Archive for August 2012

The Lutheran Reformation in Finland

Because the 12th International Congress for Luther Research meets in Helsinki 5 – 10 August 2012 with the theme “Luther As Teacher and Reformer Of The University,” the National Library of Finland held and exhibit and issued a book with the theme Luther, the Reformation, and the Book. The book which was given to every participant at the International Congress for Luther Research deals with the coming of the Reformation to Finland. Since many readers of this blog are not familiar with the story of Lutheranism in Finland, it might be good to highlight and excerpt portions of this book.

At the time of the Reformation, Finland was part of the Swedish Empire under the rule of King Gustav Vasa. (His kingdom is represented by the dark green in the map above.) Under King Vasa, the church became a “royal” institution. King Vasa was sympathetic to Lutheranism, if not by conviction then for political reasons. During the reign of King Vasa, the Lutheran Reform of the church focused on translating the Scripture and Worship into the vernacular language. By 1526, the New Testament had been translated into Swedish, with the entire Bible completed by 1541.

Mikael Agricola Presents The New Testament to King Gustav.

Seven years after the entire Bible had been translated into Swedish, Mikael Agricola (1507-1557), a graduate of Wittenberg University and a student of Martin Luther, presented King Gustav with a translation of the New Testament into Finnish. Although approximately 30% of the people in the Swedish Empire spoke Finnish, until Mikael Agricola translated the New Testament into Finnish, no literature existed in Finnish. Mikael Agricola is considered the “Father of the Finnish language.”

Mikael Agricola is pictured above translating the Bible into Finnish.

The cover from Mikael Agricola’s New Testament from 1548. Mikael Agricola started to translate the New Testament in 1537. It took him eleven years to complete the New Testament in Finnish. The entire Bible would not appear in Finnish until 1642, more than a century after Mikael Agricola began his translation of the New Testament.

A page from Agricola’s 1549 Lutheran Service.

Christianity came to Finland around the eleventh century. At the beginning of the 16th century, approximately 300,000 people lived in Finland. The Finnish language is not an Indo-European language, and is surprisingly related to Hungarian. Around 1300 Finnish students and priests were trained in Paris. Mikael Agricola arrived in Wittenberg in 1536. Agricola produced several other works such as a Finnish grammar, a prayer book, and portions of the liturgy. The sum total of Finnish language literature during the Reformation came from Mikael Agricola. The Reformation in Finland was slow and steady in coming. Agricola’s son, Christian, became the Lutheran Bishop of Tallinn, Estonia, in 1584.

The Small Catechism and Large Catechism was translated and published in Finnish by Bishop Ericus Erici Sorolainen (1546-1625) in 1614.

Finland was annexed into the Russian Empire in 1809. Czar Alexander I allowed Finland to remain Lutheran. In 1817 for the 300th anniversary of the Reformation, the corner stone for the Lutheran Cathedral in Helsinki was laid. The building of the Lutheran Cathedral was financed by Czar Nicholas I. Until 1959, the Lutheran Cathedral in Helsinki was known as the Church of St. Nicholas.

The Helsinki Cathedral, formerly known as the Church of St. Nicholas.

In summary, Lutheranism arrived in Finland during Luther’s lifetime in the 16th century. The Reformation brought with it literacy for Finland, and emphasized justification by faith, and sola scriptura. The International Congress for Luther Study in Helsinki, Finland, provides an opportunity to remember how the Reformation came to Finland, and to call for a renewal of Reformation and Scriptural teaching.

– Posted by Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, LCMS Director of Church Relations on 9 August 2012 from Helsinki, Finland.

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Luther Congress — Luther’s Use of Philosophy

Today, 7 August 2012, the International Congress for Luther Studies took up the topic of Luther’s use of philosophy. At first glance it may not seem there is much to say, as many know Luther’s statements such as “reason is a whore.” Or Luther’s view of Aristotle as expressed in the Heidelberg Disputation of 1518, “Thus it is also demonstrated that Aristotle’s philosophy is contrary to theology since in all things it seeks those things which are its own and receives rather than gives something good.” Much harsher (and cruder) examples of Luther’s view of philosophy can be found. So what else is there to say?

Prof. Dr. Mark Mattes from Grand View gave an excellent presentation titled,”Luther’s Use of Philosophy.”Dr. Mattes helped explicate Luther’s view that philosophy can serve theology. Mattes noted that Luther’s “standard for evaluating philosophy is primarily the requirement of clarifying and advancing the gospel to which philosophy is called upon to serve.” Dr. Mattes maintained that for Luther the relation between philosophy and theology “is guided by the distinction between law and gospel which construed philosophy as a suitable instrument for service in this world.” For Luther philosophy operates in the realm of the Law, while theology properly operates in the realm of the Gospel. Philosophy knows nothing grace. Philosophy knows nothing of the incarnation and is not able to accommodate the truth of the incarnation. “Nominalism and Realism are no longer alternatives for him because their conclusions must each be evaluated in light of the law/gospel distinction.”Dr. Mattes’ presentation was refreshing, scholarly, and in my opinion the best thus far at the International Congress for Luther Studies in Helsinki 2012.

(left to right clockwise: Rev. Michael Albrecht, Dr. Roland Zeigler, Dr. Albert Collver, Dr. Naomichi Masaki, Prof. John Pless, and Prof. Dr. Mark Mattes)

We had an opportunity to visit with Dr. Mattes and enjoy the mutual conversation of the brethren. The Luther Congress provided an opportunity for old friends to further discuss Dr. Mattes’ views on Luther, philosophy, and the distinction between Law and Gospel. Everyone pictured has gotten to know one another at the previous Luther Congress in Brazil in 2007, and at the Symposium at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne. Dr. Mattes has been a frequent guest at the Symposium in Fort Wayne and written for numerous publications, including Missouri Synod journals and books.

(pictured: Rev. Jonathan Mumme (LCMS Missionary to England), Dr. Naomichi Masaki, Dr. Albert Collver, and Prof. John Pless)

This afternoon sectionals on 30 different topics will be held. Topics include Luther and Preaching, Catechesis, Luther’s Concept of the Church, Luther as Exegete, Luther on Scripture, and many others. Several LCMS participants will be delivering short papers and making presentations.

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