Atle Svanoe was an ordained minister of the Lutheran Church of Norway when he immigrated to America in 1898.
Married with one child, his wife died in 1905 in Wisconsin where he was teaching parochial school. He attended Chicago Lutheran Theological Seminary both in 1898 and in 1906, the year he also remarried. After serving a parish in Greenwood, Wisconsin in 1906-8 he returned to Norway with his wife Martha and two children, one from his first marriage. It was at this time that Pastor Svanoe wrote the book, "The Work of Laypersons in Lutheran Perspective," published first in Drammen, Norway. He served parishes in Kalvaag [William Svanoe's birthplace, who married Myrtle Stadem and they had eight children, all of whom are living except the youngest boy, Luther], Floro, and Sulen in 1909-1919 and rturned to America in 1920.
Pastor Svanoe brought out a second edition of his work in St. Paul, in 1923, with minor revisions and added notes.
Although the original occasion for the book--the points about laymen's work taken up by the joint committee leading to the merger of three American Lutheran Church bodies in 1919--had passed, Pastor Svanoe believed that his subject had ongoing importance for the church. Intended for readers in both Norway and America, "The Work of Laypersons" is now available for the first time in English [thanks to the initiative and sponsorship of his grandson, Rennard Svanoe, who enlised a very reputable translator and "third-generation Haugean" to render the Norwegian manuscript into English--Ed].
About the Translator--Gordon W. Gunderson is a Lutheran layman whose grandfather was a follower of Hans Nielsen Hauge in America. Gordon's early career was in banking, but during the Great Depression he began a new career with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He was involved for many years in developing the school lunch program as subsidized by the Department.
Mr. Gunderson attended St. Olaf college in Northfield, Minnesota and was a student of the renowned author Ole Rolvaag ("Giants in the Earth"), who on occasion would leave him in charge of his classes. Due to his facility with Norwegian, he was encouraged by Mr. Rolvaag to pursue teaching the language. He has translated into English the original Norwegian records of Bethel Lutheran Church in Madison, Wisconsin, where he and his wife Luella are members.
THE WORK OF THE LAITY IN LUTHERAN PERSECTIVE, Atle Svanoe, Author, Gordon Gunderson, Translator.
After ten years in America, immigrant Pastor Atle Svanoe produced "The Work of the Laity" in 1910.
Originally meant to be a part of the discussions leading to the three-way Norwegian Lutheran church merger in 1919, the book was reissued in 1923 due to the subject's ongoing importance for the American church.
While lay preaching in Norway was warranted on the basis of need--extraordinary conditions of geography and moral decline--, the true basis for lay work is in the"gifts" of Christ's members.
Svanoe decries the "abandonment" of the gifts which resulted when the modern church undertook to focus them in the single position called "minister".
"Not many persons have been concerned enough with the role of the laity in the Lutheran story, and this piece is concerned with that in both a critical and constructive fashion." Paul Sonnack, Luther Northwestern Theol. Seminary, St. Paul
"Thank you for the privilege to read Atle Svanoe's dynamic book. It is like a refrain from my ancestors. We do not fight a state church restraint, but we face a distractive, self-centered culture, controlled by hedonistic, materialistic, and money and power centered 'systems'. Thus I think a lay expression, teaching ability from the non-professional mold, might be our best response."
What do you see, eminent observer? What does your eagle eye discern? The reply is as follows: "Overall, I perceive the style of life among us to be woefully inadequate; it fails to take seriously the new birth, which is the principle object of God's word" (Dr. Koren, "Collected Writings," Vol. II, p. 182).
"When I sought for a way to portray what is going on among us, the way I look at it, I kept coming back to the Spirit's communication to the 'angel' of the congregation in Sardis: 'I know what you are doing. I know that you have the reputation of being alive, even though you are dead.
So wake up, and strengthen what you still have before it dies completely. For I find that what you have done is not yet perfect in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you were taught and what you have heard; obey it and turn from your sins. If you do not wake up I will come upon you like a thief, and you will not soon know the time when I will come.
