The Joseph Sittler Archives — The Expanding Scope of Grace
The Joseph Sittler Archives — The Expanding Scope of Grace
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Joseph Sittler was not only an educator; he was also an advocate for education, and never in contrast to his faith but as a necessary part of his faith. He believed, passionately, that "the truth about human existence and history is the only theater in which the gospel makes sense. The church has a central stake in the truth because its gospel makes no sense in its absence." Sittler had a particular interest in the liberal arts colleges of the church and spoke often on their campuses. But he never saw them as sheltering environments to protect our youth from the unpleasantness of the world. He used to say, "The Church has no stake in babysitting innocence" and he had no tolerance for restricting access to knowledge, no matter how dark and disturbing. He asked: "How shall one know what redemption is if the shape and substance of damnation are not made known too? If I do not know (the) forms of damnation, how will I be able to expand the gospel of the divine redemption beyond the cozy interpretation of snuggling up with Jesus." Joe loved knowledge of all kinds — from poetry to the frontiers of science, and he marveled at the expansion of scientific knowledge in his own lifetime. In an anecdote he used several times, he told of sometimes accompanying a young neighbor girl as she passed his home en route to school while Joe was setting out for work. One day he asked to see the book she was carrying, and it turned out to be her geography book. He marveled that the frontispiece of his school geography book had been a picture of a McCormick reaper; but in Ann's book there was, instead, a photo of the Milky Way. That was for him a symbol of the explosion of scientific knowledge that so fascinated him.

A sample of materials on Education available from the Archives

  • The Emergence of Value (California Lutheran University), Audiotape (10/22/76)

  • Faith and Culture: Presentations to faculty and administrators of Lutheran Colleges, Audiotape (5/29-31/79)

  • The Liberal Arts and the Formation of Judgment (Bethany College, Kansas) Also in text form, Audiotape (5/20/84)

  • Running with the Hounds (no date) Book, available online




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The Anguish of Preaching by Joseph Sittler

Copyright © Joseph Sittler Archives Committee, a cooperative ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago