Theological Symposium

Due to concerns about the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, the 2021 Theological Symposium will be held online for those outside the campus community. Thank you for your understanding.

31st Annual Theological Symposium

Sept. 21-22, 2021

Whatever is Lovely: The Role of Beauty in Theology and Ministry

The church has had a long and restless relationship with beauty and the arts. Sometimes the celebration of beauty has been eagerly embraced, and relics of this history surround us — soaring church arches, shining windows, carved figures, fugues, poetry of praise and piety. But beauty also has been deemed excessive, unnecessary and even idolatrous. How can we receive and encourage the place of beauty and the arts so that our preaching and piety more fully reflect the love and creativity of God?

The 2021 Theological Symposium will explore the possibilities of beauty for the life of the church and its witness in a world that still groans for redemption. Plenaries and sectionals will offer various ways that the arts can enrich ministry, inspire hope and surprise with joy.

Highlights include:

  • Plenaries presented by:

    • Dr. David Schmitt The Gregg H. Benidt Memorial Professor of Homiletics and Literature, Professor of Practical Theology and Chairman of the Department of Practical Theology, Concordia Seminary, St. Louis
    • James K. A. Smith Award-winning author, and Professor of Philosophy and the Gary and Henrietta Byker Chair in Applied Reformed Theology and Worldview at Calvin University
    • Dr. Mark Mattes  Professor of Theology and Philosophy and Chair of the Department of Philosophy and Religion at Grand View University
    • Dr. Dean Nadasdy President Emeritus of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) Minnesota South District
  • Virtual Seminary Art Exhibition

  • Virtual New Stained Glass Windows tour

  • Sixth Annual Dr. Jack Dean Kingsbury Lecture in New Testament Theology

    • Presented by Dr. James W. Voelz, the Dr. Jack Dean Kingsbury Professor of New Testament Theology, Concordia Seminary, St. Louis

Check back for registration. If you have any questions, please contact Continuing Education at 314-505-7286 or

Be sure and share photos and other symposium details with your friends and family on social media using the hashtags, #CSLBeauty and #CSLSymposium.

Dr. David Schmitt
Holy Wonder: Credal Contemplation and the Experience of Beauty

Beauty has a way of catching our attention. It surprises us and opens a world where aesthetic experience is central to the formation of meaning. In this plenary, we will consider a way to contemplate the experience of beauty. By joining the dynamics of art with the commonplaces of the creed, we will explore one way of integrating theology and the arts.

Dr. James K.A. Smith
The Art of Hope: Imagining Another World in a World That Breaks Our Hearts

There is something almost surreal about Christianity. At its heart is a string of incredible claims — a God who becomes human; a crucified God who is raised from the dead; and a cosmic Creator who knows everything about us and yet loves us, forgives us and promises to wipe away every tear. Is it any wonder, then, that the church has been an incubator of the imagination, a wellspring for the arts? If orthodoxy is generous because it has something to offer the world, one of those gifts is an ability to imagine the world otherwise. The Chalcedonian orthodoxy that dares to imagine the mystery of the God-man is the orthodoxy that underwrites an entire artistic tradition that speaks to human hungers. This lecture will consider how and why the Spirit speaks to us in songs and poems, painting portraits of a world we couldn’t otherwise imagine — and why the arts are a conduit of hope in a culture of despair.

Dr. Mark Mattes
Luther and Beauty

Who would think that Martin Luther has a theology of beauty? For a church that regularly sings “Beautiful Savior” and boasts musicians with the status of Bach, it should not be too surprising to find a theology of beauty in Luther. Paradoxically, there is beauty in the suffering Savior because nothing give us God’s love to the degree that Jesus does. Through this love, we see creation with new eyes and can join in creating beauty along with God.

Dr. Dean Nadasdy
The Beautiful Sermon: The Aesthetics of Preaching

The presentation makes a case for beauty being a central consideration for the preaching task today. The aesthetic elements of preaching will be identified, focusing on the question, "What makes a sermon beautiful?"


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Multiethnic Symposium

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Pre-Lenten Workshop

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