More than a Professor: Remembering Rod Rosenbladt

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Anyone could tell he enjoyed teaching theology and loved his students.

Rod Rosenbladt was a professor first and foremost to teach Jesus. Jesus is what brought joy to Rod’s life, and so it was Jesus that he endeavored to share with everyone he met. When he taught apologetics, his favorite class, he warned us not to get too far into discussions on evolution or the age of the earth. “You can argue with an atheist for six years that way, and after you are done, the best you can accomplish is turning a damned atheist into a damned creationist because they still don’t know anything about Jesus.” He would spend week after week hammering the historical argument for the resurrection of Jesus Christ, going over every detail of the validity behind the good news that Jesus rose from the dead for our justification.

I still remember my first meeting with Dr. Rosenbladt. I had no idea who he was and had never heard of The Whitehorse Inn radio show. Knowing I had determined to pursue pastoral ministry, my dad convinced me to go with him and check out the campus at Concordia Irvine while he addressed some business there. I spent a couple of hours with a recruiter intent on showing me the gym. I finally relented and then ditched him. I had no plans of attending Concordia Irvine at that point. However, as I walked up to see what the library was about, a short little man reminiscent of a hobbit came out of the building and lit a menthol cigarette. He knew that I was not a student. As he explained to me, “It’s finals week; no one is ‘doing good.’” He told me a little about the class he was teaching on the Lutheran Confessions. It was his habit to hand out finals and then leave the room to smoke. I got a kick out of him. Anyone could tell he enjoyed teaching theology and loved his students. He took a genuine interest in who I was and what my plans were. You could not help but want to study under a man like that. For two years at Irvine, I would take every class I could from him as I finished my bachelor’s degree. 

I even took that same class on the Lutheran Confessions with him. We had to read the entire Book of Concord, but the lecture remained on Article IV of the Augsburg Confession, Concerning Justification. If we discussed any other article, it was only to discuss how it related to article four: 

Our churches also teach that men cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works but are freely justified for Christ’s sake through faith when they believe that they are received into favor and that their sins are forgiven on account of Christ, who by his death made satisfaction for our sins. This faith God imputes for righteousness in his sight (Rom. 3, 4). 

This was the point of Christ’s death and resurrection. This article was the heart of the Lutheran Reformation. This article is the gospel Dr. Rosenbladt inculcated in every class he taught. Somehow it would come back to this even when he was lecturing on Wittgenstein or Plato. It was the reason he was Lutheran, and it was around this article and the proclamation of it that he always worked to gather his friends and students. 

He became more than a professor. He became a cherished friend whose counsel I sought often. There are not many former professors I have stayed in touch with after my classes with them finished, and I have not stayed in contact with any professors as much as Rod. He always had time for his students even when they were no longer taking classes from him. He developed comradery between himself and his students and, more importantly, amongst his students. He brought us all together and kept us together around the gift of justification given by grace through faith in Jesus.