The Concordia Graduate Programs
Who We Are
We’re pleased that you are considering teaching with a Concordia grad program. For students seeking professional development, our programs provide structure for efficient, effective, high quality education in a Christian context—as you would expect from our 120 year heritage in the Lutheran tradition. We hope what intrigues you further is that our reference to a Christian and Lutheran context is not merely institutional jargon, historical affiliation, or accreditation boiler plate. We are deliberate and specific about our tradition while providing helpful orientation and positive support for our faculty and staff from various Christian roots. Again, whether you are Lutheran or subscribe to another of the church’s great traditions, we are pleased that you are considering us.
These two key components—structure and context—will greatly assist your success as an instructor. First a word about structure. The program director for your classes will provide the intended course aims and outcomes so you can be confident that your instructional content makes a good fit with the program’s goals. Your director will also provide you with the course’s “delivery template,” that is, the parts and pieces that make up the usual methods, activities, and evaluation for students. As always, you, the instructor, select the course content, your own style of teaching, and the appropriate ways of teaching, interacting with, and guiding your students. The template need not restrict your teaching prerogative; rather it will facilitate your delivery within the scope of the course and its congruence within the program. (You can contact the program director or the graduate dean right away to find out more about the program template and examine its organization.) We hope this structure makes your important and complex task of teaching a bit easier as you add quality to a program that is effective and efficient for busy students.
Next a word about our spiritual context and Lutheran tradition. If you happen to be of the Lutheran persuasion, you’re already acquainted with our focus on God’s promises to us in Christ and on the Bible as God’s two words to us of law and grace. If you participate in one of the church’s other historical traditions, you, too, are familiar with these central themes in the Christian faith, though you may not be familiar with some of the powerful insights about the Gospel developed in the Lutheran Reformation. Either way, we stand ready to assist you, in a prepared and patient way, to find intersections with these themes and insights in your own course content—though not in prescribed, forced, or artificial ways. Finding and developing these faith intersections is often an experience of discovery for instructors as much as for students. And we are persuaded by our Lutheran tradition that you and your students will find it engaging and even exciting.
One more reference point regarding Christian higher education is in order before we survey some specifics about our program structure and its faith-oriented context. Christian colleges and universities have undergone much change over the past twenty years. From our vantage point not all of it has been good. A key issue has been institutional identity and whether these schools and their programs have sustained more than a public relations commitment to their Christian convictions and raison d’etre. (A body of research on this and related issues can be accessed through the link to the bibliography in the right-hand column on this page.) Concordia University, Nebraska remains committed to its mission in serving God, his church, and his world. We strive to develop positive, winsome, supportive, inviting—and instructional—ways and means for sharing Concordia’s rich heritage in the Gospel with all members of our community, whatever their background.
We do this work not for the sake of Concordia but for the world that God loves, as John tells us in his gospel account (Jn. 1:1 – 3:36), so that all our members may convey God’s promises to other communities and to the world. Our chief means for doing this work is through high quality education. Teaching is our vehicle for conveying instructional content for important temporal concerns, the Biblical themes that address God’s eternal concerns for all people, and points of intersection between the temporal and eternal.
Such teaching is informed by the established and emerging knowledge base of our academic disciplines and, simultaneously, by our five-hundred-year-old tradition that expresses and re-expresses a powerful set of insights about the Gospel. These themes are not unique to the Lutheran tradition, and we do not “own” them—they have been part of the church’s testimony since the first Christian century. Concordia uses its Lutheran heritage to reflectively and effectively apply these insights to instruction, locating and highlighting their intersections with curriculum and the world’s changing circumstances.
In the column to the right is a further discussion on matters about which prospective instructors ask as, together, we consider your teaching as a Concordia adjunct professor. To gain a more complete perspective, we encourage you to read through all the discussions whether they apply directly to you or not. Program directors and the dean welcome your additional questions. In this way together we can ascertain a good fit for both the instructor and Concordia. We pray God’s richest blessings to you in your deliberations.
Gaining (or Reviewing) a Lutheran Perspective
Your life is busy—really. Your students’ lives are busy—really. But higher education, especially graduate education, is supposed to be a time and opportunity for thoughtful reflection about content, not just crunching the information. Concordia intentionally locates its instructional programs within a well-worked-out Christian perspective that takes instruction beyond merely transmitting information, and we have ways to help you get a handle on our Lutheran tradition as a living and lively way to engage in reflection about your content.
