New faculty member Rev. Dr. Lewis O. Brogdon is the designated speaker for the opening convocation of the 159th academic year at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. The service, which is open to the public, will take place Thursday, September 8, at 11:30 a.m. in the Frank H. and Fannie W. Caldwell Chapel, located on the Seminary campus.
Dr. Brogdon, who was appointed Assistant Professor of New Testament and Black Church Studies in the spring, will present “Hell on Earth: The Suffering of the Oppressed, Crisis of Hope and Nihilism in America,” based on the story of the rich man and Lazarus in the sixteenth chapter of Luke’s gospel. In his address, Brogdon will reflect on the suffering of Lazarus as an example of hell on earth, discussing both historic and contemporary understandings of hell on earth in black religious thought and particularly how this idea offers new language for reflecting theologically on suffering, despair, and the belief there is nothing left of value in America.
“This story is a compelling account of the privileges of wealth, the suffering of the poor, and eschatological reversal, drawing on the foreboding image of hell in the afterlife. But on a deeper level, the story invites us to think about a living hell experienced by humans today,” says Brogdon. “The experience of Lazarus, as one whose suffering does not end in this life, resonates with the experience of the oppressed.”
Brogdon says there is plenty of theological reflection on hell in the afterlife but little reflection on hell in this life. From his own pastoral experience with the hopelessness of people in an inner city congregation and his encounter with the work of Cornel West who discussed nihilism in America, particularly in the black community, Brogdon will seek to make the case that an “eschatological image of hell on earth gives the church new language to reflect theologically on human suffering, despair, and the modern crisis of nihilism in America.”
Brogdon, a 2005 Louisville Seminary graduate, received his Ph.D. from Regent University School of Divinity in Virginia. He first came to the Seminary as an experienced congregational pastor and teacher and served as Associate Director of Recruiting and Admissions beginning in 2006. In 2009, he added the responsibilities of director of the newly launched Black Church Studies program, which he will continue in his new call among the Seminary’s faculty.
As Director of the Black Church Studies Program, Brogdon hopes that students are inspired and empowered by courses that reflect their commitments and enhance their understanding of the traditions that comprise the Black Church.
“The Black Church Studies program is the realization of a decade of work and represents an institutional commitment to cultivate leaders for the challenges of ministry in the African American context as well as a commitment to engage theological education from a contextual standpoint,” says Brogdon.
In addition to his doctoral dissertation, "Exclusion as Impediment to Conversion: an African American Interpretation of Paul’s Letter to Philemon" (2010), Brogdon has written for various publications, including “Marty’s Sunday: Revelation 7:13-17” in African American Lectionary (2009), “The Decline of African American Theology? A Critical Response to Thabiti Anyabwile” with Amos Yong in Journal of Reformed Theology (2010); and a chapter on “African American Pentecostalism” in A Handbook of Pentecostal Christianity (Northern Illinois University Press, 2011). He has also published review essays on the Word of Faith Movement, the prosperity movement, and racism in American Protestantism in Pneuma: The Journal for Society of Pentecostal Studies.