Christ is the Same (Book)

The History of Conservative Laestadianism

November 1, 2020

In my article, I briefly examine the history of Conservative Laestadianism. I aim to paint a general picture of the movement’s various periods, but I especially focus on events of significance from the perspectives of the movement’s doctrine and beliefs. I deal only superficially with events occurring after the 1960s since research regarding the period is incomplete. [Note: research on this period was completed after this article was written. The research has been published in Myrskyjen keskellä, Suomen Rauhanyhdistysten Keskusyhdistyksen historia 3 (1962–1980), SRK, 2019.]

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Thoughts on Culture

October 1, 2020

What is Culture? The concept of culture comes from the Latin word cultura, which means cultivation or tending. Later, the definition of culture expanded to include education such as science and art. In a broad sense, culture indeed includes all that people do to manage their environment and society and to express themselves and their relationship with other people. The Christian doctrine of our church [Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland] states: “God has given man the task to cultivate nature so that its powers might better serve the protection and advancement of life. This work and its results are called culture” (Christian Doctrine, item 100).

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Thoughts on Ethics and Morals

September 1, 2020

Questions pertaining to ethics and morals have arisen with increasing frequency in public discussion. As I write this, on the radio there is a discussion on helping refugees. One discussion participant refers to his ethical and moral duty in defending his potential acts of civil disobedience. In the news it tells how in one legislative issue members of parliament are given freedom to vote according to their conscience. In everyday life, we constantly make choices. Often we do not need to ponder very deeply the reasons for making these choices. Sometimes, however, we encounter questions that give us cause to pause and think how to act correctly in this situation and what to base my decision on. In this article, I will consider the relationship between faith and morals. An ethical dimension is an integral part of all religions. There are, however, many non-religious people in the world whose actions appear good and right. I will ponder the origins of morality, how it manifests itself and its significance in human life. I will examine these issues from the perspective of faith that is personal, biblical and based on the Lutheran Church’s confessional writings.

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Christ is the Same: a New Series in 2019

November 1, 2018

Our sister organization, the SRK in Finland, published a new book this past summer, Christ is the Same Yesterday, Today, and Forever: Writings on the Basics of Faith and Doctrine. The book contains a number of writings by different authors. It was edited by Ari-Pekka Palola.

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Foreword: Christ Is the Same Yesterday, Today, and Forever

January 1, 2019

The book Christ is the Same Yesterday, Today and Forever opens to the reader the Bible’s message and Reformation’s message of how God justifies sinful human beings. The core message of the book stems from the words of Apostle Paul: “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

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Theology – What Is It?

February 1, 2019

Theology, the study of divinity, means on one hand the systematic examination of the fundamentals and concepts of Christian faith. On the other hand, it means the analysis and comparison of different religious understandings. Nowadays theological work is scientific in nature. Theology examines sources critically, evaluates and compares them and then reaches objective conclusions based thereon.

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God of Christianity

March 1, 2019

In these times, many a secularized person thinks and also says out loud, “I believe in God, but not as the church teaches.” Belittling biblical and Lutheran doctrine has become a catchphrase-like norm. The significance of the national Lutheran church [Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland] has greatly diminished. Many people no longer regard the church and its message as significant. As life becomes more superficial, there are more and more people who do not know the basic tenets of Lutheran faith and doctrine. The biblical representation of God is only slightly familiar or totally foreign to an ever-growing portion of [Finnish] people.

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Creation and Humankind

April 1, 2019

The origins and existence of everything are fundamental questions to which humans have sought an answer through the ages. Religions and science have approached these questions in various ways and from various viewpoints in attempts to find answers to these ultimate questions. Some consider questions regarding the origins of the world and humans to be too deep, beyond human comprehension and therefore preposterous. Meanwhile others are deeply interested in the origins of everything: has God created the world? What should one think about the big bang theory as an explanation to the birth of the universe? Can scientific knowledge be somehow reconciled with creationism and God’s actions in the world? In this article, I will discuss the aforementioned questions as well as humans as a part of the universe: their creation, essence, relationship with fellow humans, nature and God. We are facing questions that are larger than we are. Therefore I shall begin with God’s revelation in the Bible and examine creation theology as well as a few scientific breakthroughs. Meanwhile I shall outline a description of how I myself believe.

