The Predestination Controversy

Stavanger Lutheran Church in Ossian Iowa.

Norwegian Lutheran immigrants to the United States created several different denominations over the years, but the most prominent during the 19th century was the Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church known as The Norwegian Synod. The Synod was organized in 1853. In later decades the Synod was rocked by several theological controversies, including fights over absolution, justification, and eventually election/predestination.

    Reading literature from that time you quickly realize that the Predestination Controversy (naadevalgsstriden) was not confined to seminaries but divided entire Norwegian communities in the Midwest. Jon Gjerde puts it this way:

The controversy began among the clergy but quickly spread to the laity. Church members passionately discussed the theological questions, according to one participant, “on the streets and in the alleys, in stores and in saloons, and through a continuous flow of agitating articles [in newspapers and periodicals].” words occasionally led to fights. “They argued predestination in the saloons, with their tongues,” said one, “and settled it in the alley with their fists.” Although fisticuffs were rare, certain Norwegian congregations suffered wrenching internal strife. “The ties of old friendship broke,” remembered one man. “Neighbor did not speak to neighbor. The daughter who was married to a member of the other party became a stranger in her father’s house. Man and wife turned into dog and cat. Brothers and sisters were sundered from one  another.” (Gjerde 1997 page 118)

Bibliography

Gjerde, Jon. 1997. The Minds of the West Ethnocultural Evolution in the Rural Middle West, 1830-1917. Chapel Hill and London: The University of North Carolina Press.

Shrove Tuesday Pancakes

I found this in an old issue of Notes and Queries and thought I would pass it along:

There is a curious tradition existing in Mansfield, Woodhouse, Bulwell, and several other villages near Sherwood Forest, as to the origin of pancakes on Shrove Tuesday. The inhabitants of any of these villages will inform the questioner that when the Danes got to Linby all the Saxon men of the neighboring villages ran off into the Forest, and the Danes took the Saxon women to keep house for them. This happened just before Lent, and the Saxon women, encouraged by their fugitive lords, resolved to massacre their Danish masters on Ash Wednesday. Every woman who agreed to do this was to bake pancakes for their meal on Shrove Tuesday as a kind of pledge to fulfill her vow. This was done, and that the massacre of the Danes did take place on Ash Wednesday is a well-known historical fact.

Notes and Queries, June 4, 1859

Jeremy Taylor on Shrove Tuesday Repentance

In The Whole Works of the Right Rev. Jeremy Taylor, he writes:

Every true penitential sorrow is rather natural than solemn; that is, it is the product of our internal apprehensions, rather than outward order and command. He that repents only by solemnity, at a certain period, by the expectation of tomorrow’s sun, may indeed act a sorrow, but cannot be sure that he shall then be sorrowful. Other acts of repentance may be done in their proper period, by order and command, upon set days, and indicted solemnities; such as is, fasting and prayer, and alms, and confession, and disciplines, and all the instances of humiliation: but sorrow is not to be reckoned in this account, unless it dwells there before. When there is a natural abiding sorrow for our sins, any public day of humiliation can bring it forth, and put it into activity; but when a sinner is gay and intemperately merry upon Shrove-tuesday, and resolves to mourn upon Ash-wednesday; his sorrow hath in it more of the theatre than the temple, and is not at all to be relied upon by him that resolves to take severe accounts of himself.

Section VI.X.89