To the two thousand Americans who attended the Lutheran World Federation Congress last month, Finland presented some intriguing paradoxes. Only 3 per cent of Helsinki’s population go to church on an average Sunday, yet the closing meeting of the congress drew 20,000 to the city’s Olympic Stadium. One-quarter of the seats in the Finnish Parliament are held by Communists, but nothing annoys a Finn more than the suggestion that his automobile’s international registration letters “SF” mean “Soviet Finland.” During the past decade there has been a steep rise in the number of people leaving the national church, yet a poll taken among reserve officers in 1961 disclosed that more than 92 per cent believed in the forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ.

In an area slightly smaller than Montana, the Finns carried out post-war an incredible program of resettlement of 460,000 fellow-countrymen forced out of those territories ceded to the U. S. S. R. Indeed, the Finnish church can be understood only against the background of Finnish political history, and of that elusive (in definition) national characteristic known as sisu—delicately translated by one finicky foreigner as “intestinal fortitude.” “Humiliated violated, wounded and bleeding through … centuries of conflict,” says one writer graphically, “Finland arose time and again from red snows and passed through the healing saunas of time.” Not surprisingly, this has contributed to Finnish Christianity’s biblical basis, a steadfast and sure anchor in turbulent times.

In the course of the past century the Church of Finland has experienced revival movements, and these have prompted close, investigation ...

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