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Original Sin and Its Fruits

May 1, 2019

In essence, sin is the falling away of the heart from God, transgressing against God’s will and His holy law (Ps. 51:6; Jer. 3:25; Rom. 7:7,8). According to Luther, “sin is nothing else than what is not according to the Word of God.” (Refutation of Latomus). People are guilty before their Creator and responsible for their sins. If sins are not atoned, punishment will ensue. The wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23).

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Revelation: Source of Theology and Foundation of Doctrine

June 1, 2019

The most important matter in a person’s life is to know God. No one has ever seen God, nor can His existence be proven by observation or experiments. The human mind and reason do not easily accept God’s existence. Why would one believe in God if there is no sure evidence of Him? People everywhere are interested in the same questions: why does something exist rather than nothing existing? How did life come to be? What is actually behind this visible reality? When pondering fundamental questions, a person inevitably encounters the question of God.

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The Bible – Highest Authority of Faith and Life

August 1, 2019

In this article, I will examine the origin of the biblical writings, how they became a collection of books, and the significance of the canon. I will present Bible translations, focusing on translations into Finnish. In this article there is an emphasis on Luther’s Bible interpretation and the principles of Lutheran Bible interpretation. I will also address the relationship between the written and spoken Word and the effectiveness of the sermon of God’s Word.

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Jesus Christ – True God and True Man in One Person

September 1, 2019

The branch of theology that pertains to Jesus Christ’s person, nature and role is called Christology. Christos is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word Mashiach, Messiah. Both of these words mean “anointed.” It is a title of honor, which is associated with the Old Testament custom of anointing a king or high priest into office with consecrated oil. As the title of Jesus, it also includes the early Christians’ confession of faith: “Jesus is the Messiah.” The title was associated with Jesus because the Christians believed He was the Messianic king foretold by the prophets (Isa. 11:1–5; Jer. 23:5,6; Mic. 5:1–4) and the New Covenant high priest who represented the priesthood of Melchisedec (Heb. 5–8).

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God’s Grace in Christ

October 1, 2019

Grace distinguishes Christian faith from other religions. We cannot speak of a saving faith without speaking of grace. Grace is the core issue in human salvation and becoming righteous (justification). The Bible teaches that a person is saved by grace through faith, and that this is a gift from God, merited without one’s own works because God has given Christ to believers (Eph. 2:8,9). The reformer Martin Luther emphasized that we are saved by faith alone, through grace alone and for Christ’s sake alone. The doctrine of grace includes the separation of the law and the gospel. The law demands works of a person, but faith owns the grace of God offered in the gospel. It would not be possible to own grace were it not for the atonement work of Christ.

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By Faith Alone

November 1, 2019

During the Reformation, Lutheran beliefs came to be categorized as material and formal principles. The formal principle took a stand on what the highest authority is on faith and doctrine. Lutheranism emphasized the authority of the Bible, whereas in the Catholic church tradition had gained a near-biblical position in deciding questions of faith. The material principle, meanwhile, summarized the core ideas on how a person is justified, meaning how a person can be acceptable to God: by faith alone, by grace alone, by the merits of Christ alone. This understanding comes from the Bible and has remained true throughout the ages.

