Sweden: To Be or Not to Be

The Tribune Papers – One of America’s favorite hymns was written by a Swedish pastor, Carl Gustaf Boberg, after witnessing an awesome thunder storm in 1886. We know that hymn, O Store Gud (O, Mighty God) as How Great Thou Art. Ninety years ago, in the late 1920’s, when the Swedish State Lutheran Church had begun losing its spiritual and moral influence because of advancing theological liberalism within, the “evangelical free churches” in Sweden were both numerically strong and influential. The evangelical free churches were vibrant, growing, and having a political and social impact as well as moral and spiritual influence. In the late 1920’s approximately 23 percent of the members of the Riksdag (Swedish National Parliament) were members of these evangelical free churches. Usually, the members of the evangelical free churches retained nominal membership in the Swedish State Lutheran Church. The modern and increasingly liberal Church of Sweden (Svenska Kyrkan), although no longer a state church, remains an important social and political force in Sweden.

There were weaknesses in the evangelical free churches, however, that would soon cause their numbers and influence to be swept away like a house of cards before a strong wind. One of the characteristics of the Swedish evangelical churches was that in reaction to the formalism of the Swedish State Lutheran Church, they tended to avoid doctrinal confessions and theological precision, preferring a more experiential Christianity. They also had a tendency to devalue the intellectual side of Christianity and their own culture in favor of their more emotion-oriented, experiential brand of faith.

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