State church

Richard Neuhaus once said that the habit of associating Lutheranism with Germany–then blaming Lutheranism for what’s bad in German culture–is misplaced.  Germany has always had a mix of many religious traditions:  not just Lutheranism but Roman Catholicism, Calvinism, anabaptists, etc., etc.   If you want to see Lutheranism’s cultural influence, he said, look at the Scandinavian countries, whose only church, pretty much, has been Lutheran.  More than Prussian militarism, he said, you could argue that Lutheranism helped inspire the Scandinavian welfare state.  (More on that welfare state later!)

I met a member of the conservative theological faculty at the University of Aarhus who studied at Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, IN.  He fondly recalled the classes of Dr. David Scaer, who told him, “I love Denmark.  Everyone is Lutheran.  Even the cows are Lutheran.”

And yet, the Scandinavian state churches, with their near religious monopoly, have become extremely liberal in their official hierarchy.  I don’t know about the cows, but the churches are not always confessionally Lutheran any more.  And yet, there are confessional Lutherans in the country, not just in Inner Mission, but in the state church.  I’m going to run a series of posts telling about some of the paradoxical things I’ve learned about the church situation in Denmark (where I spent most of my time) and the other Scandinavian countries, in the course of which I’ll also pose some questions that you can help me with. [Read more...]

Scandinavia’s two tracks of Christianity

The Scandinavian countries are often called among the most secular in the world, with researchers citing the low rate of weekly church attendance (only 3% in Denmark).  But what goes on in the state churches is only part of the story of Christianity in northern Europe. There is the church, but there are also the Mission organizations.

The Pietist movement, as early as the 18th century, was accompanied by the rise of independent groups and organizations in which Christian laity met for spiritual growth and good works.  In Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland, these groups came together as “Mission” organizations and institutionalized themselves as part of the nation’s religious culture.

The “Outer Mission” sent countless missionaries around the world and is largely responsible for Africa today being one of the most Lutheran areas in the world.  The “Inner Mission” took on the task of evangelism and promotion of the faith inside their countries.

The state church is theologically liberal.  Inner Mission is theologically conservative. [Read more...]

Exorcising a whole country

Roman Catholic archbishops and exorcists met together to conduct an “Exorcismo Magno,” with the purpose of casting the demons out of the entire country of Mexico.  Read this on whether to exorcise the United States. [Read more...]

Aussie Lutherans vote not to ordain women

The Lutheran Church of Australia once again voted NOT to ordain women. [Read more...]

Greek soteriology?

I stumbled upon this post from 2012 on The Old Jamestown Church, a “Classical Anglican” blog, written by an ex-Orthodox, now Anglican, priest on the issues Westerners considering Orthodoxy would need to deal with.  I don’t want to stir anything up with my Orthodox friends and readers, but the author made an intriguing point–bolstered by a quotation from the distinguished church historian Alister McGrath–that I wanted to run past you for your thoughts.

He said that the Early Church worked out the important theological foundations of the Trinity and Christology.  But the next important question, soteriology–how we are saved–was not, at first, fully resolved in the same way.  St. Augustine did the heavy lifting, but the issue was still being worked out through the Middle Ages, culminating in the Reformation.  But the Greek churches were already going their own way, mostly rejecting Augustine’s work, and favoring a Hellenized take on the Hebrew Scriptures.  As a result, he says, Orthodox soteriology is very different from Western soteriology, whether Roman Catholic or Protestant.

Read the excerpt after the jump.  Can anyone speak to whether this analysis of church history is valid?  Are these differences exaggerated?  Is there a way any such differences can be reconciled, such as the effects of Baptism and Holy Communion?  Where does the “Finnish School” of Luther studies, which says that Luther advocated a kind of theosis consistent with Orthodoxy, fit into this debate? [Read more...]

Anti-Christian violence?

Most of the media discussions about the shootings in Oregon, in which nine people were killed and ten more wounded, are about the availability of fire-arms.  But another theme may be more to the point:  The killer reportedly was targeting Christians.

Some are disputing or downplaying that now, so we may know more as the investigation proceeds.  But, still, this may be a case of anti-Christian violence. [Read more...]