But a few of you there in Sardis have kept your clothes clean. You will walk with me, clothed in white, because you are worthy to do so.' (Rev. 3:1-4)
"In these words there is a portrayal of the greater number of the people in our congregations.
"I believe there is a Sardis-like situation around in most of our congregations; that as a consequence the true Spirit is wanting. I believe this because I have proof that there is a general neglect of God's word and little or no appetite for its daily and diligent use.
And so there is also little earnestness and training in prayer, little identification with the Savior, little delight in the gospel, little love for each other, little enthusiasm for spiritual growth, little dread of sinning, little mutual encouragement for that which is right, little brotherly correcting and advising and little concern for the children's welfare.
Instead of all this, there is in every relationship a greater and greater conformity to society at large.
WHO IS CHIEFLY RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS SPIRITUAL MALAISE, THE 'SARDIS-LIKE SITUATION' IN THE CONGREGATIONS?
[A Personal testimony about this assessment by Rev. Atle Svanoe by Ronald Ginther, a relative by marriage through his uncle, William Svanoe: This assessment is uncanningly accurate; in fact, Rev. Svanoe hits a bull's eye.
Every single detail is absolutely true of our present church culture at large, whether Lutheran or some other main evangelical denomination that can be named, and is true in the Pentecostal denominations as well. I find it is also true of my blood relationship of Stadem descendants, most of whom are either Lutheran for generations or Catholic.
What hurts the most in this assessment is "little love for each other"--that alone is the most damning, in my view. No matter how well we may do things, if love is absent, then we have lost the "ballgame." Fortunately, with Christ there is always hope of a turn-around.
I have no confidence in any of us to achieve a restoration, I can only place my confidence in a merciful, loving, forgiving, all-powerful God who will do everything necessary for our regeneration if we will just humble ourselves, repent, and call upon Him. This we must do, soon, for the Lord is returning for his own, very soon!--Ronald Ginther]
'YOU MUST BE CONVERTED,' THE SAINTLY MOTHER OF ATLE SVANOE DECLARED ON HER DEATHBED TO HER SHOCKED, GRIEVING, SEMINARY-TRAINED SON, A PASTOR AND THE AUTHOR OF THIS WORK--A GLOW IN THE ASHES WAS NOT ENOUGH!
"If this is true, to what extent are we ministers responsible? The answer the old overseer gives to to this question one will find in the "Collected Writings of Dr. Koren (Vol. II, p. 32).
It is to be expected, is it not, that one who speaks with divine inspiration and authority would first turn to the congregation's "angels" and fix the responsibility on them. For the Lord exempts only the few that "did not defile their garments," but does not exempt the ministers, the "angels."
Dr. Koren on this point seems to strongly shrink from stating this and from granting that if the condition in the congregations actually is such as he portrays, it is first and foremost the local leader himself, and next the bishop of the synod and other ministers that Lord addresses with this admonition.
Or, in terms used in Norway at this writing, it is first and foremost the bishops, parish pastors, ministers (and lay preachers!) the Lord exhorts to be converted. But to say it straight to the point, it is surpassingly difficult for us as shepherds and teachers to acknowledge that our congregations generally reflect our own condition.
There was one person who saw this in my own case--my own mother. Consequently, in her dying hour her farewell words were the Lord's admonition: "You must be converted." For the burning heart was missing. It didn't help that there was a glow in the ashes.
And I thank God with all my heart for those stern words of a mother which I did not understand at the time and which consequently caused me such unspeakable pain.
A layman from the Sogn district of Norway once told of an indelible impression made on him when he was with his father for the first time cutting wood. He saw him raise the ax and pound the trunk of a tree with the ax head to find out whether it was healthy or not.
"This one has had it," his father said. And so the tree was cut down, for it was evident that the heart of the tree was assaulted by "rot."
