ILT has been making strides in building its academic programs. We now have Masters of Arts degrees in Biblical Studies, in Theology, and in Religion, as well as our Masters of Divinity program. We are very excited about our Masters of Sacred Theology degree which allows students an opportunity to get a theology degree beyond the Masters of Divinity. This fall in the STM program, I will be teaching the Methodology course and Dr. Paul Hinlicky will be offering a Seminar on Pannenberg's three volume systematic theology. While ILT is still in its infancy, it is growing quickly.
I believe the ILT is a Lutheran School of Theology for our times. Why? The answer is simply that it fits nicely the post-modern context in which it finds itself. Modernity was a time in which the general commitment to the ideals of reason and objectivity tended to push theology in the direction of finding underlying commonalities among traditions. Notably, in the nineteenth century, attempts were made to ground all religion upon underlying structures of human feeling, morality, will or thinking. While the anthropological starting point was rejected in the twentieth century generally, it proved clearly difficult to formulate within a modernist paradigm a theory of the "Wholly Other," an account of the otherness of God that nonetheless accepted the Kantian critique.
Within the Lutheran situation in North America, modernity did not until the last 70 years or so, globally undermine the putative objects of religious experience and reflection. The trajectory of North American Lutheranism was dominated by another more modest and regional modernist impulse: the desire to find commonality in belief and practice and thus to form one large Lutheran denomination. Lutheran ecumenism seemed to entail structural unity. If two denominational trajectories could agree upon the same theological and ecclesiological principles, then they should become one trajectory. Conversely, if two trajectories were not to become one trajectory, they must have determinate theological and ecclesiological differences. Why else would they not become one? And if they held determinately different theological and ecclesiological views, then there must exist theological institutions whose purpose it was, in part, to give legitimacy to the distinctiveness of the disparate trajectories. Cooperation among seminaries across denominational lines was a risky thing indeed because it tended to undercut the legitimization of the disparate denominations themselves. Moreover, for different denominational traditions to use the same seminary was to suggest that there was no reason for there to be different denominational traditions in the first place.
But new cultural winds have been blowing, winds that have tended to erode the grounds of universal reason and objectivity upon which modernity was based. The result has been that increasing numbers of people are comfortable with contextualized, regional rationalities (and pluralism), and perspectivalism. While in many ways destructive of the traditional intellectual enterprise of the West, in others ways this move to postmodernity has been a move towards intellectual liberation: No longer does a tradition have to seek its legitimacy by arguing against a universal rational yardstick that it has a closer approximation to truth than another tradition. This externalist perspective is traded in for an internalist viewpoint: One starts on the inside in a tradition and experiences and reflects upon the world from the inside. There is no Archimedian view from the top - - a "view from nowhere." There are only traditions with there traditional ways of interpreting the world. Our resultant ideology of "inclusiveness in diversity" is built upon a postmodern scaffolding. Institutions must be inclusive of various diverse traditions, realizing the full complexity of what a tradition is and how a tradition comes to see the world in a particular way.
ILT is not a seminary of any denomination, but is a School of Theology dedicated to serving various denominational traditions. Its unity is found in its service to diverging theological traditions. It is not owned by a denomination, but is an independent, Lutheran non-profit entity that safeguards its autonomy and works towards its accreditation. Grounded in both Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions, yet realizing there has been and always will be diverging paths of Lutheran interpretation on both Scripture and Confessions, ILT seeks to connect the best Lutheran professors to the most capable Lutheran students using the latest interactive video-conferencing technology.
But the unity-in-diversity of ILT does have its limits in its interpretation of Scripture and Confessions. We believe, in fact, that both sources presuppose the following:
- There is a God who has its being apart from human awareness, perception, conception and language.
- Propositions about God and God's relation to the world can be true or false.
- God and the world can be (and are) causally related.
- God's work in Jesus Christ cannot be confined merely to the realm of value, but also concerns the realm of nature.
- Scripture has both an external and internal clarity.