Rev. Dr. Norman E. Nagel, professor emeritus at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis and an esteemed Lutheran theologian and beloved pastor, entered eternal rest in Christ Jesus Oct. 8, 2019. He was 94 years old.
Visitation is set for 3-6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 14, at Laclede Groves, 723 S. Laclede Station Road, St. Louis, MO 63119. Visitation also will be held from 10-11 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 15, in the Chapel of St. Timothy and St. Titus at Concordia Seminary, 801 Seminary Place, St. Louis, MO 63105. A funeral will follow immediately afterward. The service will be available for viewing via live stream at csl.edu/live.
“The Concordia Seminary community extends to Mrs. Nagel and family our heartfelt sympathies,” said Seminary President Dr. Dale A. Meyer. “Baptized into Christ and His promise of resurrection, Dr. Nagel was completely a servant of his Lord. In his unique and memorable way, he taught and modeled that the church of Christ is qualitatively different from anything in this earthly life. We look forward to being with Dr. Nagel in the church triumphant.”
Nagel’s scholarship and expertise in the field of systematic theology made him a much sought-after lecturer and preacher. He frequently spoke at theological symposia and pastoral conferences around the world.
Nagel served as a visiting professor at the Seminary from 1962 to 1963 and again from 1981 to 1983, when we joined the faculty. Before that, he served in various teaching capacities both in the United States and overseas.
During his Seminary tenure, he served as chairman of the Department of Systematic Theology from 1986 to 1992 and from 1994 to 1995. He retired in 2006 after 22 years of distinguished service as professor of Systematic Theology.
In a 2017 interview from his home at Laclede Groves, a senior living center, Nagel gave all praise to God for sustaining him in the aftermath of a severe stroke in 2008 that left him paralyzed on one side. “When I was weak,” he said in an article by Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) Communications, “it was He who pulled me through.”
Born in China, the son of a New Zealand Lutheran missionary pastor and an Australian mother, he grew up in Australia, attended Concordia College in Adelaide, Australia, and received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Adelaide in 1945, where he then served as an instructor from 1946 to 1947.
After moving to the United States in 1947, he received his Master of Divinity from Concordia Seminary in 1953 and accepted a call from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England (ELCE) to serve as pastor of Luther-Tyndale Memorial Church in London, England, where he was ordained. At the request of the ELCE, where he served as vice chairman, he matriculated at Cambridge University in 1957 and received his Ph.D. in 1962. He helped establish Westfield House, the Lutheran House of Studies in Cambridge, England, and became its first preceptor, serving from 1962 to 1968.
He was then called to be dean of the Chapel of the Resurrection and professor of theology at Valparaiso University in Valparaiso, Ind., where he served from 1968 to 1983. While on sabbatical from Valparaiso in 1975, he served as visiting professor at Martin Luther Seminary in Lae, Papua New Guinea.
He was awarded three honorary degrees: an honorary Doctor of Divinity from Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind. (1999); an honorary Doctor of Laws from Concordia College New York, Bronxville (2000); and an honorary Doctor of Divinity from Concordia University, Irvine, Calif. (2012).
His published works include the book Selected Sermons of Norman Nagel: From Valparaiso to St. Louis (Concordia Publishing House, 2004); his translation from the German of Werner Elert’s book “On Church Fellowship”; and articles in The Concordia Theological Journal, The Australian Theological Review, Springfielder, The Cresset, Dialog, Lutheran Forum, Lutheran Quarterly, Concordia Journal, Concordia Theological Quarterly, Lutheran Theological Journal, Logia and Gottesdienst.
He also translated a collection of essays by Hermann Sasse — We Confess Jesus Christ (1984), We Confess the Sacraments (1985) and We Confess the Church (1986).
Two scholarly Festschrift volumes in honor of Nagel have been published by students and faculty over the years: And Every Tongue Confess (1990) and Dona Gratis Donata (2015).
He wrote the introduction to Lutheran Worship, the LCMS hymnal published in 1982. He also served the LCMS on the Commission on Theology and Church Relations, the Doctrinal Review Committee, the Lutheran-Episcopal Dialogue and the Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue.
“Norman served a long and distinguished career as a pastor, missionary, professor, Luther scholar, churchman — and above all, as a theologian of the means of grace,” his obituary says. “The most enduring legacy of his professional life is the many, many university students and seminarians whose lives were profoundly changed by his teaching and preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and, in turn, the lives they have shaped in their many and various vocations.”
He is survived by his wife of 66 years, Priscilla “Betsy” Nagel (nee Newman); three children, Richard (Norma) Nagel, Christopher (Mollie) Nagel and Matthew (Kristi) Nagel; four grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.
About Concordia Seminary
Concordia Seminary, St. Louis provides Gospel-centered graduate-level theological education for pastors, missionaries, deaconesses, scholars and other leaders in the name of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). To learn more, visit csl.edu.