This could not be seen with the eye, but the trained ear could always tell by the sound.
THE AUTHOR TURNS AND FACES YOU AND ASKS YOU, THE READER AND FELLOW CHRISTIAN, WHAT IS THE SPIRITUAL CONDITION OF YOUR HEART!
What is the condition of this love for fellow believers? But above all, what is the condition of our love for God, who always wants first place in our heart and claims our "first love"?
I once stressed the importance of possessing this first love and proving ourselves in the sight of God, at a minister's conference back home in Norway. I had been asked as a young liberal arts graduate to open the conference, using the subject of Rev. 2:4 as the them. Afterward a friendly old minister arise and spoke in opposition.
He said what the fine graduate had spoken he would consider totally unnecessary. I shall never forget my surprise and dismay. To my heart it sounded like the clash of cymbals.
Perhaps you who read this also deny the importance of this matter. Or perhaps it leaves you cold? But what if this issue never comes up again before the course of events makes changes impossible? [Indeed, we may well be at that juncture right now in the first days of February 2010 as this is being placed on-line!--Ed.]
As far as the "angel" in Ephesus is concerned, we do not know whether he obeyed the admonition and was converted. But according to God's word it is clearly evident that a great many of his kind do not do so. It is too bad for those whom God rebuffs because their heart stops concentrating on him, stops focusing on the intent love of his heart, which should be their most cherished possession and vision. Still he must give them credit for all the work which they do, and which brings them a big and good name, and recognition among people.
How sad for those who have predicted the future and got rid of devils in the name of Jesus and have realized many great accomlishments in the this name and nevertheless were not "perfected before God."
They were not the acts of obedience which they had been moved to perform and which were accomplished by the Spirit of God according to his word and direction, but self-selected performances by means of which they excepted, as did Saul of olden days, that they might please their Lord. And it is too bad for the poor maidens who were not prepared with enough oil to keep the fire of their hearts burning!
Would it not be worth the trouble to attempt by the revelation of truth to stir some of them awake before it is too late?"
Was it not this intent that motivated Hans Nielsen Hauge to give up his peaceful life in the rural hamlet of Tune and travel all over the country with his stirring cry for conversion?
They held that Hands Nielsen Hauge's work for renewal of spiritual life in Norway is, "without doubt," the New Testament's prophetic judgment revived among the Norwegian people [this is absolutely the case, and is self-evident, when you review the phenomenal spiritual work of evangelism and its effect on the mass of common Norwegian people and continuing, lasting influence of Haugism that spread supernaturally all over Norway and with the Norwegian immigrants across pioneer American society despite all opposition to stop him and make him cease preaching the Gospel--Ed.].
I was fortunate enough to be close to both of these men, and venture to openly quote the statement to me by Heuch regarding this matter: "It cannot be denied that historical facts on this bear witness with convincing strength."
I dare say that there are those who believe that the work of laypersons is at bottom a question of judgment, that the performance of this work depends chiefly on careful and tactful action.
I would refer such persons to Paul's second letter to the Corinthians, 5: 13,14, where Paul defends himself against the accusation of "going too far" and "raging" in his preaching: "For whether we be besides ourselves, it is to God: or whether we be sober, it is for your cause.
For the love of God constrains us."
For us, as for the whole church body, the work of laypersons ought to be considered what in reality it is, a question of life and death, because it means conversion and salvation for thousands of sleeping church members. Better, then, to tolerate the rousing call to conversion in the congregations, even though that call be lacking somewhat in carefulness and tact. To be sure it might create some noise when someone does as Luther, yells aloud so that folks awaken. It is better to make some noise than to be roused by the Lord's voice of judgment and be made responsible for the damnation of others. For some sleep so heavily that no ordinary teacher's voice can rouse them from their sleep."
"Ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is" (Jer. 6:16)
There are at least two reasons why I have been prompted to engage in the discussion about the above named subject which has been the object of my special interest for many years.
