“ If Christ is risen, then He’s in the classroom. And so it’s appropriate to ask, 'what has God done here in the last 50 minutes?’”
Richard Nysse once sat in a meeting of pastors during which one of the attendees kept asking, "What is God doing here?" The question made him think about his teaching.
"The classroom is a context," Nysse says. "If Christ is risen, then He's in the classroom. And so it's appropriate to ask, 'what has God done here in the last 50 minutes?' "
He wants his students to understand that the interpretation of Scripture is never a mere academic exercise. "Every time they pick up Scripture to work on interpretation, they are in the presence of the living God," he says.
Nysse was finishing up his course work for a Th.D. from Harvard Divinity School when he was called to Luther in 1978. He enjoys teaching and scholarship but doesn't teach simply to teach. Instead he says, "My mission is to teach interpretation for the sake of Christian ministry."
For Nysse, the place where he teaches is a place of public conversation where "the church's leadership is practicing what it will do to help the church at large." His teaching reflects this philosophy. In the last few years, as he has worked with distance learning over the Internet, Nysse's style has shifted from teacher-centered to student-centered.
He wants his students — whether face to face or over the Internet — to engage each other, as a community of learners. Some are skeptical at first, but most are eventually won over. Nysse remembers one student who wrote in her course evaluation, "I was so mad because I couldn't figure out what you wanted. Then I understood that I had to figure out what I needed."
That kind of active engagement is what Nysse hopes to foster. He wants students to share his joy in learning. "I'm fascinated by the world that God has wrought," he says. "For me, learning is a kind of doxology."