Full Text for Some Notes on Theology in Finland Today (Text)

THE SPRINGFIELDER January 1974 Volume 38, Number 1 Some Notes on Theology in Finland Today REIJO ARKKILA Parkano, Finland INNISH THEOLOGY IS NOT \WELL KN0\7N outside Finland, F because the Finnish language is used by only a few people in the world. Translations of Finnish theology are few in number. Most dissertations of international interest being published either in German or in English. In this short article, I want to fill in the gaps by mentioning some of the leading features and men of Finnish theology. In the thirties there was in Finland, as in Sweden, strong interest in Luther and in Luther-studies. The leading inen in this area in Finland were Eino Sormunen and Yrjo Alanen, both of whom published their books in German. Sormunen followed in his disserta- tion, Die Gnnde Gottes (The Grace of God), the Lundensian motif- research, but he was not in other ways a follower of Lundensian thought. Sormunen represented good conservative Lutheranism. He had a strong influence on his students in Helsinki University and later on the ministers when serving as Bishop of Kuopio for many years. Two other Luther-scholars from Finland are better known in the English-speaking world because of their books in English. Lennart Pinomaa, whose book, Faith Victorious, is a theology of Luther, has been the leading Luther-scholar after \170rld War 11. Hc is still writing but has not published any greater study on Luthcr after that book. Pinomaa has an obvious dependency on Lundensian thought. LJuras Saarnivaara, whose book, Luther Discovers the Gospel, was published by Concordia, has not continued with his Lutheran studies. Saarnivaara is much influenced by pietistic ways of thinking and worked buslly in these groups in Finland. Therc were some dissertations on Luther also in the fifties and sixties by men who are not ordinarily recognized as Luther-scholars. Professor of ethics Lauri Haikola has written about the theology of Formula of Concord. Today there is less interest in Luther and Luther-studies than several decades ago. In an interesting dissertation two years ago Ahti Hakamies dealt with the ways of interpreting Luther in the end of last century and in the beginning of this one. Scholars in the systematics field have shown an increasing interest in the study of Roman Catholic theology. The reason for this may be that the professor of dogmatics at Helsinki University, Seppo A. Teinonen, is well acquainted with and has ivritten much about the ecunlenical movement. Raimo Harjula, now a professor in Tanzania, has written a dissertation on the pope's encyclicals, while Karl Rahner's theology is the subject of a dissertation by Tuomo Mannermaa, At present, three scholars are working with studies of Hans Kungs theology. The entire last issue of the leading theological magazine In Finland (Teologinen Aikakauskirja) dealt with Hans Kung and his theology. Thrology 172 Finland Today -- 3 5 -.--- Recently soil~~ discussion has taken place in Finland rcgarding the so-called Leuenberg Concord. It is interesting to note that the Lutheran Church of Finland gave one of the most critical evaluatiolls of that Concord. The Church of Finland pointed out that agreement ivith Leuenberg Concord Incans loss of our special Lutheran identity. This critical evaluation by the Church of Finland has been very much noted in the other countries of Europe. In con~menting on 'the Con- cord,' the Finnish Church seeks to uphold simultaneously both the Luthcran doctrine and the true unity of the apostolic church. At- tempts have been made within the Finnish church to form some kind of confessional Luthcran movement in opposition to liberal theology and liberal church policy. Leading men in this movement have been from the Lutheran Gospel Association (Lutcrilainen Evankeliu- miyhdistys), which had its 100th anniversay last summer. One of the speakers for the occasion \vas Dr. Gerhard Aho of Springfield. These attempts have borne fruit, since the importance of our special Lutheran identity is seen better now than some years ago. The Luthcran identity is strcsscd in some measure also in the theological studies. Studies in church history have for the most part centered on the lxoblems of Finland. But one scholar whose studies have awakened interest also in other countries, Eino Alurtorin~ze, has specialised for some years in the study of the so-called confessional church in Ger- many during Hitler's ruIe. He has published two books about the relations between Germany and Scandinavian churches during that difficult time. The German influence has been strong in Old and New Testa- ment studies. Some of the professors have had close connections with the Bultnlannian way of interpreting the Bible. For this reason therc was in the Finnish Church about three years ago much discussion of and struggle with Bible interpretation. To case the situation, the bishops of the Lutheran Church of Finland published together the so-called twelve theses concerning the Bible. These theses are quite conservative in the way they speak about the inspiration of the Bible, But at the same time they leave the door open to the historico-critical method. Nevertheless thesc theses have eased the teasion within the Church of Finland. Because of this German liberal influence, there are only few good conservative scholarsworking in this area of theology, and there is a great sho,rtage of good conservative Lutheran writings about the Bible in Finnish. One of the best young scholars among the con- servative Lutheran men is Jukka Thuren, who just last year had published his dissertation in German on the last chapter of Hebrews, (The Thank offering of the Hebrews). In his dissertation Thuren shows that this last chapter is actually the key chapter to the whole book. Thuren has now agreed io write a commentary on the whole book of Hebrews, which I really hope will be translated into English when it is ready. The last few years have seen a growing interest in the theology of nlissions, as well as in the work in the mission fields. The writings of Seppo Teinonen, Henrik Srnedjebacka, and Rainlo Harjula may be noted. Smedjebacka in his dissertation focused on the churcl~ Tanzania and its way to unity. Raimo Harjula has been working r in Dares Salaam, Tanzania and has published sonye hooks for usc of students of theology over there. Although Finnish theology is not well known in other countr it seems to me that just now there is a rather active eroup of yo1 schoIars whose works may become widely known within 3 few ye; Rllany in this group of scholars are strongly conservative Luthera For this reason, I am loolung forward excitedly to the effects wh their labors will have upon thc spirit and work of the Luthe Church of Finland. There is hope for the rise of good Luthc theology in Finland. Editor's Note: The ~vritcr, the Rev. Rcijo Arkkila is a pastor of the Chz of Finland (Lzttlzcran) in Parkano and is associated with the "Lutheran Go Association," the conservative wing of the Finnish state church. Pa Arkilla is a frequent contributor to the official jozirnals of the ."Lutht Gospel Association," a group strongly active in African and Asian missic He is now in America in connection with research for his doctoral disse tion deal,ing with the association's dealing with Finnish Lutherans in .Arne from 1920-1930. Pastor Arkilla is writing his doctoral dissertation for I fessor Milzho Jura, current president of the Lutherrrn World Federation Chuncellor of the University of Helsinki where the degree will be nwarl He was a gzrest professor at the seminary during the Spring Qz~nrter, 1974