The primary reason is the recommendation which Jacob B. Bull's book about H.N. Hauge published last fall received from Dr. Laur. Larsen, the venerable editor of "Kirketidende" (Church News).
He praises it as an excellent book and expresses his dismay over the lack of understanding that existed among most of Hauge's contemporaries [not the mass of common people, however, usually only the upper and aristocratic class of clergymen and public officials who acted in concert with them in suppressing Hauge any way they could do it, lawfully or not.--Ed.], for the gift God gave the Norwegian people in this remarkable man.
The injustice shown in the way he was treated became a national sin which could not do other than draw God's wrath, he says.
[Now this is an interesting statement, one which hardly anyone wishes to consider today, that God would punish a nation for mistreating his prophet and ambassador, in this case, Norway's ruling classes in their treatment of Hauge.
Nevertheless, it is God's way in the past, recorded in the Bible too numerously to even necessitate listing here; folk take those records in the Bible lightly today of course, pointing to this as the Age of Grace or some such thing, which it very much is, though they then give no place to Justice in this Age (and Grace that suspends all Justice, then, cannot be grace but is something else!), yet when you view the 2011 catastrophe of Behring Breivik the domestic Norwegian terrorist's massacre of dozens of young people on an island off Oslo as well as his bombing of the Prime Minister's office building in the heart of Oslo which also took lives, one cannot help but wonder if Justice is not also operating, only against the state of Norway, which touts itself as the bastion of the goodness of pure tolerance and the most high-minded liberalism.--Ed.]
[We have not seen necessary to add the final paragraph dealing with churchly matters that ended the Introduction.--Ed.].
"LAYPERSON," A MISLEADING NAME
This Christian lay movement started with Hans Nielsen Hauge. It was one of the principal factors turning the tide against Rationsalism at the beginning of the last century. It furnished soil andgave momentum tothe great religious reivals during the last half of the nineteenth century which transformed the Church of Norway and initiated a period of great activity, the most flourishing part of the history of that church.
When the deluge of modern rationalism swept over the intellectuals in Norway [call it what you like, though rational it is not, it is nothing but the "old black magic" of the darkened, prideful, rebellious, unregenerated heart, which believes in everything but God, which surely is irrational, not rational--Ed.] as elsewhere and was met by a so-called "liberal" compromise form of Christianity, it was largely due to the backing of the lay movements that evangelical confessional Christianity won the day.
This is, of course, the Lord's doing; and His human instruments have been many. But it was Hauge who started this movement.
In our country, when a person feels the call of God to bring the Gospel to his fellow men, as Hauge did, he usually concludes that the only way to obey this call is to enter the ministry of the church.
Hauge's career is a shining example of what a consecrated layman can accomplish when he is faithful to his call and diligent in his use of the gifts the Lord has given him [to this Atle Svanoe would heartily agree!--Ed.]. True, the average congregation doesnot offer large opportunities even for a giftedlay worker, but Hauge's opportunities were fewer in this respect. Nevertheless he became, under God and with his followers, the instrument for bringing about a country-wide revival which worked as a leaven, helping gradually to transform the church as well as the life of the nation.
Hauge was by no means a theologian. Nevertheless, the Haugean movement did have theological significance.
After a prolonged and virulent controversy between the liberals and conservatives of the Church of Norway concerning the validity of the historic confession [which compares to the controversy of the 1970s in the American Lutheran Church and other Lutheran bodies concerning the Inerrancy of the Scriptures--Ed.], the two factions finally got together in an agreement to co-operate along the line of the Reformation, Pietism, and Haugeanism.
Few things show the abiding significance of Haugeanism as well as this.
Hauge may in many respects be compared to Dwight L. Moody. But though the latter worked in a much large sphere, he nevertheless did not influence the life of his nation [America, while he also preached in Britain to a great extent in similar mass gatherings and evangelistic meetings too--Ed] to such an extent and in so many ways as Hauge did in his smaller country.
