Carl E. Braaten, RIP 

I would be remiss if I did not enter in these pages word of the death, at the age of 94, of my Doktorvater, the distinguished Lutheran theologian, Carl Edward Braaten. Carl was raised in Madagascar, the son of missionaries. A supremely able student, he was trained at St. Olaf College, Luther Seminary, and Heidelberg and Oxford Universities. He took a Th.D. at Harvard, where he was assistant to his advisor, the radical Protestant theologian Paul Tillich. After a brief return to the Luther Seminary faculty, he came in 1962 to the newly founded Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, which was meant to become, and with his help did in fact become, the flagship school of progressive Lutheranism in the United States.

Over the course of his long tenure there, his continuing studies and publication in Lutheran and ecumenical theology, and his friendships with men like Robert Jenson and Wolfhart Pannenberg, he gradually became the man I knew when I arrived to study under him in the mid-1980s: a fierce and redoubtable conservative (in the ELCA context) whose wit and ire were now directed mainly at the proliferating nonsense of the progressive Lutherans. Their foolishness came to a head when, in 2010, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America officially allowed its ministers to enter same-sex relationships, prompting Carl to become an elder member of a group of protesting church leaders, including Robert Jenson, who helped form the theological core of a breakaway denomination, the North American Lutheran Church.

In retirement Carl remained active in publication, a devoted husband, father, and grandfather, and a virtuoso tennis player who made much younger men quake in their boots. In the context of the church world as I have known it, he was on the side of the angels. I will always be grateful that I knew him and was among those who received his ministrations in the religious academy. May he rest joyfully in the peace of his Lord.


S. M. Hutchens is a Touchstone senior editor.

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