratives in ancient Israel, so some Christian movements in Palestine are offering a collective voice with new narratives of resistance and hope in the midst of destructive narratives from different groups. These new narratives can inspire the whole church "to engage in bold and courageous acts of faithful witness" in a world filled with conflict.

Craig A. Satterlee argues that in our post-Christendom age, when the values of the church are at odds with the values of the culture, preachers need to learn how to preach by turning to a time when there was a similar relationship between church and culture, namely, the patristic period. To gain new vision, meaning, and purpose that flow from the gospel, preachers can embrace six patristic principles of preaching: Trust God to act through preaching; reclaim a patristic approach to scripture; preach a holistic understanding of Christian formation; preach in the language of the people; use images; and cultivate a catechetical style of preaching. These principles can lead to preaching the "life-changing, world-shaping good news of Jesus Christ to a context often at odds with the gospel."

Linda E. Thomas writes about the widespread phenomenon of HIV/AIDS among women in South Africa, encouraging us not to see them as "others" who need to be fixed but rather to learn from their efforts to address the problem. We also need to look at the problem as it exists in our own context. She explains how patriarchy, poverty, and religion create the underlying conditions that are causing the rapid spread of this horrible illness among African women. In particular, she shows how the Bible is used to suppress and disempower women. She raises penetrating questions for the church about whether the Bible and the Christian tradition are the best resources to address this problem.

Christine Wenderoth reports on research designed to see how faculty personnel do research and what implications this has for the role of libraries. Her interviews with eight faculty members resulted in some interesting conclusions, including that faculty members do research at home, and mainly as preparation for presentations or publications; their most important resources are colleagues; and they are print-oriented. The study revealed that, in general, libraries are underused and underappreciated as a resource for research by faculty and their students.

Vitor Westhelle shows how globalization generates invisible, subaltern people without identity on the "underside of history" (in Latin America and elsewhere) toward whom those promoting globalization do not consider themselves accountable. The result is a struggle to gain identity in confessional religious movements, which define themselves in three distinct ways of construing identity: by the object of worship; by the relationship of worship with the object of worship; and by internal spiritual authorization apart from external authority. When we look at the different groups under each category, we can see how they demarcate the battleground of confessional clashes.

As guest editor I am pleased to commend these essays to you.

David Rhoads, Guest Editor
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Author:Rhoads, David
Publication:Currents in Theology and Mission
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2008
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