The Theologian-in-Residence lecture series is held annually on Tuesdays in February. The sessions focus on a theological topic or other issue of interest to church leaders and lay people.

The series began in 1991 and has explored such topics as music and worship, Christianity and popular culture, reflections on the Trinity, religion in Appalachia, John Calvin and the Reformed tradition, God and athletics in the modern world and Christian principles for managing finances.

Sessions begin at 10am on each Tuesday in February and are located in the Chalmers Conference Center in the Niswonger Commons. Lunch is included, and there is no charge for either the series or lunch.

To make reservations for the 2018 lecture series, please call the Office of Institutional Advancement (423-636-7303), or email, or fill out the brochure and return it by mail.


The 2018 Theologian-in-Residence series
 will join with people around the world in commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation (1517-2017).

The series, sponsored by Tusculum College with funding from Ron Smith, will be led by Dr. Joel Van Amberg, Professor of History at Tusculum College. The title of the lecture series is, “The Historical Luther: Tracing the Development of Martin Luther’s Central Reformation Views.”

Dr. Van Amberg received a B.A. in Religious Studies from Bowdoin College and an M.A. in Church History from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He received his Ph.D. in European History in the Division for Late Medieval and Reformation Studies at the University of Arizona. His book, A Real Presence: Religious and Social Dynamics of the Eucharistic Controversies in Early Modern Augsburg 1520-1530 was published in 2012. It explores the factors that led to divisions within the early Reformation movement in southern Germany.

Dr. Van Amberg has been a faculty member
at Tusculum College since 2005. He teaches the pre-modern European History courses, as well as courses on the Hebrew and Christian traditions and on the history of representative government in the West. He has also served as the chair of the Department of History (later History and Museum Studies) since 2006. He and his wife Deirdre have five children, Jane, Samuel, Rebekah, Peter and Susanna.


In October 1517 Martin Luther wrote down 95 propositions, or theses, intended to form the basis of an academic debate among the faculty at the University of Wittenberg. Instead, this document swept across Europe in a matter of months, helping to spark the firestorm that
would come to be called the Protestant Reformation. Although the Reformation is much larger than Martin Luther, this series will focus on the evolution of Martin Luther’s positions on the central issues of his religious movement.

February 6 – Luther and the Scriptures

This session is the first of two that considers Luther’s struggle to define the nature of religious authority. As Luther’s involvement in the Church increased, first as friar, then priest, then Doctor of Theology, and finally as Professor of Sacred Scripture and Pastor, his engagement with the Scriptures deepened. In it he found not only a textual source of doctrinal authority, but also a living Word that addressed his most pressing spiritual concerns.

Theolgian In Residence 2018 Lecture 1 from Tusculum 1794 on Vimeo.


February 13 – Luther and the Papacy

In this session we will discuss the events that brought about the break between Luther and
the Catholic Church. Luther was an unlikely revolutionary. He considered himself a faithful
son of the Church. He had a strong respect
for authority. The monastic life he had led
instilled deeply in him the values of humility and obedience. Yet, the dramatic events surrounding the publication of the 95 Theses, coupled with his own spiritual development, led him to reject the authority of the Pope and the Church hierarchy to define religious truth.

Theologian in Residence 2018 Lecture 2 from Tusculum 1794 on Vimeo.

February 20 – Luther and Justification by Faith

This session will address the position that is often seen as at the heart of Luther’s theology, the doctrine of justification by faith. Both the concepts of ‘justification’ and ‘faith’ were the subject of intense debate in the Middle Ages, and, as an academically trained theologian himself, Luther understood the issues well. We will explore how Luther’s view on this issue developed between 1508 and 1520 both in continuity with and in contrast to medieval precedent.

February 27 – Luther and the Sacraments

This session will also explore issues of continuity and change, in this case regarding Luther’s view of the sacraments as it developed over his career as a reformer. For the Catholic Church, the administering of the seven sacraments lay at the heart of the Church’s mission, namely, bringing God’s grace to
a needy humanity. From the Catholic perspective, Luther’s position on the sacraments was nothing less than a full assault on the most holy rites of the Church. For many Protestants, both contemporary and modern, however, Luther’s view on the sacraments seems surprisingly Catholic. This session will identify the issues behind Luther’s unique perspective on the Sacraments.

Resources for the 2018 Theologian-in-Residence series

The Background of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses


Links to previous brochures for The Theologian-in-Residence series are provided below: