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Although most of this week’s posts concern today’s United Methodist Church, it is helpful to look at how the word ‘United’ came to preface the denomination’s name.

I’ll look at that aspect in more detail tomorrow; in short, the Methodists merged with one of the United Brethren churches in 1968.

A past post discussed the history of the Methodist Church in the United States and Great Britain. You might wish to read that first before proceeding, as there are many interesting parallels between them and the pietist United Brethren.

The United Brethren (UB) were the first homegrown denomination of the United States.

The Church of the United Brethren in Christ, USA, tells the story. Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

The denomination came about during the time of the Great Awakenings, which featured George Whitefield and other evangelists who travelled around the American colonies preaching the Gospel. In the countryside, revivals took place in large barns or other places which could accommodate large numbers of people for days at a time.

And so it was in rural Pennsylvania:

Isaac Long hosted a Great Meeting at his big barn in Lancaster, Pa. Martin Boehm, a Mennonite preacher, told his story of becoming a Christian and a minister. It deeply moved William Otterbein, a German Reformed pastor. Otterbein left his seat, embraced Boehm, and said loud enough for everyone to hear, “Wir sind bruder.” (Oh—we spoke German back then.) Otterbein’s words meant, “We are brethren.”

Out of this revival movement came a new denomination which took its name from Otterbein’s words: United Brethren in Christ.

Otterbein was well-educated and came from a long line of ordained ministers. Boehm was from a modest background. Yet, despite Otterbein’s expansive personality and Boehm’s humbler persona, the two men found much in common with regard to their theology.

Their Brethren movement spread westward to Ohio. However, it was not formally organised as a denomination until 1800, when they held their first annual conference. It was decided that the name of the movement would be known as Church of the United Brethren in Christ. Both Boehm and Otterbein were elected bishops. By then, they were in their mid-70s.

Like the Methodists, the Brethren had circuit riders — lay evangelists who rode on horseback around the countryside to preach. (The circuit was their territory, probably near the size of a diocese that older denominations have.)

The Brethren’s circuit riders were unpaid. Yet, thanks to them, the church expanded westward from Ohio to neighbouring Indiana. Local Brethren congregations had a lay leader in charge who could conduct services between circuit rider visits. The circuit riders were held in high esteem, similar to pastors, moreso than the caretaker local lay leaders.

Older denominations would no doubt have disparaged the circuit riders because they had no formal theological training. As with the Methodists, all a man had to do was to express a love for the Bible and the desire to preach. There were no seminaries for them at the time — also true for the Methodists — so a rudimentary instruction took place and the riders went off to mission.  It’s interesting that the Brethren preferred uneducated circuit riders to ordained ministers because it was less likely that a seminary education would cloud their view of the Gospel.

By the mid-19th century, however, the Brethren opened colleges which admitted not only men but also women. Otterbein College in Ohio, along the Underground Railroad which helped slaves to escape to freedom, went a step further and enrolled blacks. The college president’s home was a stop on the Underground Railroad.

In 1853:

a mission agency was organized under the cumbersome name “Home, Frontier, and Foreign Missionary Society.” That year, we launched our first missionary venture. A wagon train of UB people journeyed from Iowa to Oregon, where they intended to start United Brethren churches. There were 38 oxen-pulled wagons, 98 persons, and 300 head of cattle on the Oregon Trail. The trip took five months. Quite a missionary venture! The movement had now spread from coast to coast.

The United Brethren exist in the Pacific Northwest to this day.

Three decades later, the UB were well organised with six bishops, a confession of faith, church hierarchy and constitution. In 1889, they split because of disagreements over proposed changes to their constitution.

Wilbur and Orville Wright’s father Milton — one of the six UB bishops — voted against the proposed changes. He was the only one to do so.

Although Wright’s congregations only numbered several thousand, they adhered to the original UB documents. He is the father of the UB as they exist today.

However, they had no access to the other UB institutions, including seminaries and publishing houses. Wright and his clergy had to build the foundations from scratch.

In 1897:

a denominational headquarters and a publishing house were established in Huntington, Ind. So was a denominational college: Huntington University.

During the 20th and 21st century, Wright’s branch of the UB went on to establish missions and churches overseas. Today, only 40% of these churches are in the United States. National UB meetings are held and national leaders gather together every three years at General Conference.

By now, you must be wondering if there were two United Brethren churches going by the same name after the split in the 19th century. There were.

Among the United Brethren, Wright’s confessionalist church was known as ‘the Radicals’. The UB majority which changed the original church constitution were known as ‘the Liberals’.

In 1946, the Liberals merged with the Evangelical Association to form the Evangelical United Brethren Church. Their acronym became EUB.

In 1968, the EUB merged with the Methodist Church. This new denomination became known as the United Methodist Church.

Yesterday’s post reproduced a comment elsewhere from a Methodist who holds the EUB’s emphasis on the social gospel responsible for the United Methodist Church’s decline. However, former EUB members point the finger at the Methodists.

More on that tomorrow.

As yesterday’s post said, a small yet significant number of notional Christians have been moving into more extreme movements and churches in recent years.

Since I started this blog over four years ago, I’ve read more about groups old and new attracting more adherents to live a ‘holier’ life in Christ.

Of course, there is the centuries-old pietism, a questionable reaction to established churches in Germany, Scandinavia and Britain. A number of smaller sects, cults and independent borrowed heavily from it, as did some strands of Methodism. The Holiness churches are one example of this blending.

More recent movements are the curious Islamic-inspired family-centred movements which appoint the father as God’s representative of the household, dictating what wife and children may or must do and when. This includes the veiling of women in church and the lack of higher education available to female members of a household. The running of the house assumes an Islamic template in the use of corporal punishment by husbands on wives.

There is also an odd syncretism of Catholicism and Protestantism in the Federal Vision (FV) movement which over the past several years has become a fringe attraction for a small number of Calvinists in Flyover Country. Clergy dress like Catholic priests. A clear and reactionary ‘complementarianism’ of male and female roles is encouraged. Theonomy is a big theme; if only we could help Christ establish His kingdom — He needs our help (no!). Splinter FV groups advocate strict racial separation; the misguided get so mixed up in this that they do not hesitate to relocate in order to follow one of these pastors, who ends up establishing his own church because a Reformed denomination has rightly put him out to pasture.

And, in the midst of all this is the late 20th century Messianic Christianity: the Hebrew Roots Movement, Jews for Jesus, Sacred Name Movement and suchlike. Their followers are what the Epistles of Paul and Book of Acts referred to as Judaizers. I’ll get to that in a moment.

First, however, continuing from yesterday’s post, the Reformed minister Reed DePace wrote more on the subject for Green Baggins. DePace has strong views on the subject of the Hebrew Roots Movement, as he has a family friend — a former orthodox Protestant — who has begun following them. He has also counselled other families who became involved in this movement.

In ‘Gentle-Hardness with the Hebrew Roots Movement’, DePace writes (emphases in bold mine):

Let me say up front that the more I hear from proponents of the HRM the more I am persuaded it is a modern form of the Pharisaical-Judaizing heresy condemned in Scripture. More broadly I think these criticisms also apply to a large part of the Messianic Christianity movement (MCM). This follows because the HRM is both a child of the MCM and is the deep doctrinal well which waters the growth of the MCM. I recognize that there exist Messianic Jews who shun with horror the errors of the HRM and more broadly those in the MCM. My criticisms do not apply to them.

In my own pastoral calling I’ve have had to help families affected by the HRM/MCM. It was this need that first prompted my study of this subject a couple of years back. In part I sympathize with those attracted to the HRM/MCM. I acknowledge and affirm their desire for a better relationship with God.

One of the greatest sadnesses in my community is the problem of gospel-presumptive Christians. These are not nominal Christians, folks who are nothing more than culturally Christian. No, these are folks for whom Christianity is a regular part of their everyday life. They have a rudimentary grasp of the basics of the gospel. Yet they have little practical understanding of how to live by the gospel (Rom 1:16-17, Gal 2:20, Col 2:6-7, etc.). As a result they are left to trying to live the Christian life through the use of their own resources (i.e., living by sight, not by faith; 2Co 5:7). So when such folks run across a new (old) teaching that promises a whole new experience of God’s power; that offers out the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise of the abundant life (John 10:10), it is understandable how the HRM can be attractive to them.

The problem is that what is attracting them is not a better understanding of the gospel at all but something straight from the pit of Hell.

I was surprised to read in his third post, ‘Of Tzitzits, Tallits and Traditions’, that some of these HRM adherents — men — are wearing Jewish prayer garments.

In anglicized Hebrew the prayer shawl is called a tallit, the tassels are called tzitzits. Sit down with any Messianic Christian who uses a tallit with tzitzits and ask them to explain the practice. Very quickly they will be offering you arguments based on men’s traditions – NOT the Scriptures ...

It is hard to understand how this practice of the Mosaic Law is nothing more than a tradition of man. Therefore, to insist that in any manner its practice is even advisable for Christians, is to teach as holy what Jesus condemned as wicked.

DePace adds in the comments:

Spend some time looking at websites these folks frequent and you’ll see that they are teaching a new version of the old Pharisaical heresy, to wit that Torah keeping is still required of Christians. They can dress it up, massage it, tweak it any way they wish. At the bottom of all their arguments is this simple teaching: Torah keeping is necessary for the Christian in his relationship with God.

