Safstrom, Mark

Mark Safstrom is Chief Editor of Pietisten, and an assistant professor of Scandinavian Studies at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois.

"America is No Paradise" -- Paul Peter Waldenström and Social Justice (Summer 2006)

As the term “social justice” is gaining more usage in America, not least in the Covenant Church, it might be useful to discuss how well this concept fits the Covenant profile. Is it a buzz word that well-meaning Covenanters have picked up from mainstream culture and transplanted into the Covenant Church? Or is this new term, and the goals associated with it, in line with the unique Pietist history of the Covenant?

Pietism and Social Justice: The Legacy of Johann Arndt’s True Christianity (Christmas 2007)

In a previous article in Pietisten, I suggested that P.P. Waldenström’s commentary on North American society reflected some traditional Lutheran Pietist concerns for social justice. Prompted by a friend at Seattle First Covenant, this was expanded into a Sunday school series that traced the Covenant Church’s history of social ministries through its Pietist roots. This article is a summary of part one of that class.

The Pietist Impulse in Christianity Conference at Bethel (Summer 2009)

Phil Johnson and Mark Safstrom report from the Christianity Conference at Bethel.

The Calling of a Colporteur or What to Expect from “Pietisten 3.0” (Epiphany 2010)

As the incoming staff of Pietisten was busy at work publishing this current issue that you are now holding in your hands, we couldn’t help but chuckle about how quickly this change occurred, from Minneapolis to Seattle, from one generation to another. One year ago, none of us expected, nor had any aspirations of such a takeover. At the same time, once Phil started hinting that change was coming, and ambiguous conversations began about “who would pick up the reins next,” I think most of us were caught up in a great deal of anticipation. From the very beginning it seemed like a moment of serendipity…or maybe even Providence. For any of you Readers out there who at any point have had anxious thoughts about young whippersnappers tarnishing the good old name of Pietisten, you are invited here and now to put your minds at ease.

Welcome to the Conversation (Spring/Summer 2010)

Whether this is the first time you have opened the pages of Pietisten or you have been a faithful reader from the beginning, it is likely you are curious about a number of things regarding our journal. A few of the encouraging comments we have received make it clear that there is a great deal of interest in not only the journal itself, but in the broad tradition that we represent and seek to explore, namely Pietism.

Pietism (Spring/Summer 2010)

In the initial year of Pietisten in 1842, George Scott and C. O. Rosenius shared their thoughts on Pietism in a two-part article series, as an explanation for the founding of the newspaper. Part one is translated here from the Swedish by Mark Safstrom.

If we are the leaven, where is the lump? (Fall/Winter 2010)

Some of the early Pietists, as well as several other religious reform groups, drew on baking terminology to explain their perceived role within established churches. They came up with an oft-quoted analogy, in which they equated their zeal and piety with a “leaven” (a piece of fermenting dough) that would prompt Christians throughout the greater church, or the “lump” (the dough that has no catalyst), to rise.

Star of Bethlehem (Fall/Winter 2010)

Waldenström’s Commentary on the Psalms of David (Fall/Winter 2010)

Navigating in the Fog (Spring/Summer 2011)

A common thread in this issue of Pietisten is the attempt by several authors to engage this moving target of post-modernism.

The Sailor and the Wind (Spring/Summer 2011)

Conform No Longer – Be Renewed (Fall/Winter 2011)

An observation about teaching that I have heard several times is that you don’t know what you truly believe about a subject until you have to teach it. When we are in the role of a student listening to a lecture, we may listen or fall asleep, nod and look studious, agree or disagree, and then leave to learn another day.

Kierkegaard’s Abraham and the Lonely Leap of Faith (Fall/Winter 2011)

Søren Kierkegaard made a habit of keeping others at arm’s length. By the time he died he had generated critics and even some enemies in the Church of Denmark, humiliated himself in a newspaper feud, distanced himself from family members and broke off a promising engagement to the lovely Regine Olsen.

Advent is Here (Fall/Winter 2011)

A Pietist (Fall/Winter 2011)

In its initial year of publication in 1842, Pietisten presented a two-part article series as an explanation for the founding of the journal, titled “Pietism” and “A Pietist.” Part two is translated here from the Swedish.

Facing the Future Together (Fall/Winter 2011)

Find out the story behind the current merger of three Swedish denominations (Covenant, Baptist and Methodist churches). Reprinted from the October issue of The Covenant Companion.

The difference between seeing and seeing (Spring/Summer 2012)

In many places in the gospel, the disciples appear less as haloed saints, and more often as the very image of human frailty.

The Beggar Children (Spring/Summer 2012)

Arisen is the Christ (Spring/Summer 2012)

A place to stand (Fall/Winter 2012)

In the climate of dry humor in which I was raised, there was no shortage of historical quotes and proverbs shared, often creatively adapted to the situation at hand. The game was to use them incorrectly, but cleverly, so as to get a laugh.

At the change of the year (Fall/Winter 2012)

Perplexing and Amazing (Fall/Winter 2012)

Remember your teachers (Spring/Summer 2013)

When the revival preacher Carl Olof Rosenius died prematurely in 1868, many of the thousands of people who had come to depend on him as a teacher were doubtless at a loss for how to proceed. In this moment of crisis, two women stepped in to offer their services in processing this great loss, as well as to begin to explain the significance of Rosenius’s life and point the way forward for the revival movement.

In God my soul rests as on placid water (Spring/Summer 2013)

Do what little you can (Spring/Summer 2013)

Elaine M. Lundberg (Spring/Summer 2013)

Elaine Marilyn Pearson was born in Swedeburg, Nebraska, to Victor and Esther Pearson, and grew up on the family corn farm along with two sisters and two brothers. During the Depression, the Pearsons packed up the truck and moved to a new farm in Selah, Washington. Elaine graduated from Selah High School in 1939 and Yakima Valley Junior College in 1941.

