Wednesday, November 14, 2012

November 14, 2012

Swedish Reformer Laurentius Petri's Legacy

Today was another one of those “names popping out at me” days, and as I was researching Protestant reformers, I came across the name Laurentius Petri. I admit I had no idea who this man was or what he did. Petri was a Swede who was a near-contemporary of Martin Luther, having been born in 1499. He eagerly adopted (most) Protestant doctrines of the Lutheran variety and gave his life to spreading the Reform throughout Sweden. His brother Olaus greatly assisted in this venture.

Laurentius’ first brush with the country that would give birth to Protestant doctrines came in the early 1500s, when he attended school in Germany. At the time he likely had no idea that this movement would gain such momentum. He later moved to Gotland, a Swedish island already famous for its Viking ancestry and impressively-decorated rune-stones. Gustav Vasa, king of Sweden, saw great potential in Laurentius’ new mindset and decided that the most subtle (and most beneficial way) to introduce Lutheranism into Sweden was to make Laurentius Petri archbishop. This was done, but soon the two men began to have a battle of wills as to how the Reformation should progress in their native land.

During this time Laurentius retained some contact with Catholic ideas, and this caused even more friction between him and his monarch. During his lifetime, in 1541, a Swedish Bible emerged. This revolutionized Protestant thought in Sweden just as it had done in Germany and France. Before 1560 there was little conflict between Lutheranism and Calvinism in Sweden, yet when Petri and other Swedish Protestants began to verbalize disagreements with Calvinist beliefs, it became apparent that they had developed a uniquely Lutheran church.

History records that Laurentius was a more soft-spoken and perhaps more thoughtful man than brother Olaus, though to what degree I do not know. Olaus’ subsequent troubles with the monarchy took him out of the picture and left Laurentius to fend for himself against the throngs, with Gustav Vasa (mostly) in his corner. As Uppsala’s archbishop, Petri had a great amount of influence and was able to mold his domain into more a picture of what he believed it should be. This had an unprecedented effect on Swedish Christianity.

Laurentius Petri died in 1573. By that time the Protestant Reformation has exploded across Europe, had won a startling number of converts, and had been bathed in the blood of persecution. He most likely heard stories of the French St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre that took place just fourteen months before his death. But he had done his part to introduce Reformation thought into Sweden . . . his country would never forget him, and neither should we.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

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