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Repentance and Justification

January 1, 2020

In all cultures, people have always sought God, for God has placed the longing for eternity in people’s hearts. The Christian Doctrine [of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland] states: God has created humans to live in His fellowship. Thus a human’s heart finds peace only in God (Christian Doctrine, item 1). In the world of our time, materialist ideas prevail, but material wellbeing is incapable of providing security to people. Even a person who is estranged from God needs something to believe in and worship. It can be a high standard of living, some ideology, one’s own body or something else. Such idols are as far removed from the living God as ancient idols made of stone, clay, wood or gold. Repentance and justification are matters of which one hears less and less spoken. In the latest [Finnish] translation of the Bible these words appear much less frequently than in the older translations. Repentance and justification, however, are core questions of Christian faith. Therefore, it is necessary to examine and study them on the basis of the Bible, Confessional writings and Luther’s writings. What kind of repentance is right according to the Bible? What kind of righteousness is acceptable before the almighty God? Can a modern human, who in his or her distress seeks God, find Him and be saved? Many people with a bothered conscience yearn for answers to these questions yet today.

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Life in Faith

February 1, 2020

Faith is not a human work but rather a gift from God. At its core, it is trust in God’s Word and a source of strength for one’s whole life. Without faith it is impossible to be acceptable to God. As owners of faith we feel in our hearts righteousness, peace and joy, but also weakness of faith, temptations and oppression (Christian Doctrine, item 84). We are sinful but at the same time we are righteous.

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Work of the Holy Spirit

March 1, 2020

According to Lutheran understanding, the Word and sacraments are instruments of grace and God’s special revelation. The instruments of grace are in this order, Word and sacraments, because it is God’s Word that makes the water, the bread and the wine into sacraments. God wants to interact with humans through the Word and sacraments. This means the same as saying that God reveals Himself in Christ. Christ comes to us and into us in the Word and sacraments – His instruments of grace.

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The Law and the Gospel

April 1, 2020

The law and the gospel are two central concepts in the Bible. The law declares God’s righteous will, and the gospel is the joyous message of Jesus Christ and His atonement work. The relationship between the law and gospel is central to the doctrine of how God justifies a sinful person and how the person remains righteous, i.e. acceptable before God.

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The Christian Congregation and the Kingdom of God

May 1, 2020

The New Testament congregation means the congregation of God, i.e. the Christian congregation, whose members the Holy Spirit has through the gospel called, sanctified, gathered and enlightened with His gifts and protects in the one true faith (Large Catechism). The members of this congregation are called to follow Jesus in “doctrine, life and suffering.” The Christian congregation is in essence the communion – or fellowship – of saints, in which its members remember each other and carry each other in prayer. According to the Augsburg Confession, the Christian congregation is the community of saints in which the gospel is purely preached and the sacraments are administered according to the command of Christ.

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Final Events

June 1, 2020

In my article I will discuss the Bible’s teachings on eternity, human life, death and final events. Peter wrote about these topics as follows: “One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:8,9). I will reflect on people’s ability to perceive time and its passing as well as endless time, eternity. I will consider the ending of all that exists, death and life after death. Discussing eternity and final events piques interest but it can also cause fear and concern. The Bible in many passages addresses death, eternity and final events. The underlying theme throughout these is that humans and nature belong to the world God created. All creation has a limited lifespan. Above all this is nevertheless God’s care for creation, which spans from time to eternity. A Christian has strong hope of life continuing after death (John 5:21–29). The Bible promises that a person created in the image of God will enter the land of endless peace, rest and joy. Many Bible passages describe the new earth and the new heaven. Many readers likely remember the story of Lazarus going to the bosom of Abraham or of Jesus’ words to the thief: “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 16:19–31; 23:40–43). These two stories summarize the hope found in Christian teachings regarding the last events.

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Fundamentalism

August 1, 2020

The word fundamentalism leaves no one cold. Based on the news and current discussion, the first things to come to mind are religious and political extremist organizations, terrorism, narrowmindedness, absolutism and opposition toward anything modern. A closer look reveals that the concept has many different meanings depending on the context. The definition of the concept has also changed over time.

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Laestadian Lutheran Church
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Loretto, MN 55357