Haugeanism, became an important factor in the nation's culture and politics, and even in its economic life [something which Moody's evangelism did not accomplish, except in scattered incidences perhaps, whereas Haugeanism exercised a wide influence everywhere in these areas, for generations after he was gone--Ed.].
The Haugeans had a very definite part in the development of the liberal, progressive tendency in Norwegian politics in the nineteenth century. In view of this it is understandable that one of Norway's great literary lights, himself an unbeliever, calls Hauge "Norway's greatest son."
[Imagine a well-known secularist or atheist prominent in either America or Britain today saying that of Billy Graham! It is almost unthinkable that anyone would invite the storm of ridicule he would surely receive from his fellow secularists and atheists if he dared honor Billy Graham with such a public statement claiming the evangelist is "America's greatest son"--which quite possibly he is, if only because of the numerous honors given him by the government and president after president that have singled him out as America's shining star.--Ed.]
It is also indicative of Hauge's standing in the eyes of his countrymen that a man who was later appointed bishop of Oslo (A. Chr. Bang) was the author of the standard biography on Hauge, and that recently a critical edition of Hauge's Collected Works, surprisingly voluminous, has been issued under the editorship of a university professor.--Joseph M. Shaw, "Pulpit Under the Sky."
"'LAYPERSON' A MISLEADING NAME"
Permit me, then, to begin by expressing my personal conviction that the name of the title in itself--"The Work of Laypersons"--is in the deepest sense incorrect and misleading. The theory of the adage, "what's in a name?" does not hold true; this name is discredited, and discredits both the work and those who pursue it.
By whom did this name originate? By the sacred author who first referred tothis subject in writing? (See Acts 4: 13) It might be that a casual reader could gather this,and many have so concluded.
However, under closer scrutiny, an unbiased appraisal makes clear that Luke is merely making a quote. In actuality, the expresskion comes from Jesus' enemies and persecutors, the Jewish priests and rulers whom Jesus called the "blind guides." We can only expect of them that they speak as a blind person would about colors.
They marvelled that unlearned laypersons,t he apostles Peter and John, could perform and speak with such power and cheerfulness.
They called them illiterate (agramatoi) because they had not graduated from the rabbinical school nor acquired the theological training essential for orthodox rabbinical interpretation.
They overlooked the fact that these men enjoyed the world's greatest prophet and professor for their teacher and model for three years, and were now filled with the spirit of wisdom and knowledge. Yes they viewed them as ignorant (idiotai)because they were from a different place in life, and were merely what we would call "plain" folk (unlearned plebians").
The word "lay" from the Latin "laicus" denotes a man of the people, of the congregation, who is not of a clergyman's rank. The original word is "idiotai", the basic meaning of which is "folk who live by themselves," and therefore is most simply expressed by our "common man," as opposed to "an official."
In the Twentieth Century New Testament, the current English translation, which uses all the most modern spoken English, it is expressed as "obscure people"--unknown folk of low, poor descent. It follows from this that a layperson would be a man who tends to his own affairs, as opposed to one who is engagd in a public position.
He may be as efficient a person as he wants to be and have the most respected standing among his neighbors and acquaintances for being in all respects a good and right-minded person, yet he remains only a private person, an unknown and anonymous person, not included on the list of public servants.
Later on the word "lay" was developed to mean unskilled or untrained, and this is how it is most often construed, no doubt, both in the old as well as the revised English translations. People talka bout a layperson's conversation and a layperson'sviewpoint,a s contrasted with a specialist's judgment. But it doesn't follow that such a viewpoint and judgment are synomymous with ignorance.