So what is this Lutheran tradition, our context for reflecting on and understanding the content more broadly and deeply? And can you get a grip on it? Or, if you’re already familiar with it, can you use that context to assist your busy students’ reflection, then respond to them in ways that can help them link content with the distinct world view of the Lutheran ethos?
Developing context for content does take time and effort. The column to the right directs you to a selection of resources to help you gain a stance on the Lutheran perspective or review its key ideas. They are brief and well written, selected to respect your time and schedule. They can also provide practical help for choosing course content and engaging students in meaningful reflection on that content. A few clarifications may help before we refer you to those sources. (Other, longer materials are available from our office or elsewhere on this site for further developing your understanding of the Lutheran tradition, other important theological traditions, and competing world views at work in our culture.)
- Briefly, what’s the point here? As a college instructor, you know that your discipline and its community of scholars and practitioners functions with an intellectual history and a certain current outlook or perhaps competing outlooks. These outlooks or theories present views about the world and the human condition. These views speak to how that discipline and its participants should be informed about the way the world works and our roles in it.For example, a literature prof or department might emphasize literary realism or a reader-response perspective. A nursing program may promote Rogers’ Unitary Human Being model or Martinsen’s philosophy of caring. These views make a difference in what students learn and how they understand the world. A public and important example at a broader level is the science-and-religion issue. This ongoing discussion includes several models, crosses into several disciplines and, due to its controversy, prompts instructors and students to tread cautiously since it so plainly involves varying world views.The point for us regarding a Lutheran context is twofold. First, the Lutheran tradition has worked out several concepts about the world and the human condition such as what it is to be a person (this is called biblical anthropology), how we relate to the world around us (this is called the two kingdom doctrine), and whether our life is grounded in moral obligations or in freedom and liberty or perhaps some other foundation (this issue is located in what is called a theology of the cross). These positions situate and inform but don’t regiment our discussions as students and instructors—which brings us to the second matter. The Lutheran tradition faithfully sustains the ancient orthodox teachings of historical Christianity (as expressed for example in the Apostles’ Creed or the Nicene Creed), yet does so in a way that is characterized by dialogue, tension, mutuality, and dialectic—a practice developed by Luther and the other Reformers at Wittenberg University five hundred years ago. (This practice was adapted by the Enlightenment but altered in some important ways–but that is another discussion.)So Concordia teaches with a perspective. This Lutheran perspective is grounded in the church’s historical teachings, and it features a set of well-worked-out practical distinctions for thinking and teaching about life and the world. But these very features make its perspective versatile and dynamic rather than rigid and simplistic when addressing the world’s complexities, though always with a bias toward God’s love and grace. This is the point of the Lutheran tradition.
- You may not be a Lutheran Christian. You don’t have to be a Lutheran to teach most of our graduate courses. You do have to be favorably inclined toward Christianity’s historical teachings, able to become conversant (not expert) in basic terms common to all Christians, and interested in engaging your students in how Lutherans and other Christians have sought to express those themes. This engagement does not mean teaching Christian-Lutheran math or pulmonary diagnosis. Rather, the Lutheran tradition is both rich and specific in concepts that examine the nature and purpose of all life, including anatomy, math, the arts, the social sciences, commerce, and everything else.So the aim is not to make anyone—instructor or student—a Lutheran. Rather, Concordia sustains that tradition and puts it into practice through its instruction as a ministry to all Christians and to the world. This instruction can be done in a variety of ways, such as direct application of key insights of the Lutheran ethos to course content, comparing and contrasting these concepts with other Christian traditions (perhaps your own) or with other world views, and engaging students in exchanges about whether and why these themes are important. We’ll briefly note some examples further down this column.If you can do that or are ready to begin finding ways to do that, you will likely enjoy being challenged and stretched by this spiritual formation. To put it another way, the style is dialogue, not indoctrination. (For all instructors and students who are interested, we have excellent doctrine classes available in other programs.) Including such engagement in your instruction will take effort beyond your course’s discipline content, but you will find it well worth your while. We’ve collected high quality, accessible resources to help you. And please read the additional clarifications below for more background.
