In the article “Reformator retar – och ratas?” in Brännpunkt of SVD today, members and politically chosen representatives of the left fraction within the leadership of Katarina Church (Swedish Church) in Stockholm are questioning the fact that the Ole was not endorsed to become the vicar of the church. ”Was the reformer (Olle) teased and rejected was their question?”
The authors tell us in the article that Olle Carlsson had become one of the most influential spiritual leaders of the Swedish Church (former State Church), his ministry, according to them, reached thousands of people in the city and beyond. His message touched modern people and him life experience made him trustworthy. They continue to say that one has to judge leadership by considering results and in regard to this Allahelgona church had few contestants. Over and over again the authors use the words revival, renewal and reformation to describe the so called spiritual phenomenon which is going on in Allahelgonakyrkan through the ministry of Olle.
My question is: Is Olle Carlsson a real reformer? Well, the answer has everything to do with the way you describe the term reformation. Did Olle use unusual ways, methods and messages to get his viewpoints across? Certainly! In many ways he was so much different from the more liturgical and traditional approaches in the Swedish Church. His ability to see people as individuals and their needs is a refreshing approach in a rather stale form of Christianity that we exercise in Sweden. His ability to identify with people’s hurts, hardships and brokenness brought a mind-blowing dimension to the life of church goers. He was a man who dared to break out of the box.
BUT…Is he a reformer in the Biblical sense? That’s the question!
When we go back into the history of the church and the Reformation (I use this because the authors use the concept as a building stone), we find that real Reformation in our history had to do with strong fundamental Biblical issues calling people back to God and the authority of His Word.
The four questions or doctrines addressed were: How is a person saved? Where does religious authority lie? What is the church? And what is the essence of Christian living?
In answering these questions, Protestant Reformers such as Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin, and John Knox established what would be known as the “Five Solas” of the Reformation (sola being the Latin word for “alone”). These five points of doctrine were at the heart of the Protestant Reformation.
1. “Sola Scriptura,” or Scripture Alone: This affirms the Biblical doctrine that the Bible alone is the sole authority for all matters of faith and practice. Scripture and Scripture alone is the standard by which all teachings and doctrines of the church must be measured. As Martin Luther so movingly stated when asked to renounce his teachings, “Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason -….- my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.”
2. “Sola Gratia,” Salvation by Grace Alone: This affirms the Biblical doctrine that salvation is by God’s grace alone and that we are rescued from His wrath by His grace alone. God’s grace in Christ is not merely necessary, but is the sole efficient cause of salvation. This grace is the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit that brings us to Christ by releasing us from our bondage to sin and raising us from spiritual death to spiritual life.
3. “Sola Fide,” Salvation by Faith Alone: This affirms the Biblical doctrine that justification is by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone. It is by faith in Christ that His righteousness is given to us as the only possible satisfaction of God’s perfect justice.
4. “Solus Christus,” In Christ Alone: This affirms the Biblical doctrine that salvation is found in Christ alone and that His sinless life and substitutionary atonement alone are sufficient for our justification and reconciliation to God the Father. The gospel has not been preached if Christ’s substitutionary work is not declared, and if faith in Christ and His work is not solicited.
5. “Soli Deo Gloria”, For the Glory of God Alone: This affirms the Biblical doctrine that salvation is of God and has been accomplished by God for His glory alone. It affirms that as Christians we must glorify Him always, and must live our entire lives before the face of God, under the authority of God, and for His glory alone.
These five important and fundamental doctrines were the reason for the Protestant Reformation. They were a call back to the heart of Christianity, Christ, His work, death on the cross and resurrection, and also a revival to the authority of the Word of God.
Is Olle Carlsson a reformer in the Biblical sense? I do not believe so. I believe that the call for repentance, the call to Biblical Christianity and followership of Christ is not heard, nor taught under his ministry. The sheer presence of crowds is no confirmation of God’s presence. It might be the opposite at times. If we bring and preach what people want to hear we become crowd pleasers and politically correct but spiritually oh, so wrong. The message of the Cross, the need for repentance is not a message the Modern Swede wants to hear and seems to be old fashioned, reeking fundamentalism. However, the call from Jesus to follow Him must imply or willingness “to leave”, leave our past, leave our ways, leave our comfort or whatever needs to be left behind to be able to follow Him.
My prayer and hope is that a real reformation would hit the Swedish Church and our other churches as well… In many ways, much of Protestant Christianity needs to be challenged to return to these fundamental doctrines of faith, only then there will be a new hope for our nation!
That’s the Way I see it!