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Wade R. Johnston

Wade Johnston headshot

Associate Professor
History and Theology



  • Education

    B.A., Martin Luther College
    M.Div., Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary
    M.A., Central Michigan University
    M.A., Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam
    Ph.D., Joint, Central Michigan University and Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam


    I was born and raised in Metro Detroit. Raised Roman Catholic, I was confirmed in the Evangelical Lutheran Church December 31, 1995. Soon afterward I enrolled in Martin Luther College, where I met my wife, Tricia. Upon graduation from seminary I was assigned to Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church in Saginaw, Michigan, where I was privileged to serve as a parish pastor for ten years. Tricia and I have five children. We live in Milwaukee. I enjoy commuting by bicycle as often as possible and am a member of the Wisconsin Bike Fed. I am an avid sports fan (Detroit sports especially). I have served at WLC since 2014.

    Courses I Teach

    THE 110: Introduction to Theology
    THE 130: New Testament
    THE 234: Pauline Epistles
    THE 235: Romans 
    THE 301: The Book of Genesis
    THE 331: Introduction to World Religions
    THE 332: Christ and Culture
    THE 401: Basic Teachings of the Bible 1
    THE 441: History of Christianity
    THE 442: History of the Reformations
    THE 461: Thought and Life of Martin Luther
    HIS 112: European History 2, 1500-1850
    HON 201: Renaissance and Reformation
    PHI 201: Ethics

    Research Interests

    My dissertation was a comparative work examining the writings of Matthias Flacius Illyricus in the Adiaphoristic Controversy in Germany and John Hooper in the Vestment Controversy in England. I am also very interested in the Lutheran Confessions (their historical context and their content, to which confessional Lutherans subscribe). My minor fields are the Ancient Mediterranean and Modern Europe and I read regularly and with great interest in both fields. My general academic interests include:

    • Martin Luther
    • Reformations in Europe
    • Post-Reformation Lutheranism
    • Gnesio-Lutheranism
    • Confessionalization
    • Adiaphoristic Controversy
    • Formula of Concord
    • Hermann Sasse and Lutheranism under Nazism
    • Holocaust Studies
    • Late Antiquity
    • Monasticism and Asceticism
    • Greek and Roman Religion
    • Pauline Epistles
    • Lutheran Ethics
    • Christianity and Culture

    Publications, Author 

    “Christianity and Poverty” 
    Upcoming LCMS annotated Large Catechism
    Concordia Publishing House, expected 2022

    “We Must Obey God Rather than Man: The Lutheran Legacy of Resistance”
    One Lord, Two Hands: Essays on the Theology of the Two Kingdoms

    Concordia Publishing House, 2021

    Let the Bird Fly: Life in a World Given back to Us
    1517 Publishing, 2019

    “Adiaphora and Confession: Flacius’ Magdeburg Writings Produced in Exile” in Matthias Flacius Illyricus – Biographische Kontexte, theologische Wirkungen, historische Rezeption
    Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference on Matthias Flacius Illyricus, Labin, 22-24 April 2015, Labin (Kroatien), 2019 

    “A Reformation in Preaching: Preaching as a Means of Grace”
    Logia: A Journal of Lutheran Theology
    XXVII, no. 2 (Eastertide 2018)

    The Devil behind the Surplice: Matthias Flacius and John Hooper on Adiaphora
    Pickwick Publications, 2018

    A Path Strewn with Sinners: Jesus’ Race to the Cross
    New Reformation Publications, 2017

    Entries on Nicolaus von Amsdorf, the Saxon Visitations, and the Book of Concord
    Encyclopedia of Martin Luther and the Reformation
    (Rowman & Littlefield, Anticipated 2017)

    “Preface: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”
    Logia: A Journal of Lutheran Theology
    XXV, no. 3 (Holy Trinity 2016)

    “We Must Obey God Rather than Men: The Lutheran Legacy of Resistance”
    Logia: A Journal of Lutheran Theology
    XXV, no. 3 (Holy Trinity 2016)

    “Preface: Martyrdom and Suffering”
    Logia: A Journal of Lutheran Theology
    XXIV, no. 2 (Eastertide 2015)

    Pentecost Devotions, John 16:5-11
    57 (2014), 6/8/2014-6/14-2014

    “Spare the Rod, Hate the Child: Augustine and Luther on Discipline and Corporal Punishment”
    Logia: A Journal of Lutheran Theology
    XX, no. 4 (Reformation 2011)

