Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Pre-millenial Dispensationalism and Laestadianism

Every once in awhile someone will copy and paste a long-winded post to the XLLL Discussion group regarding the "end times", "rapture," or some other rambling of the Left Behind sort that is commonly associated with pre-millenial dispensationalism.

This makes me wonder: what was Laestadius' view? On the one hand, Lutheranisms of most sorts are typically a-millenial in their eschatological outlook. On the other hand, pietism and dispensationalism often go together.

Growing up in a part of the Apostolic Lutheran Church of America (ALC) that was more heavily influenced by evangelicalism, I knew many folks who believed that the rapture was imminent. I grew up reading books like Hal Lindsey's Late Great Planet Earth and Paul Meier's The Third Millennium. It was interesting to live through the Y2K scare, when religious and secular fears about the future seemed to merge into one.

For me, leaving Laestadianism meant leaving rapture/end times theology behind. I could easily see how it could be the opposite for others, however.

What's your story? Has leaving Laestadianism affected how you believe about "the end of all things?"

If all these "isms" are making your head spin, I recommend this short article by Michael White: Christian Millenial Expectation Through the Centuries. He does a good job of showing just how much Christian thought on this topic has evolved over the ages, as well as describe some of the main schools of thought in relatively few words.


-ttg

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Conversion Conversation

I've long been interested in conversion and other religious experiences. As Laestadians and ex-Laeastadians born into that particular faith, perhaps conversion seems like an odd topic to bring up. However the first converts to Laestadianism seemed to have profound religious experiences that undergirded their understanding of what it meant to be Christian.

Even within a modern day Laestadian church service, I think the purpose behind some of the harsh preaching is to generate a crisis emotional state leaving one open to conversion to a deeper level of faith.

Of course, conversion is not the sole property of Laestadianism, or even conservative/evangelical Christianity. I recently read a fascinating article about Sara Miles that illustrates that even left-leaning liberals have conversion experiences:

What makes God laugh? According to a much-quoted saying, it's people making plans.

God probably had a few good giggles over Sara Miles' conversion. The San Francisco writer and former restaurant cook was a happy atheist, a probing journalist who covered wars and revolutions in Central America -- and a woman married to another woman. She certainly didn't intend to become a Christian or -- as she describes it -- "a religious nut." But early one morning she ambled into St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church on Potrero Hill, took Communion and her life changed. That day Miles found both God and her life's mission: feeding the hungry.

I can post about my own experiences in more detail later if anyone is interested, but for now I'll say that I had a typical conversion experience as a teenager in the ALC at a youth rally --which didn't "take." I was flying high on the emotions of it all for a few days. After the experience wore off I became slowly disillusioned over a period of many years. I was an atheist for a time (having left Laestadianism much earlier) before I had a second conversion experience that propelled me along a left-liberal "reconstructionist" (for lack of a better term) version of the faith.

I'm interested in hearing from others on this site about their own experiences with conversion. Did you have one? Did it make a difference in how you saw Laestadianism?


-ttg

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Principles of the Doctrine of Christ

I was rooting around on the Apostolic Lutheran Church of America (ALC) web site recently, and stumbled across Principles of the Doctrine of Christ, one of the most comprehensive statements of Laestadian belief that I've seen thus far. Does anyone know if any of the other branches of Laestadianism have tried to "codify" to this extent?

I was raised in the ALC, and my immediate reaction to the document was one of surprise. I don't remember this document ever being referred to in sermons, confirmation class, or Sunday school. Who wrote it, and by whose authority is it a doctrinal statement? Gotta love unsigned documents. Did it pass through the Central Board? Did some seminarians think it was a good idea? ;)

Another thing that struck me was how it didn't mention any of the "don'ts" that so many of us were raised with. Nothing in there at all about drinking, dancing, TV, and keeping separate from "the world." In that sense there seems to be a real disconnect between the document and what is often stressed as important in real congregations.

Talk about proof-texting! I was amazed at how little the document tries to truly argue for its position. Instead it merely asserts its position, and then cites a number of Bible verses as if their application to that particular doctrine were self-evident. I found myself rolling my eyes even for doctrines I agree with! I think it goes beyond proof-texting, and into "puke-texting."

For instance, here's the section about The Baptism of the Holy Ghost and of Fire. Is this even coherent?

Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that He said John indeed baptized with warer; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost (Acts 11:16). John the Baptist witnessed of Jesus, saying: ...He shall baptize ye with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: Whose fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His floor, and gather His wheat into the garner; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire (Matthew 3:11,12). The Apostle Paul refers to the Baptism of the Holy Ghost, as he writes: And hope maketh not ashamed: because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us (Romans 5:5). Likewise John writes, ...and every one that loved Him that begat loveth Him also that is begotten of Him (I John 5:1).

This divine love binds the children of God together by the Holy Spirit which is in them. This ...is the bond of perfectness (Colossians 3:14). All who are born of the Holy Spirit are the children of God. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God (Romans 8:16).

This love of God, which is given to the children of God, is the motivating force in God's kingdom on earth. For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again (II Corinthians 5:14, 15).

But this love is not understood by everyone in this world, as the Apostle John writes: Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not (I John 3:1).

Jesus made it known what His own can expect: I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled? But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished! Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? l tell you, Nay; but rather division: For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law (Luke 12:49-53).

Here is where one learns what true cross-bearing is. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple (Luke 14:27). This is because the seed of the woman (Christ by His Spirit) has come to abide in the hearts of the true believers. Therefore, it follows as the Lord God spoke to the serpent, the devil, after the fall of Adam and Eve: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed... (Genesis 3:15). The Comforter of God's children, the Holy Spirit, with which they are empowered and enlightened to confess their faith and to proclaim the true doctrine of Christ, will reprove the world of the sin of unbelief, the righteousness of the world and its judgment. For they being ignorant of God 's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth (Romans 10:3,4). This is as Jesus says: And when He is come, He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged (John 16:8-11). For this cause, the ...adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour (I Peter 5:8).

The Apostle Peter, having experienced much tribulation because of faith in Christ, was able to write: Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part He is evil spoken of, but on your part He is glorified (l Peter 4:12-14). Also in the first part of his epistle: Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: What the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ (7 Peter 1:6, 7). Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you (Matthew 5: 12). These things I have spoken unto you. that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world (John 16:33).


HUH????


-ttg