A commenter, JGIG, observes:

Also important to note here is that Torah folk are not focused on passing on the Life of Christ to the Lost; they are primarily focused on teaching Christians to become Torah observant. You will not hear them tell of spreading the Gospel to the nations, but of spreading Torah to the nations. The spreading of the Gospel, the message of the forgiveness of sins and the free gift of eternal life that the Apostles constantly risked and nearly all of them eventually lost their lives for, is not the Law keepers’ priority.

This makes them every bit the Judaizers that Paul preached so strongly against in the letter to the Galatians.

That said, I do not condemn them (the Law will eventually do that); most HRMers get into Law ‘keeping’ because they love and want to please God. Unfortunately, they come under a false belief system because they don’t have a firm grasp of

Who Jesus is
What He came to do
What that actually accomplished, and
Who we as believers are in Him.

When one has a firm grasp on those things, false teachings tend to fall away.

I guess I would just gently exhort you to not dismiss the HRM as just another ‘denomination’; they are not. They are preaching another gospel and also another jesus (they believe that Jesus/Yeshua is the Living Torah) – do not underestimate the damage they are doing in the Body [of the Church].

Going back to the ‘Gentle-Hardness’ post, DePace outlines the New Testament timeline of those in error between Torah and Gospel. This is well worth reading, especially for those who are directly impacted by family or friends in this movement as well as pastors who are counselling same:

AD 39-40: The Church in Jerusalem concluded that God has rescinded the Mosaic Law’s Jew-Gentile separation provisions (Acts 10-11).
AD 49-50 (the exact order of the following series is immaterial to the points being made):

  • Paul confronts Peter and Barnabas for their hypocrisy in separating themselves from Gentile believers in the Church in Galatia.
  • Later, Paul writes to the Galatians to warn them in the strongest terms against (supposed) Christians who were teaching them that Gentile believers needed to keep the Mosaic ceremonial/worship laws in order to be right with God.
  • The Church concluded that Gentile believers ARE NOT to be subjected to the ceremonial/worship provisions of the Mosaic Law (Acts 15).

AD 62-68 (again, the exact dates for writing each of these is immaterial to the points made):

  • Paul writes (First) Timothy, offering him instruction for his pastoral duties (Ephesian Church).
  • Paul writes to Titus, giving him counsel on his pastoral duties (Cretan Church).
  • Paul writes further instruction to (Second) Timothy in the discharge of his pastoral duties.
  • In all three letters one of the critical issues Paul addressed was the heresy of the Judaizers, those who would require Gentile Christians to practice the Mosaic ceremonial/worship laws.

Did you follow the progression of these things? From eliminating Jew-Gentile separation, to removal of Mosaic law provisions on Gentiles, to fighting against those who would place Christians back under slavery to the Mosaic Law.

DePace helpfully provides a list of New Testament verses which refute the Judaizers — and legalism. They were applicable at the time and continue to be so today. This is a useful collection of verses to use with legalists. Here are but a few:

Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in– who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery– to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. (Gal 2:4-5)

You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. (Gal 5:4)

As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. (1Ti 1:3-4)

If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. (1Ti 6:3-5)

Let us pray for those enslaved by legalism — religious or secular. Much of it is based on heresy.

Whilst reading an article on the late painter Marc Chagall, born Moyshe (Moses) Shagal, in the Summer 2013 issue of Art Quarterly, I happened upon an explanation of Hasidic Judaism which I hope will interest you as much as it did me.

The following comes from an article — ‘An Angel in His Head’ — by poet, novelist and art critic Sue Hubbard on pages 58-61 of the magazine. Art Quarterly is sent to members of the Art Fund, which helps to keep British art and masterpieces which have been here for centuries in our country.

This is from page 60:

Hasidic Judaism — which means ‘piety’ — promotes spirituality through the popularisation of Jewish mysticism. Founded in Eastern Europe in the 18th century by Rabbi Israel Ball Shem Tov as a reaction against overly legalistic Judaism, Hasidic teachings cherished the sincerity and concealed holiness of the unlettered common folk. Many of these Jews tended to live in scattered villages far removed from intellectual centres. This populist emotional revival encouraged the belief that the ‘Immanent Divine’ resided in everything — something that gives a clue to Chagall’s internal world. This was emphasised by prayer and deeds of kindness that sat alongside the rabbinical tradition of study.

Many years ago, I read three Martin Buber books, full of teachings from the Eastern European Hasidic rabbis of that period. They were a pleasure. Tales of the Hasidim was my favourite Buber volume, and a copy of it is in my book collection. I highly recommend it. Not only are there many practical proverbs and folkloric anecdotes from the rabbis but guidance towards a life well lived through faith in God.

It is fascinating that both Christians and Jews gravitated towards pietism around the same time and for the same reasons. In each case, villagers rebelled against either an established Church or legalistic Judaism, both of which must have seemed remote to them. Fiddler on the Roof is a good example of Jewish pietism.

Christians might have had less of the mystical element in their pietism, but in both theirs and in the Hasidic counterpart, holiness, emotion, love, good deeds combined with a populist outlook to create an all-encompassing way of life.

Those who enjoy Chagall’s art know it revolves around love, a strong pietistic theme for both Christians and Jews.

Hubbard tells us (p. 58) that when Chagall was born in Vitebsk in Belarus near the Polish border in 1887, his parents — Yiddish speakers — found him a lifeless newborn. They pricked him with needles to elicit a reaction. They had no luck. So, they placed him in a trough of freezing water. Eventually, he whimpered.

He was a rather weak boy and young man. He had a stammer and was known to faint. To make up for this, his inner world became dreamlike and once he began painting, he chose love as his theme.

As would befit the pietist Hasidim, his family disapproved of Chagall’s boyhood interest in art (p. 60). They believe that none of God’s creation should be depicted graphically. He managed to grind his mother down enough to allow him to enrol in a local art class. However, once Chagall turned to art, one of his uncles refused to shake his hand.

In 1906, Chagall studied in St Petersburg at the Imperial Society for the Encouragement of Fine Art. He left discouraged at the emphasis on classicist training he received. He later enrolled in the city’s Zvantseva School.

In 1911, he moved to Paris to continue painting. He was truly poverty-stricken and painted privately in the nude in order to save his threadbare clothes further wear and tear. He ate only half a herring a day. It took him a while to make friends in the city. He was not yet attending any art school, he did not speak French and he was under suspicion because he was a Jew. Eventually, he enrolled at the Académie La Palette and the Académie de la Grande Chaumière. In time, he made friends with a few other Jewish artists, Amedeo Modigliani among them. Cubism and Orphism were popular artistic themes of the day. In literature, Symbolism was all the rage; Chagall also got to know the poet Guillaume Apollinaire.

However, love called him back to Vitebsk in 1914 (p. 61). He married Bella Rosenfeld, who came from a local wealthy family singularly unimpressed by Chagall’s general scruffiness. You might recall his painting of two lovers flying — that was meant to be him and Bella soaring over Vitebsk.

The Great War kept him in Vitebsk and he was appointed the city’s commissar for art. However, the city’s art school disliked Chagall’s style of art. They wanted the social realism of the fomenting Revolution. Chagall had supported the Revolution because he believed it would be good for the Jews, liberating them from the urban ghettos and rural shtetls, putting an end to decades of pogroms.

Chagall and Bella eventually moved to New York via Berlin and Paris. Chagall was unhappy in New York. Just as in Paris, his lack of language skills held him back. By now — 1941 — the Second World War was underway. Then, three years later, Bella died of a viral infection. He thought he had reached the abyss. After some time, he met a woman named Virginia McNeil. They had a son together, David, who took his mother’s surname. Virginia left him after seven years. Chagall’s daughter by Bella — Ida — then introduced him to a Russian, Valentina Brodsky, who became his housekeeper and, in time, his second wife.

Although Chagall knew the various artistic movements, some of the major artists of his time and was partially influenced by them, in the end he wrote (p. 61):

Only love interests me and I am only in contact with things that revolve around love … Art seems to me to be above all a state of soul … Let them eat their fill of their square pears on their triangular tables.

Those living in or near — or who plan to visit — Liverpool can view the exhibition ‘Chagall: Modern Master’ at the Tate Liverpool from 8 June to 6 October 2013.

Many Western Christians on both sides of the political spectrum feel called to ‘biblically transform’ society. How much should we do in this regard?

R Scott Clark has many resources on the Reformation concept of two kingdoms (2K), divine and civil, which Lutherans and Calvinists largely adhere to, although there are exceptions. Many Catholics also separate their church and civic lives.

In an April 2010 Heidelblog post, Dr Clark discussed the 2K concept with one of his readers, Tim. Tim asks the following by way of explanation (emphases mine):

I just returned from a weekend visiting friends and their emergent church that they go to. The person, “the grassroots pastor”, who leads this emergent community reads a lot of Richard Rohr, Rob Bell, Brian Mc[L]aren, especially Greg Boyd, and surprisingly N.T. Wright. In fact, almost every spiritually conversation I had, someone mentioned something about N.T.Wright. And in those same conversations the favorite phrase that always jumped out most was “the kingdom of God”. Now here is a reactionary community that is rebelling from pietistic fundamentalism which taught them their Christian lives are only as meaningful as their involvement in evangelism. This same emergent community now seeks to justify all their lives in terms of the service and being “agents of the new creation” to spread the “kingdom of God.” On Sunday morning the “grassroots pastor” said “the kingdom of God” essentially means everybody doing their share and “serving their brains out”. At the end of the service, the pastor pointed to the table in the back where United Way provided hundreds of ways to volunteer in their local city. And he encouraged everyone to sign up for at least one volunteer organization. The “grassroots pastor” said Christians are in the business of serving people, of volunteering, of ushering in the kingdom of God, of being conduits of the new creation. He said Christians are to be “ministers of the reconciliation.” This was a sermon full of imperatives. And I left feeling condemned especially because I am not “serving my brains out.” So my questions are:

1.To what extent does God call us to be agents of new creation involved in spreading the kingdom of God?
2.Does preaching like this, with emphasis on “serving our brains out”, fall under preaching Law and not Gospel?
3.Does serving the poor or doing other charitable work means someone is being a “minister of reconciliation” or does this phrase have a different meaning in the Bible?
4. What would you add to better explain what Guy Waters meant with his quote above?

