most popular was a philosophy of Christian theology. Sic! Obviously it was as much theological (and biblical!) as philosophical. Admit it, it was the Chicago doctoral dissertation in classroom form: Luther on Galatians in light of some nosy secular questions. During the summer term the course was repeated for bright visiting seminarians from Saint Louis, several of whom now appear in "Who's Who"-- all of them, I trust, in The Book of Life.
One spinoff from that philosophy-of project was an extra-curricular study group formed by V.U. students themselves (Doering, Hiller, Steude, Theiss, Mohme and maybe a half dozen others) who presented papers "Crossing" the faith with their respective majors (law, pre-med, journalism, etc.) They were, you might say, the first Crossings "Community," anticipating by several decades today's counterparts: Morgan's and Lee's and Koch's "Greenhorns" in Saint Louis, the "Christ the King" crowd in Chicago, the lay-clergy clusters in Estonia and Australia. I still hear from those Valpo originals, as they do from one another. For example, one of them, Ray Bopp, now a retired cardiology prof from Yale, recently provoked a thorny theological question about surgical intervention when it is life-taking. You can see why one side of O.P. Kretzmann abetted us early Crossers while his other side fretted about our public relations liability.
The same President Kretzmann needed a new chair for the department of religion, desperately enough to be willing to make a deal. (I now blush at the brashness of it all.) One of the preconditions -- and this was only one of them, and not the most drastic -- which this new chairman stipulated involved the departmental curriculum, immediately renamed "theology" rather than "religion." Namely, the scripture lessons which were read in the university chapel's Sunday service were to double as the basic, theme-setting readings in that week's theology classrooms: gospel lessons for freshmen, epistle lessons for sophomores, Old Testament lessons for juniors. One thing which had not been possible with my Crossings courses in the philosophy department, where they risked being too academic and elitist, was this new link between theology curriculum and the community's, the whole community's liturgical life. Truth is, that is a struggle for our Crossings Community still today, to make Crossings more than merely mental and a concern of the whole congregation.
Back in the fifties at Valpo this benign "deal," innocently named "New/Old Testament Readings," would have been unimaginable without its exceptionally gifted young faculty, which in just a few
years had to be almost trebled in size. Out of gratitude I would like to name them, all eighteen -- a third of them are still there -- yet they might not all think of themselves as doing Crossings. One name I must mention, not from the department of theology but of geography: John Strietelmeier, a consummate lay theologian. Of all my dear colleagues at Valpo he probably has done most, not only through his writings but by his person, to nudge me toward Crossings. Within our own department there was a premium on the teacher's being a pastor, not as an alternative to being a theologian but as the fulfillment thereof. Crossings, too, for all its laicism, has always encouraged a high esteem of the pastoral office. Many of the students who profited from that lay-clergy symbiosis are still doing Crossings as lay theologians. How many? I'm not telling but I'll give you a clue: one of them is Gail McGrew. Another, from earlier on, is Carl Ziegler.
The single most Crossings-like feature of Valparaiso's new theology program, a feature which did carry over from the philosophy-of courses, was not just its connection between faith and life or even our reading that connection out of scripture but rather the way scripture was read so as to render it Crossable with life: namely, the way of Law and gospel. It must be admitted that O.P. Kretzmann, though he was like a second father and took it on the chin for supporting our venture (as did others of us) he was honestly skeptical, at least ambivalent, about its explicitly Lutheran theology. Imagine his bemusement when it was that very Law-gospel feature, by whatever name, which attracted ecumenical and national interest in our program. For my part, to speak quite personally, that theology has been the persistent genius of Crossings, beginning as I've said years before my theology chairmanship at V.U. and going with me when I left there in 1963 to join the faculty at my alma mater in Saint Louis, Concordia Seminary -- my Grandpa Dau's successor a few generations removed, and in reverse direction.