On the contrary the layperson's conviction often hits thenail on the head with one well-directed blow, while specialists sometimes cannot see the forest for the trees. Only by exceedingly laborious paths do they come to a conclusion, since they dismiss the signs and possibilities which a pracrtical man, having his understanding sharpened by perception and experience, could give them [I believe the English word best suited to describe this professional state is "obtuse"; somehow, we put greater weight to the views and judgments of an obtuse man, not necessarily a Spirit-led, practical man. That is a folly of our credentials-worshipping church culture! Jesus himself was despised by the Jewish leadership for his seeming lack of professional credentials, he was far too much a "layperson" in their eyes, thus lacking credibility and official sanction and approval. "That carpenter's son," was how they put him down. Calling him "Mary's son" was even worse, as that referred to his questionable parentage.--Ed.].
There is perhaps no other single factor which has advanced industry in the United States as much as "equality before the law," now the rule for the "common" laborer. In the Norwegian homeland he might often notice things in his place of employment that could be improved, but would not dare say anything. And if he did, he would usually be met with silent scorn. One can safely say with Christoffer Brunn that the abomination of inequality had penetrated the whole society and captured the very heart of the church's own system.
"I have often witnessed," writes Prof. Dr. A. Taranger, "that a solid, scientifically built structure can be blown over like a house of cards,and I have often felt a great respect for the layperson's judgment." There are, inr eality, no more prejudiced people than the scholarly, since their prejudice is "academically justified," [we have to refer to the contemporary phenomenon of "Consensus Science" which is coming to dominate the 21st Century, which is science judged to be such by a consensus formed of a sufficient number of scientists on a particular view--which is not science at all, in the traditional, scientific-method based sense; moreover, how more dangerous can such a growth be, when it isn't true science but something based on prejudice? How would you like to take flight in a jet based on "consensus science" rather than solid engineering and aeronautical principles fully demonstrated to be true? This "pseudo-science," as with Evolutionary theory treated as demonstrable science, is a folly of our age.--Ed.], and therefore firm and inflexible. It is, therefore, so extremely difficult to overturn a "prevalent doctrine." And there also develops something which woujld properly be called "professional idiot." This is the kind of professionalism which willnot consider anything outside the laboratory or study halls.
"There is no field," the professor continues, "where 'professional idiot' cause greater damage than in the religious life. I am confident that there are old-fashioned, believing laypersons who have a greater insight into the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven than have many theological faculties."
That the apostles had not been taught,and were therefore unlearned in the rabbinical theology, has already been indicated in the first word "agrammatoi," and I find it, therefore, reasonable in the aforementioned English translation to maintain the original meaning of the word. Both words ("unlearned" and "ignorant") together, then, provide an expression for both the social language of knowledge and learning and the humble state and standing the apostles occupied and held, as interpreted by the persons trained in orthodoxy mentioned earlier.
At any rate this seems to me just as reasonable as to assume that they chose to call them ignorant as a result of the examination they had just taken concerning their knowledge of the law and the prophets. The Jews marvelled, saying, "How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?" (John 7:15). There is also Luther's translation of the statement in I Corinthians 14: 16, the only other place where this word appears in the New Testament: "one who stands in the layperson's rank and therefore should hear and be edified".
These expressions, "unlearned"and "laypersons," express the preachers' and councilmen's opinion of Jesus' apostles, and they were the ones who possessed the education, the positions and the titles. Luther says, "The papists have grabbed for themselves the title of priest or cleric and call theothers laymen." The position and status Jesus had bestowed upon his disciples and the learning and knowledge they had received from him amounted to nothing, in their eyes.
It is therefore misleading to use the term layperson to denote the Lord's apostles "whom he had transformed from weak, uneducated and frightened ment o teachers of an unsurprassed greatness," on whose instruction and preaching about Christ the Christian church is founded and anchored.
Accordingly it is misleading to use this term when speaking of their disciples who had received the gift of the Holy Spirit just as they did.
It is just as incorrect and misleading, I maintain, to use this designation for the blieving and gifted men discussed here, who worked for the awakening and edification of the Norwegian church, granted they were actually taught by God to preach his word. For such a designationemphasizes that they have not graduated from our teachers' training colleges or are not accepted by our church in an official capacity.