To which Dr Clark replies:

… This is a category of analysis that the emergent guys, who are really just pietists with hip glasses, don’t have. They assume a transformationalist model of social engagement. My question is this: where in the NT is social transformation unequivocally taught? I can show where we are clearly and unequivocally taught to do our work in this world quietly but I’m hard pressed to find a single, clear, unequivocal command to transform society.

No question whether God is sovereign over all things. The question is: how has God willed to administer his sovereignty over all things? I would say that he has willed to do so in two distinct spheres. The KOG [Kingdom of God] is primarily (solely?) manifested in the visible, institutional church to which he has given the keys of the kingdom. Christians also live in what we may call the common realm or which Zacharias Ursinus called the kingdom of God most broadly considered — that is the realm of his general providence. In that realm Christians serve Christ but not by “transforming” the common but by being faithful in the common realm to their vocations and to the Lordship of Christ. Christians are Christians 7 days a week but not everything they do is under the Kingdom narrowly considered

Tim seeks clarification:

So McLaren insists we are to seek justice. Or as N.T.Wright would say, ” putting the world back to rights.” Furthermore, emergent types will go to passsages like Mat[t]hew 25:31-46 and say, “Look there, Jesus says “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’” So they will say helping the poor, the powerless, the widows, the hungry, the sick, the imprisoned is a major part of spreading the KOG. Another words as the “grassroots pastor” mentioned, “serving our brains out” is the way the KOG spreads. How would you respond to these issues I raised above? Thanks.

Dr Clark responds:

I wouldn’t trust Brian McLaren to help me understand anything let alone God’s Word … The truth is that the whole over-realized eschatology proposed by BM is no more than modern day revival of the Anabaptist eschatology [‘end times’ study].

Show me one concrete, unequivocal, passage where were are called to transform society. I didn’t ask for a deduction or an inference. It can’t be done because it doesn’t exist. The NT never once called Christians to transform anything. They are called to be transformed. The church as such is called to be transformed and Christians are called to fulfill their vocations in the world before God under his Lordship.

And this is but one of the exchanges and blog posts from Dr Clark — as well as his colleagues at Westminster Seminary California and Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia — which got me interested in Calvinism.

Now, there are derivatives of John Knox (Calvin asked him to dial down the rhetoric and persecution) as well as Cromwell, not to mention today’s American Evangelicals in strange attire who are well meaning but are largely agenda-driven. They are derivatives of Christianity to such an extent that they are unbiblical.

And this is where we find ourselves today.

We Christians must choose our battles wisely.

This is what makes many wary of so-called ‘prophets’ and ‘believers’ of the past few decades who dishonour Christ and His redemptive power with their efforts to transform society through legalism, whether Left or Right.

Reading about Andy Griffith’s demise at the age of 86, millions of Americans must have felt as if part of them had died, too. I know I did.

Although many television fans around the world connect Griffith with his later incarnation as Matlock, for Baby Boomers and their parents, Sheriff Andy Taylor represented the best father and wisest sheriff in America!

Surprisingly, Griffith never won an Emmy for his role as Andy Taylor. However, he was such a great actor that many Americans were shocked to see his promotional advertisements for Barack Obama co-starring television son Opie, director Ron Howard.

SpouseMouse (who is English) and I happened to see his campaign announcement for Obama in 2008. Our jaws dropped. We looked at each other and asked, ‘Did Opie talk him into this? Or was he always a Lefty?’

Almost every thread that allows comments on Griffith’s obituary has many from disappointed, if not angry, Americans. We had connected Griffith so closely with Andy Taylor — a modern-day Solomon — that it seemed inconceivable he would promote any political candidate. Sheriff Taylor would have said, ‘This is a free country and I’m not going to influence your choice.’

I don’t know who was behind those adverts, but if it was an Obama operative, it was a cynical move which probably didn’t work very well with devoted viewers of The Andy Griffith Show.  Regardless, this serves to illustrate how closely a good actor is linked with his principal role — and how much we are mistaken in drawing a conclusion between person and persona.

However, although raised early on as a Baptist, Griffith later joined a pietist denomination, the Moravian Church. Many pietists are left-of-centre in their utopian emphasis on love and harmony. And it turns out that Griffith did support Democrat candidates in North Carolina. There are a number of Moravian congregations in Griffith’s home state of North Carolina.

His obituary on Fox News stated:

Griffith was born in 1926 in Mount Airy and as a child sang and played slide trombone in the band at Grace Moravian Church. He studied at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and for a time contemplated a career in the ministry. But he eventually got a job teaching high school music in Goldsboro.

Moravians settled in the coastal Southern states during colonial days. Regular readers will recall Methodism’s John Wesley. Wesley became an Arminian — free-will Protestant — through his encounters with them:

The Wesleys, together with the members of the Holy Club, developed a methodical way to achieve what they saw as a sanctified, obedient life. This rigid system of holiness would become known as Methodism.  The word ‘pietist’ was initially used by those critical of the movement; and so it was with the word ‘Methodist’, used against the Holy Club by its critics at Oxford.

The Wikipedia entry on pietism describes the German influence on Wesley as coming from both the Lutherans and the Moravians:

Moravians (e.g., Zinzendorf, Peter Bohler) and Pietists connected to Francke and Halle Pietism.

However, Wesley’s first encounter with their pietism initially occurred not in Germany but on his journey to North America with Charles in 1735.

A storm broke one of the ship’s masts en route to the American colonies. The story has it that, whilst the English (Anglicans and/or Calvinists) panicked, the Moravians on board remained calm by praying and singing hymns.  Their reaction impressed John Wesley, and he befriended them …

Once Wesley arrived in the southern colony of Georgia at the invitation of Governor James Oglethorpe to head a new congregation in the city of Savannah, he maintained his connections with Moravian pastors which affected his ministry there adversely …

Upon his return to England, John Wesley continued his Moravian associations.

Moravians in London worshipped in Aldersgate Street, then at the Fetter Lane Society, which Peter Böhler established in 1738. Both Wesleys and George Whitefield, as well as other Anglican clergy and laypeople, began attending Moravian services …

The Moravian worship style at the Fetter Lane Society was typically pietistic, inducing meaningful religious experiences, surges in emotion and a subjective notion of the presence of God …

Back now to Andy Griffith’s life. Twice divorced, he married a third time and left a widow, Cindi Knight, as well as a daughter from his first marriage to Barbara Bray Edwards.  In 1996, he recorded a CD of hymns which went platinum and won a Grammy Award the following year.

Griffith was buried within five hours of his death. Fox News tells us that he was a private person (emphases mine):

Griffith protected his privacy by building a circle of friends who revealed little to nothing about him. Strangers who asked where Griffith lived in Manteo [North Carolina] would receive circular directions that took them to the beach, said William Ivey Long, the Tony Award-winning costume designer whose parents were friends with Griffith and his first wife, Barbara.

Griffith helped Long’s father build the house where the family lived in a community of bohemian artists with little money, sharing quart jars of homemade vegetable soup with each other.

[Close friend Craig] Fincannon described Griffith as the symbol of North Carolina, a role that “put heavy pressure on him because everyone felt like he was their best friend. With great grace, he handled the constant barrage of people wanting to talk to Andy Taylor.”

The Andy Griffith Show started a trend on CBS for rural sitcoms in or of the South — The Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres and Petticoat Junction among them. This genre continued throughout the 1960s until the head of the network, Fred Silverman, pulled the plug on them and made a dramatic switch to purely urban comedy shows which have continued from the 1970s to the present day.

This programming switch is now referred to as the rural purge. It also affected the two other main networks in making shows more ‘relevant’:

The numerous cancellations prompted Pat Buttram (“Mr. Haney” on one of the canceled shows, Green Acres) to make the observation: “It was the year CBS canceled everything with a tree—including Lassie“;[2][3] Lassie actually survived the initial rural purge.

The first rurally-themed show canceled by Silverman was Petticoat Junction. In September 1970, The Mary Tyler Moore Show premiered on CBS. All in the Family premiered in January 1971 as a mid-season replacement. Both series provided the urban demographic, cutting-edge social relevance and ratings that CBS sought.[citation needed] These ratings successes prompted Silverman and the network to cancel Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies, Mayberry R.F.D., Hee Haw, Lassie, and The Jim Nabors Hour at the end of the 1970-71 season. Another series, The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour lasted until the end of the 1971-72 season.

ABC also was looking for younger audiences, and in May 1971 canceled shows that skewed toward rural viewers (such as The Johnny Cash Show) or older viewers (Make Room for Granddaddy and The Lawrence Welk Show). NBC also targeted rural and older oriented programs in its cuts, eliminating long-running programs such as Wild Kingdom, The Andy Williams Show and The Virginian, all of which ran nine seasons or more.

