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Story Magazine

Second Quarter 2005

Remembering Gerhard Forde

"I have tried through the years to present the integrity and truth of the tradition, especially as found in Martin Luther, in a way that is interesting, compelling and exciting."  Gerhard Forde, '55 Professor Emeritus

Luther Seminary gives thanks for the witness and wisdom of Professor Emeritus Gerhard O. Forde, '55, who died Aug. 9, 2005 after a long illness. For almost 40 years he shared his passion for the Reformation with generations of pastors and lay leaders. "I have tried through the years to present the integrity and truth of the tradition, especially as found in Martin Luther, in a way that is interesting, compelling and exciting," he said at his retirement in 1998.

Forde's online memory book on the Luther Seminary Web site is filled with personal glimpses into the impact Forde and his teachings have made.

"He wrote and taught in a way not to dazzle us with his intellect but to assure us of God's grace. The church is the poorer for his passing, but richer because of the legacy he leaves behind," shared J. David Whelan, '95, of Menomonie,Wis.

"Every day that I work as a pastor and live as a person of faith I hear Gerhard's words, insisting on a clear declaration of the gospel and its impact on our lives," wrote David Zellmer, '81, Pierre, S.D.

Forde taught systematic theology, including such courses as "The Theology of Martin Luther," "Creation and the Triune God" and "Jesus the Savior."

"To engage him in constructing theology for effective and faithful Christian witness in the contemporary world was the closest thing to encountering the very spirit of Martin Luther," wrote colleague Professor Emeritus Lee Snook.

"He revealed to me the beauty and power of this church that preached the Reformation, and instilled in me a hope and love for it...With his droll ways, his self-effacing wit, his dry humor he taught me to love Christ and his church," told Pari Bailey, '94, '98, Benson, Minn.

Forde also team-taught Lutheran Confessions with James Nestingen, '71 (M.Div.), '78 (M.Th.), Professor of Church History.

"I see [the Lutheran Confessions course] as a linchpin for other seminary courses, kind of a crash course in what Lutheran ministry is, can be and should be about," Forde once said.

Forde taught at St. Olaf College and Luther College before joining Luther Seminary as a fulltime instructor in 1964. He became full professor in 1974.

He received the B.A. degree from Luther College in 1950, and the B.Th degree from Luther Seminary in 1955. He earned the Th.D. degree from Harvard Divinity School in 1967. Forde also studied at T৘bingen University and was the Lutheran tutor at Mansfield College, Oxford University, 1968-70.

A member of the American Academy of Religion, Forde was active as a member of the board of dialog, A Journal of Theology; the Lutheran-Roman Catholic dialogue; the Commission for the new Lutheran Church; and the editorial board of The Lutheran Quarterly.

In Forde's memory book, many spoke of how his writings affected them and their faith, in particular, Where God Meets Man (1972) and Justification by Faith: A Matter of Death and Life (1982). Where God Meets Man has been translated into many languages, most recently in Slovakian.

In the past year, two new books have been published: The Captivation of the Will: Luther vs. Erasmus on Freedom and Bondage (Lutheran Quarterly Books, 2004), edited by Steven Paulson, '82, associate professor of systematic theology, and A More Radical Gospel: Essays on Eschatology, Authority, Atonement, and Ecumenism (Eerdmans, 2004), edited by Paulson and Mark C. Mattes.

A festschrift, By Faith Alone: Essays on Justification in Honor of Gerhard O. Forde, (Eerdmans, 2004) has also been published.

Robin Nice, '94, Silver Bay, Minn., summed up many sentiments: "Dr. Forde was a giant of theology--but more a giant in the faith. His is a voice that will not be silenced by death."

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