Showing posts with label criticism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label criticism. Show all posts

Monday, February 06, 2012

New Book on Laestadianism: An Examination of the Pearl

A reader recently brought this e-book to my attention. I haven't read it yet, but it looks like a very interesting and in-depth look at all the main branches of Laestadianism as well as a critique not only from a theological standpoint but also discussing sexual abuse within the church and other important issues.

The book is available for free from the author's web site, as well as for a nominal fee from Amazon and other e-book retailers.

While there have been a few English language books about Laestadianism in recent years (most notably A Godly Heritage and Hepokoski's research immediately come to mind) Suominen's work looks to be uniquely focused on critique as well as research.

For more information about An Examination of the Pearl, by Edwin A Suominen, see

An Examination of the Pearl is a study of the doctrine and history of Conservative Laestadianism, a small, exclusivist Christian group that is organized in Finland and North America as the SRK and the LLC, respectively. The book also looks at the teachings of Martin Luther, early Christianity, Christian fundamentalism and sectarianism, and the Bible. ... This book is an honest and unflinching examination of the pearl that Conservative Laestadianism puts on offer as the Kingdom of God. It is a study not just of that obscure revival movement from 19th century Lapland, but also of Martin Luther, fundamentalist and sectarian Christianity, and the Bible itself. ... There are many such unexamined and fearful faiths competing in the marketplace of religion, some of them also claiming to be the truth outside of which no one will be saved. And without critical reflection like that found in this book, each one is a self-sustaining doctrinal bubble that quivers unsteadily in the air, vulnerable to being poked by the slightest intrusion of fact.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

More on FinnForge

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

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

from A Brief Expose of Errors. . .

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

See also: Change in the ALC

Tuesday, December 07, 2010


As of last month there is a new blog called FinnForge that purports to be "Working to reclaim the Apostolic Reformation doctrines taught by Martin Luther and Lars Levi Laestadius."

Apparently authored by Steven E. Anderson with just eight posts so far, it will be interesting to see if this site has staying power.

I plan to post about this site in more detail in the future, but for now I'll say that I find it interesting (although admittedly longwinded) because it is, among other things, a critique of the present state of the Apostolic Lutheran Church of America (ALC) from within, and from the right. That alone seems rare enough to be worth watching.

If any of our regular readers can put this site into context, I'd much appreciate it. :-)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Why Laestadianism Never Apologizes

If you're waiting for any official branch of Laestadianism (either in Finland or in the United States) to apologize for the sex abuse and the subsequent cover ups, their exclusionary theology, or the way in which dissent is quelled and dissenters expelled, you may have to wait a very very long time.

At least such is the preliminary finding of new research by Dr. Mikko Ketola of the University of Helsinki in his new paper entitled "Apologising for Past Errors: Two Finnish Religious Revival Movements and Their Different Strategies." (Click here for a link to the paper as a PDF file)

Dr. Ketola compares and contrasts two different conservative Finnish revival movements, the Finnish Lutheran Mission and SRK Laestadianism. Both have engaged in past behaviour that reasonably could prompt an official apology. The Finnish Lutheran Mission made such an apology, but to date SRK Laestadianism has not apologized. According to Ketola, Laestadianism's exclusionary "congregational doctrine" is primarily to blame. When you believe that your congregation is the true kingdom of God and all other Christians are on the road to hell, it doesn't lend itself to humility, accurate self-assessment, or apology.

Dr. Ketola's research paper is in English, only 13 pages and well worth the read. In addition to the topic of official apologies, Ketola also touches on the role of the internet in giving current adherents and ex-members a chance to express their dissent anonymously. A quote:

In cases like the SRK-Laestadianism where the community itself does
not encourage or tolerate criticism, an outside forum where criticism can be practised anonymously is almost the only viable channel through which to pursue change.

In addition to Dr. Ketola's research paper, there is also an in-depth blog post at Freepathways that provides an excellent summary of the research along with a photograph of Mikko Ketola.

Links: Apologising for Past Errors: Two Finnish Religious Revival Movements and Their Different Strategies, (PDF) by Dr. Mikko Ketola of the University of Helsinki, Department of Church History and current (2010-2015) president of the CIHEC (Commission Internationale d’Histoire et d’Etudes du Christianisme)

No Apologising for Past Violence of SRK-Laestadians Healing Meetings, by Freepathways

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Biblical Dreams and Schemes

I recently ran across this "long, but worth it" article by Dr. James D. Tabor (Professor and Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte) entitled What the Bible Says About Death, Afterlife, and the Future. I think it's worth sharing because in no other article I've read on this subject to date have I seen both modern biblical scholarship and Bible verse citation used to such dramatic effect to convincingly show how biblical concepts have changed over time, resulting in a Bible in which competing and often contradictory claims about death, afterlife, and the future coexist.

There is no simple and single response to the question of what the Bible really says about the future. What one finds is just what one would expect in any book composed of documents from many times, places, circumstances, and authors–variety and development. . . My treatment presupposes no particular valuation of the various dreams and schemes regarding the future.

What is most remarkable about all these images and views of the future, taken from all parts of the Bible, is their amazing flexibility. They were, and continue to be, applied to all kinds of situations and circumstances, always shaping the way readers ask and answer some of their most profound questions.

I increasingly see Laestadtianism in this context. It arose in a specific historical and cultural situation as a meaningful response to valid issues at that time. As evidenced by some of the posters to this site, it remains meaningful to some people today. However to me and many others, Laestadianism fails to address the present day situation. This disconnect causes many people to leave.

Friday, February 29, 2008

A New Blog for the OALC

Our OALC reader and commenter RWB is understandably upset by criticism found in these pages. I suggested that he create a pro-Laestadian blog but he prefers to "keep things simple" and declined.

In fact, RWB, blogs are super simple to create and maintain (as easy as commenting on one) so I've launched an OALC Discussion Blog, for you and any others who wish to celebrate the OALC.

I can't guarantee there will be no criticism or snide remarks, free speech being what it is.

However, I'm happy to hand over management, and comments can then be accepted or rejected as the owner sees fit.

(Update: the blog became a spam target, and was removed.)