(The following essay appears as the Foreword in the forthcoming Gospel Crossings, volume one, and is reprinted here by permission of that book's editor, Michael Hoy.)
Never ask a professor in his seventy-fifth year, the height of his anecdotage, to recall the history of something, least of all something he has been accused of "founding," like Crossings. Given his long reach to the past he's bound to ask, How far back dare I begin? Back to my Crossings-minded dad? Himself a professor, though not of theology but of profane literature, my father haunted his pre-seminary students with worldly questions from Goethe and Schiller -- never doubting it was Goethe and Schiller who had first been interrogated by God -- and earlier had helped found a church highschool for secular vocations.
Or back as far as my Grandpa Dau? He was a seminary professor but then (as penance?) had to "Cross" his seminary theology with a whole arts-and-science university (Valparaiso) as its new president. His legacy loomed over our home, though not without some wry demythologizing by my mom. Or back at least to my own favorite seminary professor, Richard Caemmerer? His constant theme was "the church and the world" and under his spell I won an essay contest with "The Church When the Boys Come Home" -- come home, that is, from a very World(ly) War II. Christ and war? Crossable? All four of the above mentors -- Mom, more wistfully -- relished the dearest Crossings of all, between humor and The Holy.
Dick Luecke confirmed from history and philosophy what I had long suspected, that these questionings were the accusations which Luther and Paul and Jesus and the prophets had called God's "Law." So I tried history and philosophy but joy kept breaking through. Call it theology, though never without history and philosophy. No real gospel ever trivializes the Law. No Cross is complete until it Crosses with the world.
It was inevitable therefore that the Chicago doctoral dissertation, really my first big Crossings project, should be written on Luther but on Luther as gospel Crossover into thickly earthy terrain, How theology -- read: God -- is about humanity. Nor was it accidental that my Doktorvater Pelikan asked one of Luther's later lessers (as Martin Marty calls them), Paul Tillich, to join my committee. Tillich had popularized a word from the Lutheran reformation, correlation: correlation between the culture's questions and the gospel's answers or, as Melanchthon had said, correlation between Christ's promise and the sinner's receiving it. It was only a matter of time before I would have to call this Law-Gospel, Word-world correlation by the more christic pun, "Crossing."
Michael Hoy, President (513-228-5006) Cathy Lessmann, Executive Secretary (314-576-7357)