Spirit christology with Leo Sanchez

Spirit Christology is not something you hear about every day. Leo Sánchez, Ph.D., briefly explains this theological concept and gives insight into his work at Concordia Seminary.

Reflecting on Spirit Christology

Dr. Leo Sánchez (CUW ’95) serves as a Professor of Systematic Theology at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO. In addition to his role as a professor, he is also the Director of the Center for Hispanic Studies. Recently, Dr. Sánchez shared a little about his background and path toward ministry in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. He also shared about his upcoming book, Introduction to Spirit Christology. This work is set to be released in November of 2021.

Note: Dr. Sánchez’s responses are written in italics. 

Tell us about yourself.

I was born in Chile and raised in Panama. When I was in high school, I came to the U.S. on a foreign exchange program. I lived with a family of farmers in Iowa with whom I began attending an LCMS congregation.

The desire to serve in the Lord’s church  eventually led me to complete a degree in theology at Concordia University Wisconsin. After that, I attended seminary at Concordia Theological Seminary. Following my time at Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, I pursued graduate studies at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis. I’ve been a faculty member there since 2004.

leopoldo sanchez discusses spirit christology
Dr. Leopoldo A. Sánchez’s work will be released in November 2021.

What is Spirit Christology?

Spirit Christology is the study of the role of the Holy Spirit in the life and mission of Christ. Consider, for example, how John the Baptist, referring to the baptism of Jesus at the Jordan, describes him as the one on whom the Spirit descends and remains, and as the one who baptizes others with the Holy Spirit (see John 1:33). A Spirit Christology reflects on the identity of Jesus Christ as the bearer and giver of God’s Spirit.


What inspired you to write on this topic?

My interest is this topic began with a desire to speak about the Holy Spirit in a way that linked him closely to Jesus, and through Jesus, to us. We tend to speak of the Spirit only in relationship to the church after the work of Jesus is completed.

But, a Spirit Christology looks at what the Spirit is doing with Jesus throughout his entire life and mission Jesus is conceived by the Holy Spirit, is anointed for mission with the Holy Spirit, proclaims the Word and drives out demons by the power of the Spirit, gives his life on the cross for us through the Holy Spirit, and is raised from the dead by the same Spirit. And Jesus does all this work “for us and for our salvation” (Nicene Creed).

A Spirit Christology also highlights the link between Christ and his disciples, between the Son and adopted sons (and daughters) of God. Not only does Jesus bear the Spirit for himself in his humanity, but he also gives us the Holy Spirit so that we can be formed into his likeness. Jesus gives us the Spirit to empower and shape us to be like him, namely, to be faithful to God and the servants of many.

Dr. Sánchez preaching at CUW’s Opening Service.

You’re the Director of the Center for Hispanic Studies (CHS). Can you tell us more about the mission of the CHS?

The Center for Hispanic Studies offers theological education and leadership in the Lutheran tradition from and for U.S. Hispanic/Latino communities. As the successor of the Hispanic Institute of Theology which started in Chicago in 1987, the CHS is the oldest ongoing Seminary formation program for pastors and deaconesses in the Spanish language in the LCMS. The Center advances and carries out its mission through ministerial formation programs, research and publication initiatives, and various continuing education and advanced studies opportunities (including a M.A. online taught in the Spanish language).


Tell us about your journey toward Seminary, first as a student and then as a professor.

God’s people in Iowa nourished my desire to serve the Lord. Then, the faculty at Concordia University Wisconsin, where I took my first full-blown theology classes, inspired me. A vicarage (internship) in Caracas, Venezuela, was one of the highlights of my seminary formation, as well as teaching U.S. Hispanic students during my doctoral studies. These formative experiences encouraged me to apply Lutheran theology in service to Hispanic neighbors—a task I continue to engage in my teaching and writing as a seminary professor today.


What do you love about teaching theology at the Seminary?

A big one is that I get to teach and advise students, as well as write and give presentations throughout the church, in two languages (English and Spanish)! I also enjoy leading graduate seminars and advising students in our M.A. and Ph.D. programs, who come from a variety of countries. I love to help students fulfill their dreams!

Are you interested in pursuing ministry?

Dr. Sánchez found his way toward ministry simply by attending worship and hearing God’s Word week after week. You could be that person sharing the Gospel with people and reminding them of God’s promises. Concordia University Wisconsin & Ann Arbor offers several programs that will equip you to serve in the Church and in your community.

These programs include:

  • Pre-Seminary
  • Lutheran teaching
  • Parish music
  • Director of Church Ministries
  • Family Life

If you want more information, feel free to visit us here.

— Vanessa Lane is the Content Marketing Lead at Concordia University and can be reached at vanessa.lane@cuaa.edu. When she's not at work, she can be found playing with her kids or watching NBA basketball with her husband.

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