Several shows were still popular when the axe fell:

What made these cancellations puzzling were the fact that they had come prior to 1970, at a time when CBS had yet to air any of their more “sophisticated” shows and gauge their popularity with the television audience. The success of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, All in the Family, and newer variety shows such as The Flip Wilson Show and The Carol Burnett Show in 1970 would allow for the mass cancellations of most of the now “undesired shows” at the end of 1971 despite their high ratings and popularity. Both Green Acres and The Beverly Hillbillies had dropped from the Nielsen top 30 by the 1970-71 season, yet both shows continued to win their respective time slots and had a loyal following, warranting renewal for another season. Other shows that were still pulling in even higher ratings when canceled included Mayberry R.F.D. which finished the season at number 15, Hee Haw at number 16, and The Jim Nabors Hour at number 29.[7]Nevertheless, the course had been set by the networks and the shows were cancelled to free up the schedules for newer shows.

The inclusion of demographics into determining a series’ worth to its sponsors meant that high ratings alone did not necessarily warrant a series for renewal. Series such as ABC’s The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family were never truly a ratings hit; however, both series appealed to a younger demographic and thus were renewed for three more seasons.

It would seem reasonable to conclude that the shift to nearly exclusive urban and suburban settings — with certain subsequent exceptions, e.g. The Waltons and Little House on the Prairie — helped to shape the opinions of America’s viewers. The result was that ‘urban’ was seen as ‘desirable’ and ‘rural’ as ‘backward‘. I would enjoy reading a critique of this, if it exists, showing that the shift helped to denigrate the America which lies between the two coasts. My hypothesis is that the rural purge indirectly gave rise to the term ‘Flyover Country’ and explains why the South is still so despised, despite the fact that many Northerners have moved there for lower taxes or to reunite with families whom they left in the 1950s and 1960s. And let us not forget the clement winter weather and the springtime magnolias which rival England’s!

The Andy Griffith Show differed from the other rural shows, partly because it was modelled on Griffith’s home town of Mount Airy. Griffith loved North Carolina, and the show reflected this. As other journalists have pointed out, we laughed with the characters — not at them.

Griffith’s show demonstrated man’s fallibility in a poignant, instructive yet positive way. We knew that they wanted to do the right thing but, like all humans, couldn’t. Although not outwardly intended as such, the sitcom showed man’s tendency to sin and the healing which biblical values (mercy, forgiveness, obedience) produced. Every episode ended with balanced reconciliation and resolution. Griffith poured his Moravian faith into this gentle comedy, which was full of fun moments.

Viewers are still picking up on this, even if they are unaware of it, because the show has never been off the air since cancellation in 1968. It’s been running for 52 years, most of that time in syndication.

Most of the cast have now gone to their rest. George Lindsey, who played Goober, died in May 2012. Jim Nabors, who went on to star in the spinoff series Gomer Pyle, USMC, is still alive as, of course, is Ron Howard who played Andy’s son Opie.

Griffith and Don Knotts — Deputy Barney Fife — were close friends in real life and remained so until Knotts’s death in 2006. From the start of the show, Griffith let Knotts carry the comedy, for which he won five Emmy Awards.  Griffith decided to play the ‘straight man’, demonstrating fairness and wisdom. Many were the times Sheriff Andy rescued his deputy from a potential accident with his firearm!

Just as Andy Taylor treated everyone equally, he was also an exemplary father to his son Opie. The online obituary comments reveal that children from dysfunctional homes found comfort and encouragement in the programme: there really were good parental models to follow. Those half-hour episodes showed them the positive side of family life.

In 1996, NBC’s Today show featured a series on famous police shows. In this clip, presenter Matt Lauer interviews Griffith and Knotts. They explain how, although the show was set in the present-day, it also portrayed the Mount Airy, NC, which Griffith knew during the 1930s. Yet, even the small Southern town where my family and I lived for a season in the mid-1960s (job transfer for Dad), was similar to the fictional Mayberry — whilst imperfect, there was virtually no crime and many neighbourly values were evident.

Without further ado, here’s the video. Griffith explains that they purposely wanted to keep the show clean and ‘pure’, taking out any questionable jokes:

The next clip is from the backdoor pilot for The Andy Griffith Show. It was an episode of Make Room for Daddy, starring the late Danny Thomas (Marlo’s father). Thomas, travelling through Mayberry, gets stopped for speeding. He spends time in the cells. Andy Taylor is not only the sheriff but also the Justice of the Peace and the local newspaper editor. Here we see his wisdom as a lawman and shades of Matlock’s canny questioning:

In closing, some fans of the show might be unaware that the theme tune, which Griffith did not whistle, actually has lyrics. Here Griffith sings The Fishin’ Hole:

Rest in peace, Andy — and thanks for the enduring memories!

Further reading:

Andy Griffith – Wikipedia

Rural purge – Wikipedia

‘Legendary television actor Andy Griffith dead at 86’ – Fox News

‘Why People Love The Andy Griffith Show‘ – RCP

‘Andy Griffith sings original lyrics … – Zap2it

‘Andy Griffith — already buried’ – TMZ

‘George “Goober” Lindsey dead …’ – TMZ

Yesterday’s post concerned the legacy of Charles Grandison Finney, one of America’s foremost evangelists — and Pelagians — of the 19th century. Even today, his legacy reaches the Protestant church in subtle ways.

The following first-person story from a Lutheran pastor explains why Finneyism is alive and well in the 21st century. The Revd Matt Richard is a regular contributor to a confessional LCMS pastors’ blog, Steadfast Lutherans (The Brothers of John the Steadfast) [see my blogroll].

Recently, Pastor Matt shared the story of his journey into confessional Lutheranism. Now one might think that he must have been this way since he was a child, considering that he is ordained. However, such is not the case. What he has to say concerns not only Finneyism but the outer holiness legalism of another large Protestant movement that has over the centuries pervaded many denominations.

What follows are excerpts from ‘My Journey into Confessional Lutheranism (Part 1 of 2)’, a fascinating account. Emphases mine below:

Church of the Lutheran Brethren? Chances are you haven’t heard of this small denomination. However, for me it has been all that I’ve known since infancy.

This denomination was founded in 1900 as five independent Lutheran congregations met in Wisconsin to form a new synod. These churches were not splitting from another synod or denomination but gathered together with the main purpose of compiling resources to send missionaries overseas …

For myself, I have often jokingly said that I am a spiritual mutt. I grew up in the Church of the Lutheran Brethren, my Father is a practicing Roman Catholic and my Mother has roots in the American Lutheran Church.  Through my childhood Christian education and youth group, as well as my college years of working at an Evangelical Christian Bookstore, I developed what I’ve come to call “Folk Lutheranism.” My Folk Lutheranism was a mixture of Lutheranism and Fundamentalistic Finneyism, coated with Evangelicalism and saturated with Pietism. Needless to say, I spent a lot of my time in legalism as well as constantly taking my spiritual temperature to see if I loved Jesus enough.  I virtually had no assurance.

After college I applied to Lutheran Brethren Seminary in Fergus Falls, MN … Frankly, I was unprepared for seminary and found myself crushed by the academic weight of the classes. Furthermore, the theology that I encountered also attacked my old nature and worldview. I can recall … longing for the Gospel that they presented, yet warring with it in my mind. About this time in seminary I gravitated towards the Church Growth Movement and really sunk my teeth into Rick Warren’s books, “The Purpose Driven Life,” and, “The Purpose Driven Church.” Therefore, when I received a call right out of seminary to go to Rancho Cucamonga, California, I was a Fundamentalistic-Finneyistic Lutheran Pastor, coated by Evangelicalism, saturated with Pietism and driven by Purpose.

add the Emergent Church Movement to my list.   How can all these “isms” be embraced cohesively? They can’t, as much as I tried. All of the plethora of theologies were beginning to make up a perfect storm; that is to say, an epistemological crisis

I can remember it like yesterday reading Matthew 9:10-12 during my struggle … As I read this passage, the Word hit me. I… I am sick. Jesus came for me! It sounds so simple now, but you have to understand that from my Folk Lutheran perspective the Gospel was merely what got you “in.”I had carelessly assumed the Gospel, and at this point I was gracious[ly] delivered the Gospel.  I was reminded that it was for me, a sick sinner who was confused, dead and broken. Thus my journey into Confessional Lutheranism had just begun.

You can read more about the Church of the Lutheran Brethren and its seminary.

The point of these spiritual journeys is that many of us carry influences other than the denominations to which we adhere now. Pastor Matt was affected by a Finneyistic pietism and legalism under a Lutheran umbrella. Yes, it seems contradictory, but it’s probably not that unusual a story. In fact, the mix of denominational and cultural influences is probably pretty common to many, especially in North America.

I have read accounts of Assembly of God Pentecostalists with seminary degrees moving to the Anglican Church and acquiring a strong Calvinistic influence along the way. Why they wouldn’t join an orthodox Presbyterian denomination instead is puzzling, but there you go.

It’s not right or wrong, it just is. As one cannot choose one’s family, it seems that one cannot choose one’s childhood church, either. However, one can end up with a fair amount of baggage and spiritual issues to work through later.

It also seems that our childhood denominations can help to determine our responses in various situations. Some longtime denominational adherents develop trigger reactions to various words or vocal intonations from others in the secular world.

