Joel P. Okamoto

Joel Okamoto was born and baptized in Los Angeles, Calif., and raised in Michigan. He is married to Ruth, and they are parents of three sons.

Joel received his undergraduate education at MIT, and, after working for several years, attended Concordia Seminary. He served as assistant pastor at Abiding Savior Lutheran Church in the St. Louis area, and in 1998 he was called to a teaching position at Concordia Seminary.

Being in the department of systematic theology means being expected to put and to engage a range of questions, issues, and problems. The most important ones are often those that just about anyone can raise. One such question is, “How does ‘truth’ matter?” Behind this question are incidents like this: Joel’s youngest son, then nine, laughed at the sight of Simon Blackburn’s Truth: A Guide, on a living room table. “What a silly name for a book,” he said. Why? Because everybody know what “truth” is. After being questioned, he readily agreed that whether this or that claim is true might be an important question. But “truth?” He found it very funny that someone would actually write a whole book on it. The child was right. His reaction, however, stands in sharp contrast to the attitudes and actions of many older Christians. So one might ask, “How does ‘truth’ matter?” Doesn’t “truth” seem to be taken so seriously today? Why? Doesn’t “truth” matter, not in an explanatory sense (i.e., explain what makes any given claim or belief true), but as an important attribute? What does it mean that so many Christians seem to think wrongly about “truth?”

Other questions that occupy Joel right now include, “What does it mean to be Lutheran today?”; “How does the ‘therapeutic’ matter in Christian life and witness?”; “How is Lutheran doctrine is good for you?”; “What is a ‘Christian doctrine’?”; “What is the ‘Bible’?”; “What is a good account for being a ‘pastor’?”; “Why should I go to church?”; and “Why do we have such inadequate answers to so many of these questions?” There are still others, but some of them aren’t very clear or don’t seem to be put quite right.

Joel enjoys reading; taking walks around the neighborhood; and thinking about doing something about the several pieces of vacuum tube electronics lying in the basement in need of repair or modification.


  • Chair, Systematic Theology
  • Associate Professor of Systematic Theology


  • B.S., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Mass.
  • M.Div, S.T.M., Th.D., Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Mo.

Contact Information:

Concordia Seminary
801 Seminary Pl.
St. Louis, MO 63105
Office phone:  314-505-7102

Current Courses

Conference Topics

  • On being Lutheran
  • Questions that every Christian should be able to answer (but can’t)
  • Word of God
  • World religions
  • Issues in Christian apologetics
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