In spite of this, the word layperson has become in the popular mind a differentiating characteristic and a symbol of disparagement--like the camel's hair raiment of the prophet and the crown of thorns upon the Master's forehead. However, we must let the word be and be satisfied with attempting to render its true content.
There is one thing that would seem easy to understand about one who lives close to his Savior this way in prayer and faith, and meditates on his law day and night, for whom "Jesus alone" has become the heart's one main thought, so that all other interests are sort of swallowed up by the one thought. Since he is stirred clear to his innermost heart by this divine life and love, it would seem that he would not require any special preparation for giving a talk of exhortation or speaking an edifying and consoling word.
The old followers of Hauge prepared themselves in this way, says Heggtveit, by reading God's word and the best edifying books of the Lutheran church, and by praying until they became inflamed by God's spirit [if you have the opportunity to examine the devotional reading books and materials and also the major theological works in the personal use of our Stadem grandparents, a privilege I have had, they were clearly, with their friends and relatives, following the examples of the old followers of Hauge--Ed].
As has been referred to by the aforenamed J. Jansen, they used the preparation which is unequaled in importance and most meaningful also for the minister: the regular preaching preoparation which takes place continually in the life of a preacher, since he works constantly with the Bible, constantly delves deeper into it, and in his heart daily experiences its power.
For by his association with individuals he gains knowledge of the congregation, but above all, as spiritual guide he learns about the wounds that need to be healed and acquires some of Jesus' burning desire to save.
One way Hauge's people followed Luther's example was when he was very busiest he was not content with less than three hours of prayerful communion with God. And then they testified from their experiencs and their lives about the way of life and death with such seriousness that they awakened the masses.
Forget that this speaking was not directly "drawn from books, that is, derived from other persons and first printed and arranged" (Luther). Forget that it was not carefully thought through and conformed to the rules beforehand. A critic would find it "unsystematic, without sufficient unity, continuity and train of thought, not having a particular theme with parts following in logical order covering the subject." The same critic would also be right that the same thoughts and modes of expression continually come back regardless of what the text is."
And yet this talk possessed that which gave the wording a completeness much greater than if each sentence had been justified and joined with skill. It came from a heart which was overwhelmed by God, in which His fire of love burned with a desire to save those who were in spiritual agony and soul's danger.
It therefore gripped both heart and mind and accomplished what cleverness and eloquence were unable to do. It worked through the secret of repetition; it was the great leading thoughts of sin and grace which came forward again and again, and were, so to speak, hammered in.
"WE NEED ROUSING VOICES"
Where in our congregations do we not need such simple unaffected testimonies? Where do we not need such continually recurrent admonitions to the many secure, sleeping sinners!
"it is a shameful thing, to bemoan and weep over, that we are so very lazy and so addicted to sleeping sickness," Luther says. I am also reminded of Dr. Koren's penetrating words at the joint synod in 1902: "We need rousing voices." We will find his words echoed by all of those who pray for the advancement and spread of God's kingdom.
LOOK HOMEWARD, PRODIGALS!
It is preciously this special branch of the gift of prophecy we presently need the most: a "revelation of that which is necessary," not primarily revelations about the future--how would that help us?--but about the present.
We need to hear about the dark, dangerous ways of sin on which wayward sons and daughters travel forward carelessly, farther and father away from the Father's house toward eternal death and perdition...
[How incredibly on target Rev. Svanoe is again, as not only the descendants of the Stadems and his own brethren but many of his own direct descendants of the second and third generation are in truth living out of wedlock with partners, drinking, smoking, and indulging themselves incessantly with the entertainment products of the heathen popular culture of America, while dabbling in cults, Eastern religiousness, earth worship, and all sorts of "humanitarian" and "environmental causes" and natural foods culture that can manage their agendas without a single reference to God's primal position and role at the center of all human endeavor.