It takes a lot of determination and a lot of grace to work through these struggles. And human nature dictates that we, for whatever reason, enjoy legalism. Quite possibly, it gives us the illusion that we are in control of our own religiosity, perhaps our own salvation.  Being able to jump through all the legalistic hoops of pietistic, Finneyistic Christianity day after day connotes personal success for many people.

Thank goodness God stopped Pastor Matt in his tracks and transformed his life.

For those of us welcoming newcomers to our churches, let’s remember to practice patience, kindness and fellowship.  And, when we are in the quiet of our own homes, let’s remember them in our prayers, that they may come to know the doctrine of grace.

As an ex-Evangelical, now a Reformed pastor and seminary professor, Dr R Scott Clark, said:

Now, a word to those congregations (such as mine) who find themselves host to such pilgrims. Please remember that our new friends are probably disoriented. The language, customs, and food are strange to them. They bring with them expectations not shaped by the Reformation. Our emphasis upon the gospel, sacraments, and the visible church may strike them as overly formal. We have two choices. We can pretend that we really belong to their tradition or we can gently, gradually welcome them to ours. I recommend the latter. It may take time for Americans raised on religious fastfood to learn to enjoy a new diet, language, and culture. If we try to become what the pilgrim has left behind, what use are we to the pilgrim? (Matt. 5:13). Let us welcome our brothers and sisters with open arms, open Bibles, and warm smiles.

More Evangelicals are beginning to make their way towards liturgical and confessional denominations. I’ll have a few posts on this soon.

Tomorrow: Pastor Matt’s Journey into Confessional Lutheranism (Part 2)

Barely a day goes by without some news of a health scare or moral hazard. Tobacco control zealots are still hard at work getting the new evil weed (which used to be marijuana in my day) banned from display in Western shops and supermarkets. Some of the same people — based in San Francisco (where else?) — are now focussing on the evils of sugar.  Another group wants more New York-style bans on transfats and a tax on higher-fat dairy products such as cream and butter. Here in the UK, the Coalition government is seeking less alcohol content in drinks and spirits. Unfortunately, the Church of England (largely apostate) as well as pietistic Methodists and Baptists have joined the battle.

Where will it all end, we wonder?  Any amateur historian will tell you that prohibition and higher taxation never work. Yet, our politicians, charity ‘experts’ and physicians are constantly hammering us about what we ingest. Name your poison and they will say, ‘If you only knew what a killer that is!’

That is the secular side of things. On the religious — Christian and Muslim — side of things, those prohibitions are largely shared where drink and tobacco are concerned. But they also add a socially moral element where children and women are concerned.  Many of us would say that 1960s and 1970s feminism has had a part to play in the downfall of our Western family structure. At least one generation of children — the eldest of whom are nearly middle-aged — have been seriously affected. Meanwhile, men have gone off the deep end in personal confidence.  We appear to have been seized by addiction, depression and nihilism.

Christian and Muslim groups are joining in with their secular allies in attempting to address all these ills in draconian style. Is that the right way forward? What about those of us who are minding our own business?  Can we be left alone with a glass of brandy and a pipe? No, because we, too, are part of the problem.  We must have a moral clean-up. Now. Totally.  And any women out there can stop reading now and get back in the kitchen.  You shouldn’t be trying to expand your minds — how presumptuous. Only the High Priest or Imam of the House — the husband — can do that on your behalf. (Irony alert.)

Last year, when I featured St Peter’s Epistles in my Forbidden Bible Verses series, I used a number of sermons by the Revd Gil Rugh as commentaries.  Mr Rugh is pastor of the Indian Hills Community Church in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Although he loves Christ and Holy Scripture, he does have a thing or two to say against moral movements.  I used his sermon ‘True Knowledge of Him Who Called Us’ from 1996 for my post on 2 Peter 1-12.  The sermon concerns 2 Peter 1:3-4 but references other New Testament passages and provides a context not dissimilar to what America and Western society are experiencing at the moment.  As he points out, this is because we are not well acquainted enough with the teachings of the Holy Bible.

Although the following is written as a criticism of Christian dominionism, you can easily read it in light of secular moral and health movements.

Emphases are in the original in the extracts below:

[In] Mark 7 The Jews in Jesus’ day were confused because they didn’t know their Scriptures. They were concerned about corruption, about being tainted by things from the outside. Jesus tells them in verses 18 and 19 that what they eat and drink doesn’t taint their bodies. We as Christians get confused by this as well. But note what He says in verse 20: “…That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man.” You’re not defiled by what goes in your mouth. It’s what comes out of you that defiles you. Verses 21-23: “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.” This is the rottenness that is in the world by lust. It is because the world lives under the authority and control of a fallen being, Lucifer. It is populated by people who are corrupt and rotten at the core. This world is corrupted and made decadent by the lusts of fallen, depraved hearts …

I want to note here that knowing what God has said should help us discern false doctrine and false teaching. It comes at us in a variety of ways. Believers should not be caught up in an effort to restore America to its Christian foundation. What does it mean that we are going to restore a Christian America?

I was reading an article this morning about a man who is calling us back to Christian America. He says you are not truly being a godly person if you are not involved in this movement. How do you call America back? What’s wrong with this concept? The movements that center on moral improvement all deny the word of God, which says the problem is not what they are doing. Instead, the problem is the corruption of their hearts that drives them in what they are doing. That dead body is decaying. It’s rotting. You don’t go over and spray it with perfume. That may be temporarily helpful, but by its very nature it will rot. Do we really understand the depravity of fallen hearts? By our very nature, we are rotten. We are running around trying to spray perfume in the air. Why should I get ulcers over the fact that people are openly flaunting their homosexual behavior, or that they are openly parading their immorality and having sex with everyone they feel like, apart and outside of marriage? What do I expect from people who are rotten?

Turn back to Galatians 2:20. I want you to see a connection of two verses here. “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” When you look at commentaries on 2 Peter 1:4, on what it means to partake of the divine nature, Galatians 2:20 is one of the verses almost all of them use. Fittingly so. Jesus Christ now lives in us, and His character and life is being produced in us. Note verse 21: “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.” He’s saying that righteousness does not come by trying to conform to something external. Righteousness is produced in the life — in the heart — and thus flows out.

Look at all the attention being focused on crusades. “Oh, we are going to make men what they ought to be. We want men to take their responsibility and men to take the lead.” Do we think we can produce righteousness by law? What is wrong with the Church? You can get people to sign petitions and march in crusades, but do you know what is missing? The presentation of the cross of Jesus Christ. It’s not there because the preaching of the cross is offensive to those who are perishing. God does not call us to make rotting, stinking, corrupt corpses smell better or look better. We think we are doing something wonderful when we take that rotting, maggot-infested body and put new clothes on it. At least it looks better, but likely nothing of substance is done. It takes the precious and magnificent promises of God. It takes the new birth. You can escape the corruption that is in the world only by believing in the precious and magnificent promises of God’s salvation in Christ. Then you become a partaker of the divine nature. No longer by nature are you a child of wrath, but you are by nature a child of God, and your life is changed.

Note three sentences in that last paragraph:

God does not call us to make rotting, stinking, corrupt corpses smell better or look better. We think we are doing something wonderful when we take that rotting, maggot-infested body and put new clothes on it. At least it looks better, but likely nothing of substance is done.

Therefore, Christian and Islamic dominionists as well as our secular powers that be are misguided about moral crusades. They all have one thing in common: to save us from ourselves so that they will like us better. ‘If only you didn’t watch television, eat, drink and smoke so much’. They are no better than nagging family members.  And this is my complaint about pietism — religious or secular — and the holiness movements of whatever ilk.  I cannot speak for Muslims, but Christians are called to ‘work out their own salvation’ — their own sanctification. That will mean different things for different believers at different stages in their lives — through the grace of God and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Rugh says the result of these movements is an exaltation of Man and a denigration of our Lord Jesus Christ. He calls it ‘anti-Lordship’ and he is correct.  All our secular and religious pietism will not save us if we do not believe in Christ. So we live a ‘pure’ life, and many secularists will say that their Bible-believing families influenced their personal ‘cleanliness’ at home.  These people are proud of their personal pietism. They don’t have to believe. They’re leading a clean enough life as it is with daily visits to the gym, low-fat diets, plenty of fresh air and lots of hard work. Now, there’s nothing wrong with any of those, however, when they are not part of a Spirit-infused desire, then, what purpose do they serve other than to make one feel better about himself?

Rugh states:

We have everything necessary for life and godliness. There is nothing else. There is nothing more to enable you to live a godly life than what you have been given by God in grace. We partake of that by believing of the promises He’s given regarding salvation in the death and resurrection of His Son. And when you believe in Him, you escape the corruption and become a partaker of the divine nature. There’s no other way out of the pit. There’s no other way out of the corruption and the vileness.

There is much talk today about the filth of this world. It is a filthy world, and we like to say it’s getting much worse. Do you think it’s much worse? Peter said of the world in his day, “It’s like a rotting corpse.” Jeremiah said under the inspiration of the Spirit hundreds of years before Christ that “the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked above all things.” What kind of theology is the church preaching today? People are being told that these are the worst days. “If only we could get back to the Victorian age, wouldn’t it be wonderful?” What kind of foolishness is this? Put some clean clothes on that maggot-eaten corpse. Is it any wonder the church is susceptible and open for every foolish idea that comes along under the guise of helping us?

