Showing posts with label luther. Show all posts
Showing posts with label luther. Show all posts

Friday, May 11, 2012

Fighting Words

Page from a Gutenberg Bible (1454)
This week I stopped at the downtown public library and saw an exhibition of rare religious texts. With permission, I photographed some of the treasures they had on display. The images you see here are presented in the order of the document’s dating, oldest first.

Witness to the Generations

I meditated on these centuries-old relics for quite a while, considering the many human lifetimes that have passed since the words were pressed and penned onto their pages. Even back then, the sources of those words were already ancient. Most of the books were Bibles, their text copied or translated from a succession of painstakingly hand-copied manuscripts whose original sources have been almost entirely lost in antiquity.

Two columns of clean, bold type stared out at me from the page of a Gutenberg Bible, 558 years after the ink went dry. So much history has passed since then, so many generations born into lives that were “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short” (Thomas Hobbes, 1651). The black and red of the letters seemed not to have faded at all, unlike the colors of whoever pressed the type onto the page in Mainz, Germany–and his child, and that child, and so on. At least twenty generations of lives blooming and fading: a succession of pink-faced infancy transforming into the gray of old age and death, or worse, a dark red death on the endless battlefields of crusade and conquest.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Is Laestadianism really Lutheran?

FinnForge got me thinking about this question. While FinnForge seems very certain that true Laestadianism is Lutheran, I'm not so sure.

When I was looking to leave Laestadianism, the first places I checked out were the LCMS, WELS, ELCA, and other branches of Lutheranism. They seemed very strange and alien, having little in common with my childhood church.

The biggest difference that was most immediately apparent was liturgy. Lutheran churches had it, and Laestadian churches didn't have it. As far as style of worship was concerned, I always felt much more comfortable in Baptist churches than Lutheran ones.

Differences in worship style often reflect different theological convictions. I think a liturgical style underscores the communal aspects of faith. Churches that don't have liturgy often emphasize a more individualistic approach. Both Baptists and Laestadians (at least back in the beginnings of the movement) emphasize a very individualistic "new birth" as essential.

Maybe that's why Laestadians don't have liturgy, and seem so ambivalent about infant baptism (gotta do it, but don't ever say that it actually accomplishes anything.) I personally think that it's hard to understand what infant baptism is supposed to accomplish without an appreciation for liturgy. In the liturgy, the church corporately acts out the story of Christian faith; in baptism the participants are bearing witness to and making manifest what God has already done.

Another way that Laestadianism seems really different from Lutheranism is the emphasis on the total depravity of human beings. Maybe this comes from all the amped-up rhetoric in Laestadius' sermons --he needed to get people to the breaking point by any means possible so that they would experience "the awakened state" or "new birth." Whereas more Catholic, Anglican, or Lutheran notions of humanity would see them as created good by God but fallen and in need of redemption. A Laestadian view of human nature seems more similiar to Calvinism or the Baptists than Lutheranism.

What are some other things about Laestadianism that make it very different than other branches of Lutheranism?

See also: Pietism, Baptism, and Laestadianism

Tomte's thoughts on Baptism

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

More on FinnForge

I've had a chance to read a little bit more on FinnForge lately, and it's been intriguing. It seems to me like the author is trying to do the following things:

1) Place Laestadianism squarely within the Reformation tradition. In other words, FinnForge doesn't believe that Laestadius innovated doctrinally in any way, but rather hearkened back to Luther and especially the Augsburg Confession.

from A Brief Expose of Errors. . .

Laestadius was an ordained minister in the Lutheran Church of Sweden, who held firmly and taught boldly the Lutheran doctrine, applying it to the heart, and citing the Lutheran Confessions as right doctrine.

2) To the extent that the Apostolic Lutheran Church of America deviates from the unaltered Augsburg Confession it has fallen away from what FinnForge's author considers the truth. Even to the extent that if the ALC's doctrinal statement Principles of the Doctrine of Christ (particularly the 1996 revision) conflicts with the Lutheran confessions, then the Principles are wrong!

3) FinnForge is a right-wing critique of the present day state of the ALC. Its author seems to find the ALC's tendency to become more evangelical in its doctrine and worship disturbing. He wants to return to what he considers an earlier, purer form.

I see now the fruit of division after division, many young leaving our fellowship for other churches altogether, and worldliness coming into the church. I see new music, with guitars and drums, making a noise nothing like the song of a redeemed soul who has tasted of grace.

and

Their changes have moved us far from the truth, and have made the Apostolic Lutheran Church into another church altogether

I must say that I see no small amount of irony here. It seems classic Laestadianism to me for someone to try to hearken back to an earlier age and circle the wagons around some notion of spiritual/ideological purity. To my mind, this is why there are the variants on Laestadianism in the first place. Everyone who splits off and starts a new group thinks they are "right" or "hearkening back to what the founders originally intended."

At this point in time it doesn't look like FinnForge is trying to split off and start a new variant. I'll give him credit for that. On the other hand, I think he's fighting a losing battle. As I've written elsewhere, I think the current trends in the ALC are moving in the opposite direction of where he wants to go.

I can understand why FinnForge wants to reform his own denomination instead of leaving for a different one. As we "exes" are acutely aware, there is a downside to leaving Laestadianism --even if the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.

If FinnForge eventually decides to quit the ALC, fortunately there are versions of Lutheranism that purport to follow the Lutheran confessional documents very closely. I'd point him to either WELS or LCMS for starters.

See also: Change in the ALC

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Birthdays and Martin Luther Quotes

Our daughter wants a "teddy bear tea party" for her fourth birthday, and as we chat about cake and balloons and party games (pin the tail on the donkey, drop the clothespin in the jar, musical chairs), I'm reminded of Jane Austen's line "the anticipation of happiness is happiness itself." But on a parallel track, I'm trying to remember why the OALC is against birthday parties . . . or was that just my family's quirk?

Perhaps parties are considered too lightminded. More so than, say, bowling, smoking or snowmobiling?

Last week it was the birthday of Martin Luther, who happened to enjoy bowling, chess, lute-playing and um, getting drunk. That's right. Interesting guy. Can't imagine that he and Laestadius would have hit it off. (Click on title above for PBS special on Luther.)

Some Luther quotes:

"If I am not allowed to laugh in heaven, I don't want to go there."
"Some (preachers) plague the people with too long sermons; for the faculty of listening is a tender thing, and soon becomes weary and satiated. "
"Who loves not women, wine and song remains a fool his whole life long."
"My heart, which is so full to overflowing, has often been solaced and refreshed by music when sick and weary."
"God writes the Gospel not in the Bible alone, but also on trees, and in the flowers and clouds and stars."