Steven D. Paulson
Prof, Systematic Theology

"...The word of God is not just a text that we interpret or manipulate for our own purposes and ends. It’s alive, it’s operating, it works on us and in us,” he says.

Steven Paulson went to college to become an aeronautical engineer. Then he traveled to Jerusalem as a participant in a program that required students to take four courses in religion. He later transferred to St. Olaf College where he was required to take additional religion courses. By the time he was a senior, he had — unintentionally — become a religion major and was thinking about going to seminary. "My calling came through the back door rather than the front," he says.

Paulson worked his way through Luther as a psychiatric counselor at Fairview Hospitals in Minneapolis. "I worked with people who had significant problems in their lives. Most did not speak the language of Christianity. This experience helped me understand that when you deal with people's actual living needs, you must translate the Gospel so people can receive it."

In addition to the master of divinity degree from Luther, Paulson earned both the master of theology and the doctor of theology degrees from Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago. A former parish pastor, he also spent seven years as assistant professor of religion at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, before joining the Luther faculty in 1998.

According to Paulson, the goal of systematic theology is proclamation. "It's about understanding what the word of God is doing. The word of God is not just a text that we interpret or manipulate for our own purposes and ends. It's alive, it's operating, it works on us and in us," he says.

He describes systematic theologians as "having our toes in two ponds. We try to understand how Christian proclamation has worked in the past by studying dogma, doctrine and preaching. But we also try to recognize how God is at work today in those who stand before us so we can bring them words that they need to hear — the promises secured in Jesus Christ."