    “Article X of the Formula of Concord and Lutheranism Today”
    Lutheran Synod Quarterly
    50, no. 1 (March 2010)

    Publications, Translator

    Adiaphora and Tyranny, Matthias Flacius Illyricus
    Magdeburg Press, 2011

    How to Understand the Sacred Scriptures, Matthias Flacius Illyricus
    Magdeburg Press, 2011

    “Sermon for the Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity, Gal. 5:16-24,” Martin Luther
    Luther’s Works, vol. 58, Concordia Publishing House, 2010

    “Sermon for the Twenty-second Sunday after Trinity, Phil. 1:3-11,” Martin Luther
    Luther’s Works, vol. 58, Concordia Publishing House, 2010

    “Sermon for the Twenty-third Sunday after Trinity, Phil. 3:17-21,” Martin Luther
    Luther’s Works, vol. 58, Concordia Publishing House, 2010

    “Household Sermon for the First Sunday after Easter,” Martin Luther
    Luther’s Works, vol. 69, Concordia Publishing House, 2009

    “Sermon for the First Sunday after Easter, April 23, 1536,” Martin Luther
    Luther’s Works, vol. 69, Concordia Publishing House, 2009

    “Funeral Sermon on Psalm 86:11,” Paul Gerhardt
    Lutheran Synod Quarterly
    48, no. 1 (March 2008)

    Sacred Meditations, Johann Gerhard
    Magdeburg Press, 2008

    Publications, Editorial Work

    Witness, Hermann Sasse, Translated by Bror Erickson
    Magdeburg Press, 2013

    Then Fell the Lord’s Fire, Bo Giertz, Translated by Bror Erickson
    Magdeburg Press, 2012

    Book Reviews

    Review of Matija Vlačić Ilirik [III]: Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Matthias Flacius Illyricus,, Labin/Croatia, 2010
    Reformation and Renaissance Review 17.3 (2015)

    Conference Presentations

    “In Statu Confessionis: Steadfast for the Sake of Freedom”
    Lutherske Fordypningsdager (Lutheran Study Days), Bergen, Norway, September 8, 2020 
    (presented remotely due to COVID-19)

    “The Wittenberg Movement”
    Los Angeles and Orange Circuits, WELS, Torrance, CA, November 4, 2019

    “I Believe We Are Free”
    Here We Still Stand, San Diego, CA, October 18, 2019

    “An Uncompromising Gospel: Freedom, Not Fear”
    Cypress Pastors Conference, WELS, Merritt Island, FL, September 23-24, 2019

    “Apologetics in the Life of a Lutheran Christian”
    Michigan District Convention, WELS, Saginaw, MI, June 11, 2018

    “The Heidelberg Disputation” 
    Shoreland Pastors Conference, WELS, Kenosha, WI, April 24, 2018

    “Teaching the Reformations of the Sixteenth Century at a Contemporary Lutheran College”
    Sixteenth Century Society Conference, Milwaukee, WI, October 27, 2017

    “Luther’s Life and Message”
    Dallas-Fort Worth Circuit, WELS, Dallas, TX, October 30, 2017

    “The Ongoing Relevance of Luther’s Reformation”
    Kettle Moraine, Shoreland, Western Lakes, and Winnebago Joint Pastors Conference, WELS
    Elkhart Lake, WI, September 19-20, 2017

    “Forward with the Reformation’s Focus on Education”
    Wisconsin-Chippewa-River Valley Pastors Conference, WELS, Stevens Point, WI, May 1, 2017

    “Forward with Our Reformation Heritage”
    Western Lakes Pastors Conference, WELS, Lannon, WI, April 24, 2017

    “Luther and His Friends”
    Minnesota District Church Leaders Workshop, WELS, Belle Plaine, MN, March 4, 2017

    “The Lutheran Reformation of Education”
    Metro Milwaukee Lutheran Teachers Conference, WELS, Milwaukee, WI, March 2, 2017

    “Lutheranism’s First Identity Crisis”
    Ohio Conference, WELS, Jenera, OH, January 2017

    “The Path to Concord”
    Metro/Urban Milwaukee Pastors Get-Away Conference, WELS, Green Lake, WI, January 2017

    “The Struggle to Preserve Luther’s Uncompromising Gospel”
    Alaska Conference of Pastors and Teachers, WELS, Ancorage, AK, October 2016