May God grant that we become people committed to truth and the true knowledge of the living God, and that we absorb that knowledge into our lives. As individuals and as a church, we must be building and growing to maturity, as Peter will show in verses 5-7, so that God’s purposes are clearly evident in all that He’s doing in us and through us.

There is no successful legislation against human nature. Let God’s grace do its divine work in different ways in different people. Let’s focus on our personal sanctification and leave the details of others’ to Him in His mercy and wisdom.  Making others’ lives a misery won’t win us any Brownie points in the afterlife.

Researching Swedish pietism has taught me quite a few things. First, I had no idea that Swedes were anything other than Lutheran. Second, I thought that any Swede who had converted to another denomination did so only once they had reached the United States, not in Sweden. Third, I was unaware of the extent of 19th century trade between Britain and Sweden or the consequent export of organised non-Conformism to Sweden from these shores.

In this post, we return to America (now and again) and to Dwight Moody. I also hadn’t realised he had such an effect on Swedish pietists until I read David Gustafson’s book, D L Moody and Swedes, a thorough and fascinating examination of the subject. Dr Gustafson teaches at Linköping University in the Department of Arts and Sciences.

I shall briefly attempt to summarise key points of how important this episode of the late 19th century would be for both parties. (Page numbers indicated below are PDF pages and might not tie in with the printed page number.)

Yesterday’s post mentioned that after Carl Olof Rosenius died, Paul Peter Waldenström (1838 – 1917) succeeded him as editor of the magazine in Sweden, Pietisten. Waldenström already had a considerable following in Sweden among the Mission Friends. Consequently, the American pastors of Swedish descent who were part of the Augustana Synod invited him to teach at the Augustana seminary in Chicago. Although this fell through, Waldenström remained popular over the next several years with the Swedish Mission Friends in Chicago, especially as the Augustana Synod returned to more orthodox doctrine and practice. The Mission Friends were keen to continue with revivals and pietism. As such, their Chicago mission had already broken away from the Synod and they formed four more congregations in Iowa and Illinois, including Galesburg, where one of Rosenius’s disciples had established the mission church. (p. 68)

A Danish pastor who had emigrated with his family as a child, Charles A Anderson, began working with Swedish Mission Friends. He was pastor of the Second Lutheran Church in Galesburg, which had separated from the Augustana Synod. Anderson also created a new synod, the Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Mission in the United States.  He also published a newsletter, Zions Banér, which published a report about Dwight L Moody’s 1874 revival in Scotland. Anderson described Moody’s pietistic traits of resistance to denominational confessionalism, an abundance of (notional) holiness and a love for the Word of God. He added that Moody was already well known to Swedish immigrants in Illinois. (pp 69, 70)

By then, Moody was travelling between his home in Northfield, Massachusetts, and his church in Chicago as well as other destinations in the United States and Great Britain.

Because of the cross-pollination of non-Conformist influences and ongoing trade between Sweden and Britain, it was natural that Swedish newspapers would cover Moody’s and Sankey’s two-year revival in England, Scotland and Ireland (not yet an independent republic). This revival captured the imagination of the Mission Friends in Sweden and started a five-year ‘Moody fever’. (p. 73)

Adolf Drake, a Baptist seminary instructor at the denomination’s seminary in Stockholm, published a newspaper, Wecko-Posten, widely circulated not only in Baptist but also in Lutheran circles. Wecko-Posten faithfully chronicled the Moody revival in the British Isles. The paper carried 30 articles on the revival between 1874 and 1875. (p. 75) It is no wonder that the names Moody and Sankey became household words in Sweden!

Martin Johansson, a Lutheran theologian who had recently been ordained a bishop at that time, contacted his Scottish friend, James Lumsden, at the Free Church College in Aberdeen. He asked Lumsden to get full details on the revival from a reliable source (p. 76). Lumsden returned a fulsome account, which got the new bishop longing for a similar phenomenon in Sweden in order to transform the Lutheran Church. By then, other Swedish newspapers were carrying reprints of the revival, spreading news of Moody and Sankey around the country. The Swedes, as well as non-Conformist Britons, found Moody’s universal appeal as an evangelist particularly striking; he attracted and preached to all denominations, never favouring one over the other. (p. 77)

Even after Moody and Sankey returned to the US, Swedish articles continued to appear in the press. Ebba Karström Ramsay (1828–1922) had been following the two around Britain and reported the intensity of the revival, including the demand for Sankey’s songbook.  Ramsay had also met Moody personally in 1875 in Liverpool and in London. (p. 80) She emphasised his personality and the force of his preaching, noting that he was not particularly attractive physically nor a great orator.  However, he galvanised his audiences into prayer and conversion. The newspaper for which she wrote, Wäktaren, went on to publish one of Moody’s sermons as well as a letter from Sankey (p. 81)

More of Moody’s letters appeared in other newspapers, brimming over with evangelical enthusiasm. A newspaper was the closest medium people had to a near-live experience. (p. 82) The cinema, radio and television were still some years away.  The public could not get enough and nor, apparently, could newspaper editors and journalists, some of whom converted through the efforts of pietism. Nya Posten‘s editor Karl Erixon was one of them; the newspaper would publish eight of Moody’s sermons and seven of the aforementioned Paul Peter Waldenström. Other articles included extensive descriptions of Moody’s church in Chicago. (p. 84)

In Britain, several authors published books about the recent Moody revival. (p. 84) In Sweden, stories of the revival as well as more sermons and biographies soon followed.  Ebba Karström Ramsay was among the authors and translators and turned some material into tracts which could easily be handed out to people free of charge. (p. 85)

In 1875, Sankey’s songs were translated into Swedish by a handful of publishers. Two years later, the number of versions and editions had multiplied such that the expression ‘Moody fever’ came into being. Sankey’s songbook was equally important to the pietists, who enjoyed sacred music as part of their tradition.  (p. 88)

In 1876, Swedish evangelical societies began publishing tracts of Moody’s sermons (p. 90), which gained an immense circulation among a pietist audience hungry for the presence of a religious hero none of them would ever meet. Charodotes Meurling (1847–1923) of the Jönköping Mission
Society described the revivals that took place during that time, where Swedish preachers would use Moody’s sermons as part of their evangelisation:

Moody’s simple but bold sermons were translated into our language, were read in homes, and were used as a model by a large number of preachers when they preached the gospel of Christ. The preacher of the Word then did not merely try to impress his listeners with doctrine; people had begun to get tired of that manner of preaching. Now the preachers presented the Word as a “spear and nails to the conscience,” and they did not miss in their aim. Revival also broke out in our country as never before, or at least, as far as one had lived to see. Like a mighty wave, it flowed into all parts of our country, making its way up to the heights of society and down to the lowest ranks. It pushed its way into the King’s palace and into the poor house. During the height of the summer of 1876, it reached our congregation. 141  (p. 91)

Eric August Skogsbergh (1850–1939), also of the Jönköping Mission Society, described his revival experience during this time. He began his mission work as a colporteur — handing out tracts — then went on to sing Sankey’s songs before becoming well known as ‘the Swedish Moody’:

I was one of those who began to spread these songs, and I sang them to people wherever I went. It was wonderful—what an impression these simple and easy-to-sing songs made on the people. Believers here and there prayed to God that the Spirit would also come to Sweden and work, and one already sensed a breeze from the London meetings. And in my simplicity, I wanted more than once to visit London and become acquainted with these men in order, if possible, to participate in the divine powers that worked through them.147  (p. 92)

In 1876, an American ‘disciple’ of Moody’s, Eli Johnson, arrived in Sweden, touring the country and preaching abstinence in a Gospel context. (p. 94) Although he preached in English, his Swedish audiences clearly felt his message. (p. 95)  He had already worked extensively with alcoholics and would evangelise not only around the United States but also Britain and Australia. (p. 96)

That same year, ecumenical gatherings of Protestant clergy in Sweden met to discuss a goal of Christian unity: less dogma, fewer differences, more co-operation and repeal of state laws against laypeople preaching. Open Communion and certain doctrinal views also came to the fore. (p. 107) The participants evoked Moody’s name and example. Paul Peter Waldenström came under censure by the Lutheran evangelical society EFS for a relaxation of the rules of ordination in Sweden, requiring adherence to Lutheran confessions of faith. (p. 108) Nonetheless, he was not deterred. As word spread of his stance, confessional Lutherans became increasingly disconcerted.

Here is something with which I can empathise (emphasis mine), as I do not like the use of one term which is supposed to fit all in a false unity:

Even the popular use of the adjective “Christian” indicated “the new indifference toward denominations and confessions, as well as Moody’s influence to break down confessional walls.”96  (p. 114)

Lutheran clergy (rightly) criticised Moody for this blurring of confessional differences as well as his enthusiastic and instantaneous notional conversions. Worse were his promises of salvation. (p. 115)

My interjection here: This is the problem with emotion in worship — any of it — especially pietism and all its offspring. It leads to confessional error, false unity and scriptural confusion. Just as pietists of whatever stripe — Baptist, Wesleyan or Lutheran — don’t wish to be confused with confessional denominations or Catholics, similarly, we do not wish to be confused with other churches, either. Let’s take a hint from this story and define ourselves as we are — by denomination. If that’s divisive, too bad.

But I digress.

