James Nestingen, professor emeritus of church history at Luther Seminary, passed away unexpectedly on Saturday, December 31, 2022.
“Jim was a compelling storyteller, eloquent lecturer, and prolific catechist,” said Luther Seminary President Robin Steinke. “He helped educate a generation of pastors, teachers, confirmands, and everyday disciples on the central Lutheran insights regarding faith in Jesus Christ. Perhaps no lesson was more resonant with his life and teaching than his wisdom on the proper distinction between law and gospel.”
In sharing the news of Nestingen’s sudden death, Professor Rolf Jacobson, dean of the faculty, cited Romans 3:21: “But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith.”
He added, “Jim would not want to be memorialized. He would simply want to be remembered as a sinner of Christ’s own redeeming and a lamb of his flock.”
Nestingen was a Luther Seminary graduate (M.Div. ’71, M.Th. ’78) as well as a longtime faculty member. Following his ordination in 1971, he served Lutheran congregations in Oregon and Toronto, Canada, before his appointment as assistant professor of church history at the seminary in 1980. After receiving a doctorate in theology from St. Michael’s College, University of Toronto, in 1984, he was named professor of church history in 1992 and professor emeritus of church history in 2006.
He taught, wrote, and spoke prolifically on Luther’s catechisms and confessional Lutheran theology. He was the author of several books, including Martin Luther: His Life and His Teachings, Manger in the Mountains, The Faith We Hold, and Roots of Our Faith. His most important book may have been the confirmation handbook on Luther’s Small Catechism, Free to Be (with Gerhard Forde).
Although a prolific author, Nestingen’s true medium was as a speaker; he lectured around the globe on the confessions and justification by faith. In March 2001, he was one of the featured speakers at The Book of Concord Lectures held at Luther Seminary, which celebrated the latest translation of The Book of Concord and discussed its relevance for the 21st century.
Additional details are available in the obituary online. A public visitation will be held on Thursday, January 5, from 4:00–8:00 p.m., at Holcomb-Henry-Boom-Purcell Funeral Home, 536 N. Snelling, St. Paul, MN 55104. A further visitation will be held Friday, January 6 at 10:00 a.m. at St. James Lutheran Church, 460 West Annapolis St., West St. Paul, MN 55118. A service of remembrance will be held at 11:00 a.m., followed by lunch in the church hall. For those who can’t attend in person, the service will be livestreamed. The livestream link and bulletin are available via the St. James Lutheran Church website.