Rosenius at Johannelund

by Mark A. Granquist

Faithful readers of this publication might not necessarily have taken notice of Feb. 3, 2016. Perhaps you didn’t, although thinking back you might felt your heart strangely warmed, or found yourself inexplicitly humming an old pietist hymn, maybe “With God And His Friendship.”

The day was indeed auspicious and notable for the readers of Pietisten, as it was the 200th birthday of the editor of the original Pietisten, Carl Olof Rosenius (1816-1868). It was a day to remember this preacher and explainer of the gospel, who came to define an entire generation of Christians in Scandinavia and America, and who continues to inspire new generations of Christians around the world today. In celebration there was a two-day conference (February 3-4) at the Johannelund Theological School in Uppsala, Sweden, where over 100 people gathered to hear about Rosenius’s life and work.

The conference was begun by Professor Kjell Lejon, who spoke about “Rosenius: A Personal Portrait.” Lejon demonstrated the personal characteristics of this man and show Christian life and devotion. Following was a presentation by Dr. Torbjörn Larspars, entitled “Rosenius in His Time.” This paper focused on Rosenius in the wider context of his time, namely the religious revivals that were sweeping through Sweden, as well as social and political changes. The next two papers considered aspects of Rosenius’s career as a religious interpreter. Docent Rune Söderlund gave a presentation entitled “Rosenius as Biblical Interpreter,” in which he focused on his use of the Bible in his preaching and writing, the two ways in which he was most influential. The Bible defined and shaped Rosenius’s life in profound and almost primal ways, especially his patterns of thought. The next paper, by Docent Agne Nordlander, focused on another major influence, “Rosenius as Luther Interpreter.” Rosenius was deeply influenced by his study and devotional use of the German reformer, and this was the other major influence in his life and work. The final paper of the first day was by Dr. LarsOlov Eriksson, who examined “Rosenius’s Care of Souls.” Rosenius was not an ordained pastor, but in many ways he was closely involved in Christian nurture and development through his work.

The second day of the conference began with Dr. Klaus Lundström. His topic was “Rosenius as Mission Man,” looking at how he was directly involved in the foundation of mission work and mission societies in Sweden, and how he served to inform Swedes about the mission activities in the rest of the world. Then yours truly gave a paper about “Rosenius in America,” focusing on his contacts with Americans through letters, through his Scandinavian-American audience, and then through the publication of his works in English. Professor Ingvar Dahlbacka then presented on “Rosenius and Hedberg,” concerning Rosenius’s 1843 trip to Finland, and his meetings with Finnish revival leader Frederick Hedberg, an encounter that unfortunately did not go very well. Dr. Finn A.A. Rønne presented on “Rosenius and Denmark,” focusing on interactions between the revival movements in southern Sweden and Denmark. Doctoral candidate Thérese Tamm Selander examined “Rosenius as Conventicle Leader,” especially through his personal leadership of a conventicle group in Stockholm, and his interaction with the women who dominated this group. Dr. Rune Imberg gave a presentation on “Rosenius and his Devotional Daybook.” These devotions have been widely influential and translated into many languages, but few know how they were actually constructed by others from his writings after his death. Finally Dr. Tomas Nygren talked about “Rosenius Today,” and the aspects of his continued importance.

The papers were generally impressive and thoughtful, as befitting this important man himself (for conference program: www.johannelund.nu/2016/01/rosenius-symposium). These papers will eventually be published. But as a number of speakers pointed out, both the scholarly and the religious research on Rosenius himself need to continue. The standard biography of Rosenius is 60 years old, and has flaws. Editions and translations of Rosenius’s works need to continue to be revisited and made available for a modern audience. There is much here that can be done to keep Rosenius’s spirit alive for a third century!