- Jeffrey Goodman
The Choice We Have Before US
Last evening, I had a chance to hear and meet The Rev. Juhana Pohjola, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland. I have written about him and Dr. Päivi Räsänen in this blog and their trial for publishing this booklet: https://www.lhpk.fi/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/Male-and-female-He-created-them.pdf. Both were acquitted in March of 2022 and yet the state prosecutor intends to appeal the verdict and thus potentially drawing out the proceedings for possibly years. Bishop Pohjola speaking at Mt Calvary Lutheran Church (Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod) on Petersburg Road near Neffsville first recounted the events that let up to the trial. You can hear him speak here about what led up to all of this. Following his initial remarks about the trial Bishop Pohjola spoke further about the challenges that Bible believing Christians will face going forward especially in relation to sexuality and marriage. He often quoted from Rod Dreher’s 2021 book entitled Live Not By Lies. In addition to Dreher’s book he also quoted from Carl Truman’s recent book entitled The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism and the Road to Sexual Revolution . Pohjola then laid out for the audience the very real challenges that lie ahead for Religious Freedom in both Western Europe and in North America.
Rod Dreher writes in Live Not By Lies that we are going to be forced to decide between “Middle Class respectability and the Christian Faith.” The middle ground is rapidly disappearing from beneath our feet. With this in mind, it is important to note that Bishop Pohjola who was just recently consecrated a Bishop in the church serves in the tiny Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland. He was forced out of the State Lutheran Church because he refused to bend the knee to bishops and a church that sought to revise the Christian Faith to suit to the demands of the prevailing culture. Issues such as Women’s Ordination, so called “Same-Sex Marriage” and Abortion advocacy created divisions in the church and these divisions were fomented by a cabal of unfaithful clergy, laymen and women (See Romans 16:17 on this). Consequently, he joined up with other pastors who were defrocked by the largely irrelevant and empty state Lutheran Church and they formed the Mission Diocese in order to stand firm for the Faith in an increasingly secular nation.
It was an honor for me to meet Bishop Pohjola last evening. The nature of his courage is laid out here in one of his recent writings in the aftermath of the verdict.
As the Bishop spoke last evening this passage from 1 Peter 3 ran through my mind:
13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil.
This is what Bishop Pohjola and Dr. Räsänen have done and continue to do. Faithful Christians will stand with them, pray for them and encourage them. Moreover, we must also recognize that what has happened to our brother and sister in far off Finland may very well soon happen to us. Consequently, we are bidden to examine ourselves and what we are about. If we seek the adulation and approval of the world and the so-called elites in our society we will inevitably collapse and fall off the path our Lord Christ has set for us. If we keep our eyes fixed upon Jesus the author and perfector of our Faith we have nothing to fear and we will finish the race with perseverance, courage and faithfulness. Recently the Bishop of the North American Lutheran Church Dan Selbo said, “The Church of Jesus Christ is not dying, it is being more clearly defined.” Bishop Selbo is spot on. The Churches that have sought to revise the faith in accordance with the world’s demands are dying and rapidly. The leadership of those churches are more interested in institutional survival than making disciples of Jesus Christ.
I’ll close with these lyrics from a hymn by Dr. Luther:
Lord, keep us steadfast in your Word,
Curb those who by deceit or sword
Would wrest the kingdom from your Son
And bring to naught all he has done.
Lord Jesus Christ, your pow’r make known,
For you are Lord of lords alone;
Defend your holy Church that we
May sing your praise triumphantly.
O Comforter of priceless worth,
Send peace and unity on earth;
Support us in our final strife
And lead us out of death to life.