Marcia BungeFaculty

Professor of Religion; Bernhardson Distinguished Chair of Lutheran Studies; and Extraordinary Research Professor (North-West University, South Africa) in Religion

A graduate of St. Olaf College (majoring in English and Music), Dr. Bunge earned her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, specializing in hermeneutics and historical and systematic theology. She has taught at Luther Seminary (1985-1990), Luther College (1990-1995), Gustavus Adolphus College (1995-1997), and most recently Christ College at Valparaiso University (1997-2012).

Over the past 20 years, Dr. Bunge has spoken and published widely on various religious perspectives on children and obligations to them, editing or co-editing and contributing to six foundational volumes on the subject: 

Her work on religious understandings of children and childhood has been supported by various grants totaling nearly $700,000. As a professor and mother of two children, she is both personally and professionally committed to promoting children’s well-being through her scholarship, teaching, and advocacy. She has spoken about her work in several countries around the world.

Dr. Bunge has served on a number of national and international committees and boards, including the board of the International Herder Society; the Task Force on Education for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; and the steering committees of the Childhood Studies program units of both the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature.  She also served as a "core collaborator" for an international project on "European Childhoods," directed by Professor Reidar Aasgaard and hosted by the University of Oslo, Norway. 

In addition to being a scholar and a teacher, Dr. Bunge is a deeply committed Lutheran theologian who is highly informed and enthusiastic about the aims of church-related higher education. In the 1990s she was a founding member of the Rhodes Consultation on the Future of the Church-Related College, an ecumenical and national initiative funded by the Lilly Endowment. At Valparaiso she directed the planning grant for the university’s two million dollar “Theological Exploration of Vocation” project, served on the ELCA’s National Task Force on Education, and organized a national meeting on “Vocation and Lutheran Higher Education.” She continues to speak and write about Lutheran understandings of education and vocation and has published numerous articles and two books on Lutheran higher education: Rooted in Heritage, Open to the World: Reflections on the Distinctive Character of Gustavus Adolphus College (Fortress, 2018)and So That All May Flourish: The Aims of Lutheran Higher Education (Fortress, 2023)  She has also written on various topics in Lutheran theology, and she translated and edited a collection of essays by the 19th-century Lutheran theologian and educator J.G. Herder titled Against Pure Reason: Writings on History, Language, and Religion (Fortress Press, 1993; Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2004). See Vita below and for additional publications.

The Bernhardson Chair was established in 1999 by the Rev. Drell Bernhardson and his wife, Adeline, friends of the College who sent all four of their children to Gustavus, to provide resources to reaffirm the College’s Lutheran tradition.


B.A., St. Olaf College; M.A., Ph.D., The University of Chicago

Teaching and Research Interests

  • Christianity (including the History of Christianity; World Christianity; Systematic, Contextual, and Historical Theology)
  • Religious Understandings of Children and Childhood
  • Inter-religious Dialogue and Cooperation
  • Vocation and Church-Related Higher Education
  • Luther and Lutheranism
  • Contemporary Theology and Ethics (Feminist Theologies; Environmental Ethics; Hermeneutics)

Courses Taught

REL-272 (Lutheran & Luth Diversity)

Synonym Title Times Taught Terms Taught
REL-272 Luther&Luth Diversity 7 2022/FA, 2021/FA, 2020/FA, 2018/FA, 2017/FA, 2014/FA, and 2013/FA
REL-252 Interfaith Understndng 6 2023/SP, 2022/SP, 2021/SP, 2020/SP, 2019/SP, and 2018/SP
REL-244 ST:Interfaith Relatns 5 2017/SP, 2016/FA, 2016/SP, 2015/FA, and 2015/SP
REL-225 Vocation in Germany 1 2017/JN
REL-344 ST:Interfaith Dialogue 1 2014/SP