I Finally Understand Objections to Lutheranism

Lutherans are pink:

Religious and cultural Lutheran values have shaped Nordic societies for centuries. But instead of encouraging capitalism as in Calvinist Europe, Lutheranism promoted a social-democratic welfare state in the Nordic world.

As this year marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, this issue is highly topical.

Robert H. Nelson, professor of economics at the University of Maryland, develops these arguments in Lutheranism and the Nordic Spirit of Social Democracy: A Different Protestant Ethic. He probes the large role a Lutheran ethic played in the development of the Nordic welfare state and the Nordic social-democratic political and economic system during its golden years from the 1930s to the 1980s.

Nelson sees this Lutheran ethic as parallel to the Calvinist ethic famously examined by the German sociologist Max Weber In his book the Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Nelson also compares the American and Nordic ideas of the welfare state in a novel way, discussing the greater influence of Calvinism in the United States as compared with Lutheranism in the Nordic countries.

According to Nelson, fundamental Nordic values, such as a strong work ethic, complete equality between men and women, and others manifested in social democracy are all derived from Lutheran teachings as embodied in the Lutheran ethic.

The Lutheran ethic emphasized The Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” in the pursuit of an individual calling. This has been the foundation of the concept of 20th century Nordic social solidarity, in particular, states Nelson.

The upside? U.S. is not simply Christian but a Calvinist nation.


Except, the Puritans were not exactly capitalists. If you read John Winthrop’s Model of Christian Charity, you would think he’s a socialist.


8 thoughts on “I Finally Understand Objections to Lutheranism

  1. CW – yes, that’s true. In fact, it was the merger of many of those Nordic Lutheran “synods” in the US (ALC, LAC, ULC, etc.) that formed the now liberal, social justice-oriented, mainline ELCA. Other not so pietistic synods like the ELS, WELS, and the now somewhat waning LCMS did not go along with their low view of scripture, lax application of the sacraments, loose church discipline (e.g., looked the other way at lodge memberships) and abandoned “altar fellowship” (communion) with them back in the 50’s or 60’s.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Does Nelson look at social democracies like the Netherlands & the UK which nations have been shaped more by Calvinism than Lutheranism (even if Scotland did produce Adam Smith the patron saint of some capitalists)?
    Jonathan Edwards sermon, “On the Duty of Christian Charity…”, counters objections to helping the poor.


  3. D.G.,
    Sorry, but you will have to show how I show intolerance to a group that doesn’t exist where I live. And by my religion, you do mean Christianity, don’t you.


  4. Confusing the true Roman Catholic church with its immoral clergy is nothing but Donatism. It might well be that God’s grace is mediated despite the system rather than because of it.


    Martin Luther—to kill a peasant is not murder. It is helping to extinguish the conflagration. Let there be no half measures! Crush them! Leave no stone unturned! To kill a peasant is to destroy a mad dog! If they say that I am very hard and merciless, mercy be damned. Let whoever can stab, strangle, and kill them like mad dogs.”

    “I, Martin Luther, have during the rebellion slain all the peasants, for it was I who ordered them to be struck dead. All their blood is upon my head. But I impute it to our Lord God: for the Lord commanded me to speak thus.”


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