Gustafson asks us to note that Moody fever

preceded the largest wave of Swedish immigration to America. Many Swedish immigrants, especially Mission Friends, arrived in America already familiar with Moody’s sermons and Sankey’s songs. In Chicago, Swedish Mission Friends came directly under his influence, as well as that of Moody’s circle and Chicago Avenue Church. The year 1876 was pivotal for Mission Friends in America, the year when Moody began his revival campaign in Chicago, sparking a Swedish-American “Moody fever” in the United States. From his city-wide evangelistic campaign in the Windy City, a group of “freer” Mission Friends emerged following Moody in America as well as Waldenström in Sweden rather than the tradition of Rosenius and Lutheran läsare. (p. 122)

Most of these immigrants settled in Chicago, with other large populations in New York City, Minneapolis-St Paul, Seattle and Rockford (Illinois). (p. 122)  Chicago became the Swedish-American centre, with the population of Swedish immigrants doubling to over 12,000 in 1880. Most of them flocked to Moody’s Chicago Avenue Church, disappointed to find out he had no personal connection with Sweden but thrilled to hear him preach. (p. 123)

In Moody’s Chicago Revival of 1876, he used new arrivals from Sweden to help evangelise on more individual levels. (p. 128)  Some of these men continued to work for Moody afterwards in planting non-denominational churches, working with other denominational missionary societies on site.  (p. 130)

Dr Gustafson has done sterling work in writing this volume. The research must have been daunting. However, he writes clearly and engagingly.  He doesn’t need an ordinary blogger to tell him that, however, if any of you are or know of someone who wants to read more about the life of Dwight Moody, especially with regard to Swedish immigrants, you cannot do better than this outstanding book.

Yesterday’s post introduced Swedish pietists and alluded to Dwight Moody’s popularity among them in the 19th century.

Although I plan to post on David Gustafson’s book on Moody and Swedish pietists (mentioned therein) early next week, it seemed apposite to explore the possibilities for their appetite for Anglo-American holiness.

A likely place to begin is with two men, Carl Olof Rosenius, Lutheran pietist and George Scott, an English Methodist.

However, in the early 19th century, Napoleon imposed the Continental Blockade against Great Britain in retaliation for his defeat at Trafalgar. Napoleon wanted to isolate Britain from trading with Europe. He not only had his French Empire, but satellite states which included Scandinavia and much of Eastern Europe into Russia. Sweden refused to participate, and, consequently, was able to trade with Britain in a flourishing exchange of her raw materials for Britain’s colonial products.  Whilst that oversimplifies the situation, it also meant that a number of enterprising Britons settled in Sweden to establish their own businesses, from engineering to manufacturing to shipping.  They assimilated into Swedish society, married Swedes and became philanthropists.

As religious life was still essential, they invited their British clergymen to join them. These clergy came largely from what the British call non-Conformist churches, that is, those which are not established state churches (e.g. Church of England [Anglican], Church of Scotland [Presbyterian]). They came from the Free Church in Scotland (so called because it is free from state control), the Methodists as well as various Evangelical groups (e.g. Religious Tract Society and the Salvation Army).  The Methodists gained an extra boost with Nordic sailors on the floating mission in New York Harbor, the Bethel (Betel in Swedish). Led by a Swede, it was in operation for many years and resulted in numerous conversions of Scandinavian sailors, who then returned to their homes and encouraged the spread of Methodism among their families and friends.

Therefore, by the time Dwight Moody’s sermons and Ira Sankey’s hymns reached Sweden in the 1870s, Lutheran pietists were well acquainted with English and Scottish non-Conformist evangelists.

The early 19th century also saw Britain at the forefront of the age of steam during the Industrial Revolution.  A Englishman by the name of Samuel Owen (1774 – 1854) indirectly helped to shape not only industry but pietism in Sweden.

Owen was a brilliant inventor and engineer. Although born in Shropshire, he moved to Leeds (South Yorkshire) where he worked for a steam engine manufacturer, Fenton, Murray & Wood’s.  Swedish companies were naturally eager to purchase these revolutionary new engines and ordered four from the company. Fenton, Murray & Wood’s sent Owen to Sweden to help install them.

Owen made his home in Sweden in 1807 and had 17 children with three wives. It is unclear what happened to his first wife, an Englishwoman, but afterward, he married two Swedes, the first of whom died. Owen’s third wife, Lisette, was one of playwright August Strindberg’s aunts.

In the meantime, Owen had opened his own manufacturing works in Stockholm in 1809. Less than ten years later, he held the distinction of being the first person in Sweden to build a ship with a steam engine. He became prominent in Swedish society and is remembered today with a street named after him located near Stockholm City Hall, Samuel Owens gata.

He is known as the ‘founder of the Swedish mechanical industry’ and was elected a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in 1831.

Although Wikipedia doesn’t mention it, Projekt Runeberg says that, in 1830, Owen and other British immigrants requested that the Methodist preacher George Scott move to Sweden.

Information on Scott is scant, unfortunately, but he met Carl Olof Rosenius and mixed in Swedish pietist circles for several years.

Rosenius’s father Anders was the local pastor in Nysätra in Västerbotten. Anders Rosenius became involved with Swedish revivalism in the 19th century. The younger Rosenius completed secondary school and went on to study theology at the University of Uppsala. However, for financial and health reasons, he had to give up his studies and become a tutor near Stockholm.

Rosenius experienced his ‘conversion’ moment at the age of 15. He was no doubt always a Christian, but certain pietist, Baptist and holiness denominations refer to the one big moment of being born in the Spirit as conversion. The Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon, although steeped in faith from infancy, even had a ‘conversion’. Therefore, in this context it doesn’t mean they went from non-believer to believer but instead had a much deeper experience.

After his conversion, Rosenius preached to the school holidays conventicle (small group). He also impressed his local bishop with his deep understanding of the Lutheran doctrine of justification by grace through faith.

As a young tutor in Stockholm, however, Rosenius began to have doubts. There, he made the acquaintance of George Scott. In 1840, the two became good friends and Rosenius felt his faith buoyed by the association. Rosenius abandoned his goal of pursuing the priesthood and instead began working for Scott as his assistant. He lived in the grounds of Scott’s church Betlehemskyrkan — the ‘English Church’ (unrelated to the Church of England) — which the Foreign Evangelical Society helped to finance.

In 1842, the two men founded a journal called Pietisten, which became popular among its newly evangelical readership who were sceptical of the Lutheran Church and seeking a greater holiness and Spener-type religious experience.

However, that same year, Scott had criticised the Swedish government and, in reaction, a small riot broke out in front of Betlehemskyrkan on Palm Sunday. Scott left Sweden soon after for Gravesend, Kent, where he stayed until 1845, after which time he became Superintendent and Chairman of the Aberdeen District of the Methodists in Scotland. He also served in Glasgow, Liverpool and Newcastle. In 1866, he presided at the Wesleyan Methodist Conference of Eastern Canada.

Pietisten lived on, though, under Rosenius’s editorship. In 1868, Paul Peter Waldenström succeeded him.

After Scott’s return to England, Rosenius became more involved in the Swedish revival movement, known as ‘neo-evangelicalism’. He travelled around the country, speaking to various conventicles. He also rented premises in Stockholm.

In 1856, he joined a group of fellow pietists to found the Evangelical Mission (EFS) and edited their magazine Mission. The following year, a foundation which had bought Scott’s Betlehemskyrkan reopened it.  The Wikipedia image on the right shows Rosenius in the pulpit there.

In 1867, whilst preaching at St John’s Church in Gothenburg, Rosenius suffered a stroke and died a year later.

Like the Wesley brothers who never left the Church of England, Rosenius remained a member of the Lutheran Church in Sweden, as did his wife and children. Similarly, as the Wesleys felt resistance from the established Church, so did Rosenius from the Lutherans.  Rosenius opposed free and open Communion, which he and his family still received in the Lutheran Church.  He was also against schism.

Throughout his life, Rosenius continued to place primary importance on the Lutheran doctrines of objective atonement and justification by grace through faith.  However, he liked the warmth and personal approach of the Herrnhut school.  He found Scott’s Methodism helpful for its works-based emphasis on outward signs of holiness.

Rosenius’s legacy was probably what he would have wanted: a cross-pollination of pietism into the Lutheran Church and reinforcement of a core element of Lutheran doctrine into pietism.

One of his many followers, a lay preacher named Nicolaus Bergensköld, emigrated to the United States and became involved with the revival movement taking place in Scandinavian settlements in the Midwest.  He founded the mission church in Galesburg, Illinois, in 1868.

Next week: Moody’s effect on Swedish pietists

Yesterday’s post on Dwight Moody mentioned how popular his sermons and the hymns of his associate Ira D Sankey were with Swedish pietists.

Although neither visited Sweden, their influence, particularly between 1875 and 1880 during a time called ‘Moody Fever’, is still acknowledged today, as we’ll see.

A group of Swedish pietists in the United States publish a journal called Pietisten (Pietist), based in Minneapolis (emphases mine):

We are ecumenical and do not formally represent any institution, but we draw heavy inspiration from the collective heritage of Lutheran Pietism, as represented in a congenial flock of historically-related traditions: the Evangelical Covenant Church and Svenska Missionskyrkan (Mission Covenant Church of Sweden), the Augustana Lutheran heritage (ELCA), the Evangelical Free Church, and the Baptist General Conference, and epidemics of Pietism within the Congregationalist and Methodist folds. Pietisten is the spiritual heir of a Swedish devotional newspaper of the same name, published between 1842-1917 by George Scott, Carl Olof Rosenius, and Paul Peter Waldenström – a Methodist, a Lutheran and a Covenanter, respectively. Although participation by clergy and scholars is frequent, the journal is intended for lay people, and we write as lay people. The format of our journal is based on what were regular or frequent elements of the original Pietisten: commentaries on the lectionary texts by Luther, Rosenius, Waldenström, and others, ecclesiastical concerns, theological discussions, hymns, poetry, selected news items and a healthy dose of humor.