    “Equipping God’s People to Stand Firm on the Word of God in the 21st Century”
    Nebraska District Convention, WELS, Waco, NE, June 2016

    “The Church Confesses, Still”
    California-Nevada Pastors Conference, WELS, Belmont, CA, January 2016

    “Matthias Flacius Illyricus: The Magdeburg Exile”
    IV. Internationale Tagung zu Matthias Flacius Illyricus 2015, Labin, Croatia, September 2015

    “The Lutheran Confessions in the Lutheran Parish"
    Milwaukee Urban Conference, WELS, Milwaukee, WI, May 2015

    “Luther and the Earthy Christ”
    Gulf Coast Circuit, WELS, The Woodlands, TX, November 2014

    “American Ideals in German Print”
    Lutheran Historical Conference, Wisconsin Lutheran College, Milwaukee, WI, October 2014

    “‘Holy History’: Matthias Flacius’ Argument against the Interims from the Church’s Past”
    Lutheranism and the Classics, Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, IN, October 2014

    “Human, All Too Human: Original Sin, Matthias Flacius, and the Nature of Man”
    Northern Conference, WELS, North Branch, MI, September 2013

    “Original Sin, the ‘Culture of Controversy,’ and Lessons for Today”
    Pastors Institute, Nebraska District, WELS, Omaha, NE, July 2013

    “Spare the Rod, Hate the Child: Luther and Augustine on the Discipline of Children”
    Lutheranism and the Classics, Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, IN, September 2012

    “The Adiaphoristic Controversery, Formula of Concord X, and Lutheranism Today”
    Pastors Institute, Nebraska District, WELS, Omaha, NE, July 2012

    “American Ideals in German Print: The Opposition of the Evangelical Lutheran Synodical Conference to the 1889 Bennett Law in Wisconsin”
    Borders, Boundaries, and Beyond, Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant, MI, April 2012

    “Moses the Lutheran: Matthias Flacius and the Old Testament”
    Matthias Flacius and the Lost Lutheran Hermeneutic, Northfield, MN, November 2011

    “The Christian and Political Parties: Martin Luther on the Christian as Citizen”
    Northern Conference of the Michigan District, WELS, Traverse City, MI, September 2008 

    Teaching Service for the Church

    • “The Gospel of Mark"
      Nain Evangelical Lutheran Church, West Allis, WI, January 13-April 7, 2019
    • “The Same Old, but Never Tired, Gospel”
      Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Fond du Lac, WI, September 16, 2018 
    • “Vocation, Two Kingdoms, and Christian Freedom”
      Peace Lutheran, Hartford, WI, November 5, 12, and 19, 2017
    • “Luther’s Life and Message”
      St. John Lutheran Church, Mukwonago, WI, November 11, 2017
    • “Let the Bird Fly: Living Freely in a World Given Back to Us”
      True North Campus Ministry, Minneapolis, MN, October 5, 2017
    • “Why the Reformation Matters”
      Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Fon du Lac, WI, September 10, 2017
    • “Galatians: The Gospel of Grace”
      St. John Lutheran Church, Mukwonago, WI, April 1, 2017
    • “Luther’s Ethics: Foundations and Implications”
      True North Campus Ministry, Minneapolis, MN, February 9, 2016
    • “Our Dual Citizenship: Luther’s Doctrine of the Two Kingdoms Today”
      Evangelical Lutheran Synod Youth Rally, Dallas, Texas, July 28-31, 2016

    Preaching Service for the Church

    • Pulpit Assistant, St. John Lutheran, Mukwonago, WI, July 2014-August 2016
    • Guest Preacher, Various Locations, July 2014-present

    Service for WLC

    • Theology Department Head, January 2016-July 2018
    • Faculty Senate Chair, June 2017-June 2019
    • Co-Curricular Committee Member and Chair, June 2015-June 2017
    • Co-Curricular Committee Member, June 2019-present
    • Strategic Planning Committee Member, January 2018-June 2019
    • Faculty Expectations Task Force Member, January 2019-June 2019
    • Honors Steering Committee Member, August 2015-present
    • Chapel Preacher, August 2014-present

    Works in Progress

    • Translation of Magdeburg Confession (German and Latin)

    Other Media

    • Let the Bird Fly! – Podcast and Website (
    • Contributor at 1517 – Blog Posts and Other Online Content (

    Professional Memberships

    • Sixteenth Century Society & Conference
    • Society for Reformation Research
    • Lutheran Historical Conference
    • American Historical Association