By Bo Giertz
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
A friend of mine referred this book to me, based on the following post: The Best Christian Novel You’ve Never Heard Of.
This will be my first book of 2016. It is divided into three sections and takes place in Sweden, each section during a different time period. It was translated from Swedish and has Swedish names of people and places, making it just the slightest bit uncomfortable to get started. It is also by and about members of the Lutheran Church in Sweden, with which I am not familiar.
The beginning made me cringe, because a peasant comes into a gathering of church leaders asking for help, and they all pass the buck, which finally rests on the youngest person present. Not a good view of the church.
This section of the book takes place between 1808 and 1810.
The audience for this book is Christians, I think. It uses “church” language, and I’m not sure it would have the impact on people not raised in the church that it should have on those who were.”
God can do whatever he wills. But it is neither true that God must give a man a clean heart, not that he must have a clean heart, before he can become a child of God. God saves us by grace even with our unclean hearts. Our state of grace rests not on our heart, whether clean or unclean, but on the righteousness and merits of Jesus. (p180)
The second section of the book takes place between 1878 and 1880. I’ve been struck by how this book describes Christianity and salvation as I know it. I grew up in the 70s, 80s, and 90s in a Southern Baptist Church, and what I learned there is mostly identical to the teachings in this book about the Swedish Lutheran Church from the early 1800s to 1941.
I find one statement that differs from my understanding of salvation. On page 184 is this:
Neither did [Jesus] baptize anyone else. He took people directly into the kingdom. But to his church he has given baptism, that through this gateway we might be brought into the kingdom of God. He has given us no other way of entrance. ‘Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.’
My understanding is that baptism is only an outward symbol of our salvation. It does not confer salvation upon us. The birth of water is understood to be the physical birth.
Is it not written that the kingdom of God belongs to those who are poor in sprit? Faith is, then, a poverty of spirit, a hunger and thirst, a poor, empty heart opening toward God so the He can put His Grace into it. When God bestows His grace upon us, we are born anew and become partakers of the new life. (p184)
On page 187, Pasto Fridfeldt incorrectly interprets this scripture: “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God…”, to mean that “…God’s kingdom is received through regeneration in baptism.”
Th last section of the book takes place from 1938-1941. The basic premise running through this book seems to be that each pastor thinks he is doing right by trying to do right. In other words, his actions and deeds are what matter. In the end, each learns that his best is not good enough and only the atoning blood of Jesus Christ can save him. Sometimes the pastor learns this from his parishioners and sometimes from older religious leaders. In each case, the young pastor finds his formal education has not actually prepared him well for service, and all his head knowledge has not made him a Christian.
What, then, is sin? It is everything that separates us from God and from other people. (P230)
- P30 – “He” should be “She”
- P32 – “what” should be “that”
- P40 – “my” should be “me”
- p57 – “not” shouldn’t be there
- p62 – “Life” should be “Lift”
- p85 – “exists” should be “exits”
- p91 – “bas” should be “has”
- p98 – “scaled” should be “scales”
- p174 – “is” should be “it”, “reckons” should be “reckon”
- p178 – “king” should be “kind”
- p183 – “nit” should be “not”
- p201 – “done” should be “gone”
- P246 – “that” should be “what”
- P247 – “as” should be “was”