This Pietisten article, ‘The Pietist Impulse’, by Managing Editor Phil Johnson (unlikely to be the pastor of the same name with John MacArthur’s Grace To You ministries) gives a brief history of the movement from its origins in Sweden and in light of a conference held in 2009. Excerpts follow:

Thanks to recent scholarship, in particular the work of David Gustafson in D.L. Moody and Swedes, I have rediscovered the deep ecumenical impulse among Swedish people who referred to themselves as “Mission Friends” and to whom many refer to today as the “Swedish pietists.”

… It appears that the Scottish Methodist, George Scott, who founded Pietisten and enlisted Rosenius as editor in 1842 and then turned Pietisten over to Rosenius when he, Scott, was required to leave Sweden, did not have a sense for the negative implications the word pietist had for Swedes.

I don’t think many people were talking about or claiming to be pietists when we first published this journal in 1986. I may be wrong. I know it seemed a bit strange to me at the time to simply assert that we were pietists. I’d not used that term to refer to myself before. Among other things, the term immediately suggested abstinence which was not my practice

My first response has been that, at heart pietism really means putting the personal above everything. This means trusting and understanding personal life as the foundation of everything …

It is the case that there were actual people who generated and joined a movement called pietism starting in Germany with Philip Jacob Spener about 1675 … There is also a posture or spirit involved in the pietist motto referred to by Mark Safstrom: “in essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, and all things charity” opens inclusion to many non-historically connected Christians and others, not Christian, who take that posture and exude that spirit.

At the conference, folks claiming, or at least exploring, and, it seemed clear, displaying that spirit and who had authentic “historical, blood” membership were the mainly Swedes including our hosts, the General Conference Baptists, the Evangelical Covenant, the Evangelical Free Church, the Augustana heritage Lutherans, the Norwegian Lutheran Brethren from the Hauge connection, Swedish Methodist, Methodists, and others who were not Swedish but had German or Moravian connections. This list is not exhaustive …

Pietist[s] should expect that kind of conference given the foundation laid and the spiritual tenor described by Spener in Pia D[e]sideria (Pious Wishes) and lived out by the Moravians and the Swedish conventicles, and the Lutherans, especially those of the Evangelical Foundation …

David Gustafson’s recent study reveals how these Swedes reflected the influence and understanding of Christian life from D. L. Moody. Moody was responsible for actual ecumenical Christian life

This genuine, grass roots ecumenical spirit and cooperation began to falter late in the 19th century as doctrines, especially prophetic doctrines, became, for some—perhaps many, decisive matters of Christian belief. My unstudied picture is that the Free made pre-millenialism mandatory as well as verbal inspiration as well as set apart behavior (no smoking, drinking or make-up) and the Baptist added believer baptism as decisive. The Covenant was filled with many people of the same convictions as the Free and the Baptists. My parents shared the convictions of both and yet felt no difficulty claiming Covenant standing.

It is easy to see that ecumenicity faltered. Once I began to grow in education and understandingI began to move away from the Free and the Baptist influence and did not want anyone to confuse me with them. My ecumenical interests grew stronger and stronger in a different direction, toward an inclusivity that I did not believe possible in the Free or the Baptists or in the Covenant. However, in the Covenant I could claim freedom from assenting to any creed or articles of belief and had the right to freely identify in spirit with others

Not only did I find the Moody connection of interest, but also the move in the late 19th century towards a fundamentalist and holiness perspective, which two posts of mine early next week will address in more detail in a broader American context.

The firming up of beliefs during this time might have also been influenced by America’s Second Great Awakening, including the Wesleyan holiness movement and Charles Finney’s revivals preaching a personal ability to achieve salvation. Therefore, the search for distinctives in prophecy-focussed, personal experience and greater notional holiness through set-apart behaviours became more essential. Although these were fundamental elements of pietism from the start, it’s interesting that pietists also felt the need to ramp them up along with other denominations.

That said, inferring that Swedish pietists were also politically conservative might not necessarily follow.  I have read a few of their sites — Pietisten and the Baptist General Conference (BGC) Clarion — where a generous, considered spirit seems to prevail.

What follows is an insight to Swedish pietism from the early days in Sweden and the pioneer days of America from the BGC Clarion of June 2007. In their homeland, they were known as Läsare, ‘the readers [of the Bible]’.

These excerpts are from a Baptist point of view. Emphases in the original.

Dr Virgil A Olson on the seven marks of the Baptist Pietist (pp 3, 4, 5):

A. A central mark of the early Baptists pietists was that the Bible is the final authority for faith and living. The Läsare accepted the Bible as being more authoritative than the Confessions and the Declarations of the Church. F. O. Nilsson stood before the high court of Sweden in Jönköping and declared that he followed the Bible, not the mandates of articles and confessions of the church …

The pietists from Sweden were committed followers of the Book, the Bible. And that mark is true this day for the Baptist General Conference. The “Affirmation of Our Faith”, that is of the Baptist General Conference, states in Article One, The Word of God is “the supreme authority in
all matters of faith and conduct” …

B. A second mark of the pietistic church is that it was to be composed only of born again believers. In Sweden to be a Christian was the same as being a citizen of the Kingdom. For when a baby is baptized in the Lutheran church, the child not only is declared a Christian but also is declared a citizen of the Kingdom of Sweden. Therefore, when the Läsare and the separatist, like the Baptists, preached the New Birth in Christ, and that only born again believers should belong to the church, they were considered radicals. It was this belief that got [Anders] Wiberg into trouble. He refused as a priest to offer communion to his parishioners who were not born again believers.

The early Swedish Baptist Pietists were strong on having revivalistic meetings. Many of the churches in Iowa and Minnesota were born in times of revival …

C. A third mark of the pietistic church was that it laid strong emphasis on living lives separated from the worldly life style. The Pietistic Läsare displayed a Christian life-style that was opposite to behavior of the general population in Sweden. One story is told about the early Baptist days in Sweden. Often the Baptist meetings in the homes would be broken into by the police, many of the people would be arrested and put in jail because they were worshipping as Baptists.

So, at least it is told of one Baptist group, that when they met around a table in a home for Bible reading and prayer, they would have whiskey and wine bottles under the table. When the police came knocking on the door, the worshippers would hide their Bibles and place the bottles on the table. The police became embarrassed when they saw the bottles, and said, “We thought you were Baptists meeting here, but you all seem to be Lutherans” …

D. A fourth mark of Swedish Baptist Pietists was their strong feeling to be independent. The Läsare in Sweden separated themselves from the Lutheran State Church. In no way would they be dictated to or religiously and politically controlled by the approved church priests and hierarchy. And when the pioneers came to America, they carried with them this spirit of independent separatism.

The Swedish Baptists were assisted in many ways in the early days of their history by the American Baptists. The Home Mission Society gave financial assistance to many of the early missionary preachers and the Foreign Mission Society paid for most of the support of the Swedish Baptist young people, providing a place of service in the foreign fields occupied by the American Baptists. The American Baptists gave generously to the building of several Swedish Baptist churches and during the early years of Bethel’s history, the American Baptist Convention generously supported the Academy and the Seminary.

While the Swedes were appreciative of this generous help, they resisted joining up with the American Baptists, not wanting to be controlled by the larger, more powerful Baptist denomination. There was something in their Swedish, separatist heritage that looked with suspicion upon a larger church taking charge of a smaller, Baptist fellowship. The Swedish Baptists clung to their identity of separatism, independence …

E. A fifth mark of the Pietists, was their strong emphasis on the atonement, especially stressing the blood of Jesus. The Pietists had a strong view of sin, so the story of the “old rugged cross” was always appealing. The Swedish Baptist Pietists loved to sing the gospel songs, “There is power in the blood,” “There is a fountain filled with blood,” “What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.” Many of the gospel songs had been translated into the Swedish language …

F. A sixth mark of the Pietists was that prayer was an important part of their spiritual life. Bönemöte, the Prayer meeting, was an important part of the Swedish Baptist church life. Many of the pioneer churches were in rural areas. Some of the farmers worked hard all day, then they walked two, three, up to six miles one way to come to prayer meeting …

Well, the old fashioned “Bönemötte” is gone. But the spirit of prayer still exists among the Conference Baptists. The Fire and Reign movement in our churches is a strong prayer “fire.” Thank God.

G. A seventh element of Pietist principles was a commitment to the “irenic spirit.” Pietists generally were committed to the irenic spirit? The irenic spirit or attitude, did manifest itself among the Läsare in Sweden because the Pietists believed strongly that Christ had admonished them to be disciples of love. However, because they were often beaten, imprisoned for their faith, challenged in their beliefs, the early Baptists became formidable debaters, defending the Bible and its teaching about being born again, being baptized by immersion upon confession of faith, and forming separatists congregations, where they could worship God according to the dictates of their own conscience as they believed they were led by the Holy Spirit …

Tomorrow: Rosenius and Scott’s influence on Swedish pietism

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