- You may be a Lutheran but a bit hazy about the specifics. If so, then teaching a course with us will be a great way to expand your understanding of your own faith tradition and interact with students about their current world views. As noted in 2. above, we have collected a variety of resources and references to help you including brief articles, bibliographies and book recommendations, instructional ideas, and content examples. And as noted above, you will likely have to devote some effort to creating a faith dimension in your instruction. We recognize that teaching is, for the instructor, a process of learning and growth just as it is for the student. The aim is to get started. In time and with experience, your ability to select and express intersections of faith and content will grow.
- What are these “intersections”? The most significant intersection of God’s work relating to human activities was when the Word became flesh and dwelt (the Greek word is “tabernacled” or “tented”) among us in the person of Jesus of Nazareth in 1st century Palestine. As we read in the four Gospels, this intersection was quite public and conspicuous. Through it, God engaged the world in several dimensions including personal, social, material, historical, and political ways and by a variety of methods including dialog, story-telling, conflict, instruction, silence, action, and more. Our resources will help you explore this concept of intersections further, but for now we can note three examples that can apply to course instruction.
- Post-election, the Affordable Care Act continues to generate public dispute, pro and con, and court cases about issues of health care, business, individual rights, and the social commonwealth from which all citizens benefit. The issues revolve around such matters as religious conscience (1 Cor 10:1ff, Rom. 14:1ff), obeying the governing authorities (Rom. 13:1ff), the First Amendment, obeying God before we obey men (Acts 5:17-32), business law and corporate rights, and legal precedents set by court decisions that will affect people of all faiths and of no particular faith. Biblical themes intersect these concerns through such Reformation insights as the two kingdoms doctrine, our stewardship of life including the body, Christian liberty, and our two kinds of righteousness. For on-going coverage of these issues see these three sites:
- Schooling and education are a constant source of intersection points for matters of faith and temporal concerns. Examples include the struggle of financial aid for students and for the colleges that administer the aid programs; vouchers and credits for all taxpayers seeking various education options including parochial, charter, target, home, and other school possibilities; and the tension of established, exclusive education philosophies in public schools for stakeholders whose world views vary and often do not agree. Intersection themes in such examples include the Biblical concept of vocation, a theology of human nature, and the overlap of the spiritual and the material. For a thoughtful and provocative discussion on multiple alternatives for schooling seehttp://www.firstthings.com/article/2012/11/the-case-for-educational-pluralism
- Christians are at work across business, the arts, government, the media, politics, and all the other domains of culture. They bear the image of Christ (2 Cor. 3:18) as they conduct their lives and vocation in these settings and these, too, are points of intersection for the temporal and the eternal. The Lutheran Reformers and reformers in other church traditions strongly emphasized the biblical theme called “the priesthood of all believers”—that all Christians are called to bring God’s word to bear on all that they do across all domains, whether private or public, whether in church work or secular work. Two examples of Christians redirecting their vocations and priestly work include
(If you examine these cases, notice the interesting language used to parse God’s will in these decisions. And note that Luther’s Treatise on Christian Liberty deals with the “God’s will” language in a rather different and distinct way from what we find in these articles. This is an example of a Lutheran distinction to consider further.)
For additional examples, you can browse this Web site where ideas and examples are added regularly. And see also the site’s Resources page for several locations on the Web to find events, stories, and developments that can serve as intersection examples for instruction.
- One more clarification: Before moving to some suggested background readings, we want to emphasize that the aim here is not the Lutheran tradition itself and certainly not to glorify Luther! No one was more emphatic than Luther himself about not calling ourselves “Lutherans.” (See Luther’s Works, 45:70-71, in which he refers to himself as a festering maggot-bag–and means it.) All the historical orthodox (from the Greek, orthos,straight-forward + doxa, teaching) theological traditions of the church focus on Christ, and the Gospel proclaimed by Jesus is the aim. The Lutheran tradition has drawn from Scripture some very effective ways of examining and applying the Gospel to life and to the world, ways that Christians of all stripes have come to appreciate. (See the essay, “The Lutheran Difference,” by Mark Noll, the highly respected church historian who is not a Lutheran.)