The Rise of Confession: Finland in the Swedish Kingdom 1560-1611

            In September 1560, King Gustav Vasa of Sweden died after almost forty years on the throne. The king’s confiscation of the church’s wealth and takeover of its administration created space for reformers of the church. The church was reformed along Lutheran lines in a deliberate, tolerant, and mostly peaceful fashion. During the period 1560-1611 the Swedish kingdom fell into decades of religious conflict under Gustav Vasa’s sons: Eric XIV (r. 1560-1568), John III (r. 1568-1592), Charles IX (r. 1599-1611), and Gustav’s grandson Sigismund (r. 1592-1599). The Swedish kingdom’s church found itself during this era subjected to many conflicting forces. Every king came to the throne with differing ideas on how to change the church. Both Calvinism and Catholic Reform (more commonly known as the Counter-Reformation) came to the Swedish kingdom as well.

            This book will investigate how Lutheran Reformation of the church withstood the changes in ruler and challenges from Calvinist as well as Catholic Reform. During this time of upheaval, a Lutheran confessional culture was developing that would serve as a basis for a Lutheran confessional state and kingdom in the seventeenth century. The most important trait of Lutheran confessional culture in Finland and the Swedish kingdom as a whole was the vernacularization of the church’s rituals and practices. The reformation in Finland and the Swedish kingdom in the sixteenth century was at its very basis a reformation of language. The work of vernacularization in Finnish and Swedish established in Gustav Vasa’s era continued and expanded during the period covered by this project. In the liturgical disputes that existed in the period in question, a return to the medieval Latin Mass was never seriously entertained. This process of vernacularization was put into print and books in general came into greater use.

            A second trait of Lutheran confessional culture consisted of the recognition of the role of the temporal ruler in the leadership of the church. Royal supremacy over the church was not widely questioned, even among those who disagreed with the king on specifics of church teaching and practice.

            A third aspect of Lutheran confessional culture pertains to the clergy. It became increasingly university educated. Many clergymen received their education directly or indirectly from Lutheran German universities, with the university in Rostock at the forefront. The end of priestly celibacy allowed many clergymen to create families that would hold pastoral positions for decades.  The preservation of a married priesthood was yet another part of a larger consensus often forgotten in the ecclesiastical conflicts of the era.

            This book will address critically what I call the Catholic thesis of Finland’s and the Swedish kingdom’s Lutheran reformation that posits that aspects of the medieval church that remained  were by default Catholic and thus parts of the church that withstood Lutheran reform even if remnants from the Catholic era were not seen as problematic by Lutheran reformers. This Catholic thesis holds that Finland’s reformation was “slow.” The metrics of speed never are given or tested. A few signs of Catholic adherents or remnants of Catholic practice are interpreted as representative of a wider Catholic sentiment. This thesis understanding overlooks the very flexible nature of Lutheran reform. Lutheran reform, was, after all a movement that brought into the theological discourse the idea of adiaphora, or beliefs and practices that were neither inimical nor integral to Lutheran reform.