The strangest thing is that they do not consider their "life-styles" anything like a reproach to their parents and grandparents, or don't care if that is truly the case, and if they do care, not enough certainly for them to act to soften the glaring brashness of the disparity even a bit; rather, they hold their ancestors and their parentage forever responsible for the greater sin of "judgmentalism", which victimized them in their opinion, and say nothing to their living in complete contradiction to the Word of God, which is what truly judges them and their behavior, so that they can have no excuse before the Final Arbiter, God Almighty on the throne of heaven. How will they then defend their behavior to Him--they will have to forget about their parents, they have to account for themselves then. Will they be able to point fingers, judgmentally, at their parents? Will God accept that? Of course, not!--Ed.].
Maybe they would then be able to receive grace to awaken and see their sins, become aware of themselves, and turn homeward. They might then become aware of the many, many wrong pathways of our time, each as dangerous as the next, not least when they lead away from the narrow path, away from Christ and the life in God. We need precisely these rousing voices, these prophets of the Lord with a burning heart and weeping eyes, who can urge the reluctant ones to go in to the wedding. We need voices who will "call, awaken, implore and encourage the believing ones," as Luther says, "so that they will not be lazy, dull and sleepy, as is common, because now they know what there is to do."
While travelling in Norway she informed me that she came across a relative who had collected many volumes of clippings about Atle Svanoe from the newspapers. In such clippings, it is revealed that Svanoe had once taken membership in the Nazi party in Norway so he could still operate as a pastor in his congregations.
This does not disagree with his own relation to the State Church, which I am certain he found primarily dead in spirituality, but which nevertheless he would not actively confront in order to destroy. Rather, he chose to operate as freely as he could within the state church apparatus, and evidently found the grace and power of God to do so, without compromising himself and his faith and his beliefs so much that he could not function as a true man of God. It seems though just too extreme, even appalling to our politically correct mentality cultivated by our secularized society in America that Svanoe would join the Nazi party even for the sake of continuing his ministry in the churches. Just that fact alone would disqualify Svanoe from being seriously considered for his message by most churchmen today, is it not so? Yet we know in the early church, even among Jesus' followers, were "Nazi Party" members, so to speak. Herodians were involved with his movement and ministry, and we know very well that Herodians were just as hated by the Jews, and probably moreso, as Nazis were hated by the Norwegian people. What Herodians? The wife of Chuza, Herod's chief finance minister, was a follower of Jesus and probably forwarded Herodian money to provide for Jesus and his disciples' needs. You can scarcely get higher (and, concomitantly, lower in Jewish eyes!) than that in the Nazi party of Jesus' day! Later on, into the time of the early church, former Herodians were actively involved. Romans, loathed and hated and feared by Jews as defiling heathens and oppressors of God's people, were also commended by Jesus for their great faith and came to him as believers. A centurion was such a one. Cornelius the Roman officer featured in the book of Acts was also very significant in the early church, figuring largely in the spread of the Holy Ghost among the brethren, though he was a Gentile from outside the Jewish congregation--and Gentile pretty much meant "dog" to the Jewish mentality of that day! I say all this because Jesus himself was criticized severely by the religious authorities for the "low company" he kept. What low company? In Jewish society at that time, particular that society dominated by the Pharisees, the most defiling people were "publicans" or tax collectors, prostitutes, and the former demon possessed--and these people Jesus welcomed, even going so far to dine with them!
There is not space or time enough to recount all the godly persons in scripture who served heathen rulers with honor and nobility, with a short list being Joseph, David, Obadiah (chief minister to Ahab and Jezebel in the Northern Kingdom Israel), and Daniel and his three Jewish comrades who were thrown into the fiery furnace. We might remember these, who did not compromise their beliefs, before we leap to censure Svanoe for his seemingly traitorous relations with the Nazi Party in Norway, which he only complied with in order to serve his congregations and not leave them without a shepherd during the most difficult times occupied Norway had yet faced.--Ed.