"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: Is Laestadianism really Lutheran?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Is Laestadianism really Lutheran?

FinnForge got me thinking about this question. While FinnForge seems very certain that true Laestadianism is Lutheran, I'm not so sure.

When I was looking to leave Laestadianism, the first places I checked out were the LCMS, WELS, ELCA, and other branches of Lutheranism. They seemed very strange and alien, having little in common with my childhood church.

The biggest difference that was most immediately apparent was liturgy. Lutheran churches had it, and Laestadian churches didn't have it. As far as style of worship was concerned, I always felt much more comfortable in Baptist churches than Lutheran ones.

Differences in worship style often reflect different theological convictions. I think a liturgical style underscores the communal aspects of faith. Churches that don't have liturgy often emphasize a more individualistic approach. Both Baptists and Laestadians (at least back in the beginnings of the movement) emphasize a very individualistic "new birth" as essential.

Maybe that's why Laestadians don't have liturgy, and seem so ambivalent about infant baptism (gotta do it, but don't ever say that it actually accomplishes anything.) I personally think that it's hard to understand what infant baptism is supposed to accomplish without an appreciation for liturgy. In the liturgy, the church corporately acts out the story of Christian faith; in baptism the participants are bearing witness to and making manifest what God has already done.

Another way that Laestadianism seems really different from Lutheranism is the emphasis on the total depravity of human beings. Maybe this comes from all the amped-up rhetoric in Laestadius' sermons --he needed to get people to the breaking point by any means possible so that they would experience "the awakened state" or "new birth." Whereas more Catholic, Anglican, or Lutheran notions of humanity would see them as created good by God but fallen and in need of redemption. A Laestadian view of human nature seems more similiar to Calvinism or the Baptists than Lutheranism.

What are some other things about Laestadianism that make it very different than other branches of Lutheranism?

See also: Pietism, Baptism, and Laestadianism

Tomte's thoughts on Baptism


  1. Lars Laestadius was a brilliant academician holding multiple degrees as well as being multi-lingual. When he started the movement he brought all he knew about religion and philosphy into his style of preaching and his message and then with God working through him he affected a mass awakening. Hence Laestadianism is hard to define in that it is an amalgamation of movements to include: pietism, doctrinal Lutheranism, naturalism, fundamentalism, Calvinism, 1800's Finnish folklore and superstitions, the old Finnish work ethic (work, work work), even the cold weather and remoteness of Lapland itself all probably had deep and lasting effects on the religious and world outlook of Laestadianism's adherents.....including mine.
    Old AP

  2. In Laestadius' time, and for many generations after, the religious landscape was tightly controlled by the State Church of Sweden. (Recall that it was only in 1917 that Finland gained independence. Before that, they were a Swedish province, except for the period from 1809 to 1917, during which Finland was under the control of Russia.)

    Being a Lutheran church (some consider it the first Protestant "Lutheran" church following the reformation), the State Church retained many of the customs of the Catholic mass including liturgy. Liturgy was a memorizable ritual to serve an illiterate people by an interactive demonstration of faith.

    As the Laestadian movement advanced, it was natural for followers to begin holding prayer services outside of the regular State Church services. However, sacraments were still held in the State Church: Holy Communion, baptism, marriage, and funerals. Also there was the regular church service during which the traditional liturgy was heard. These sacraments would not be recognized by the State church if they were to be performed outside of the State church by an unordained, lay minister.

    When Laestadians migrated to the United States, they brought their faith and beliefs with them. However, without any State church to be a member of (remember, in Scandinavia they were practically forced to be a member of the State church), they had to perform the Sacraments on their own. This caused quite a bit of division in the early history of American Laestadianism, because of disagreements on the meaning and manner of these rituals.

    In both America and Scandinavia, as religious freedom was realized and understood, the Laestadian churches gained more confidence to perform the sacraments. However, liturgy just never became a part of Laestadian worship.I have heard that some Laestadians turn their backs on liturgy because "that's what those worldly churches do."

  3. Good topic. Some ALC churches (such as Hockinson and Vancouver) have been moving away from Pietism and toward mainstream Lutheranism, especially Missouri Synod.

    I don't think they will ever get to liturgy but just listen to yesterday morning's sermon (12/26/2010) by Pastor Ron Holmgren and then tell me that he's not Lutheran. :)

  4. I have listened to Pastor Ron via the internet. He is definately less Laestadian and more Lutheran in his views. 'Post Laestadian' and open minded/patient might best describe him. Mainstream does not mean bad as some think: mainstream means that your ideas and doctrine have been held up to open scrutiny and that they have stood the test of time. The Hockinson area is geographically part of a modern suburb, hence it would be very difficult to remain pietistic. The Old Apostolics only maintain the status quo by enforcing strict isolation. Old AP

  5. Knowing Pastor Ron personally, he would say, unashamedly, that he is Lutheran.

  6. Baptist ..good choice...at least you get to be with beautiful black ladies and men. Wahh!! Anyway.. does anyone on this blog have a thought about the "suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not" ..(does that mean they should be forced?)

  7. "Suffer the little children..." does not mean force. It means to allow them freedom to come.

    "...beautiful black ladies and men. Wahh!!" What is that all about? Explain please.