The company we keep (Fall/Winter 2013)

It was the summer of ’39 – that is, 1839 – and the young Carl Olof Rosenius was tormented by two lingering doubts: “Does God exist?” and if so, “is the Bible really God’s word?” Rosenius had had no shortage of spiritual mentors in his youth, including the charismatic laywoman preacher Maja Lisa Söderlund, who had previously helped him regain confidence in his faith. In this more recent episode of doubt, one might have expected him to be content with the many great friends and mentors that he already had.

Blossom like a desert rose (Fall/Winter 2013)

A Reader’s Carol (Fall/Winter 2013)

There’s room in our tent (Spring/Summer 2014)

In the 1910s through the 1930s, Covenanters were engaged in a flurry of activity in establishing missions in China, Alaska and Congo, building on precedents from the previous century. For the centennial history of First Covenant Church in Seattle in 1989, Jeannette Adamson was recruited to write down her memories from these decades, as this had been a profound part of her own family’s story.

Knowing God (Spring/Summer 2014)

O, that we could one day truly learn to know God! In reality there is no one in whom we have so little confidence as God.

Jesus can speak for himself (Fall/Winter 2014)

In the long tradition of altar paintings, the various moments of Christ’s life have been treated in every way imaginable, ranging from the triumphal, to the terrifying, to the poignant. One of my favorites is the version of “Descent from the Cross” painted by Rembrandt in 1634, now at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg.

Productive Nostalgia: Telling our story in new ways (Fall/Winter 2015)

It was back in 1986 that a modern group of Mission Friends got the idea to resurrect this journal as a way of continuing to tell the story of Pietism, particularly how this tradition had informed the growth of the Evangelical Covenant Church. The desire to tell this story broadly and well inspired us to reconnect with friends in several related traditions, such as Augustana and other Lutheran groups, Baptists and Evangelical Free, among others. What a rich conversation this has been!

The diversity of God’s children (Spring/Summer 2016)

We repeat once again, that the differences among God’s children, which we have just been considering, come from God and are not at all something bad, but instead quite the opposite, something rich and beautiful.

A perfect storm (Spring/Summer 2016)

When it rains, it pours. This year is a perfect storm of anniversaries and commemorations, of traditions and institutions that have meant something in my life and perhaps many of yours. It is the 200th anniversary of preacher Carl Olof Rosenius’s birth, the 125th of North Park University in Chicago, the 90th of Covenant Point Bible Camp in Upper Michigan, the 40th of the North Park-SVF exchange program between Chicago and Jönköping, Sweden, and the 30th of this fine publication, Pietisten.

Why we read together (Fall/Winter 2016)

During the past half year, many Covenant congregations across the country, including my own, embarked on a journey of reading the entire New Testament together.

The table of grace (Spring/Summer 2017)

October 31, 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, counting from the day in 1517 that Martin Luther “posted” (that is, mailed) his 95 Theses to Albrecht, Archbishop of Mainz (whether they were actually “nailed” on the door of the Castle Church is debatable, as it turns out). Luther’s critique of indulgences and the preaching and theology surrounding penance was the focus of these early complaints, and most of us probably think of these concepts first when we think of Luther. Sola Scriptura, “Scripture alone,” would emerge as the motto for Protestants wishing to return to the primacy of scripture in determining right belief and practice.

Always reforming, always planting (Fall/Winter 2017)

With the 500th anniversary of the Reformation fresh in mind, two slogans from Lutheran history, both Latin, seem particularly relevant as a framework for this issue.

Humble leadership and gentle persuasion (Spring/Summer 2018)

Around election time (and when is it not?) our mailboxes get overstuffed with campaign ads. In the mail or on tv, the slogans are petty. Especially concerning to a college professor, the quotes are mere sound bites, without context. “Trust me, not the other candidate...” because he or she said this offhand comment ten years ago.

If they build it, they will come (Fall/Winter 2018)

“Churchmanship” appeared in the 1600s in the Church of England as a word indicating a strong supporter of the church as an institution. A churchman weighs tradition heavily, but is neither “high” nor “low,” and may be progressive, but not necessarily. Churchmanship has also been used in other denominational contexts and within Pietism to mean a builder of church institutions or a pillar of Christian community and congregational life. When it includes laypeople, churchmanship has a congregational, democratic ring to it.

Even when steeples are falling (Spring/Summer 2019)

I returned to my office after teaching my Monday morning class a few months ago, opened my email and clicked on a message from one of our chaplains about a student vigil for Notre Dame. Not knowing what this could be about, I searched online and found live coverage of the fire engulfing the cathedral. I was transfixed, like the throngs of people I saw on the street and lining the river bank, silently watching in horror. And then there was a collective gasp.

The Folkhögskola: A fantastic kind of school (Spring/Summer 2019)

As part of the filming for the documentary, God’s Glory, Neighbor’s Good, we interviewed Elaine Lindblom, rektor at Karlskoga Folkhögskola in Karlskoga, Sweden, to ask her about the folkhögskola tradition, its long heritage in Scandinavia, and the educational opportunities that it presents today. Recorded by Tim Frakes, translated and edited by Mark Safstrom. May 19, 2015.

As God gives us to see (Fall/Winter 2019)

Where we read from matters. Our past understandings inform our reading, as does our education, social class, gender, race, theological background, and a host of other factors. We don’t come to a text as a blank slate, whether it is a sacred, scientific, or literary text.

A normal worth going back to (Spring/Summer 2020)

“Proximity makes the heart grow fonder” was the smart rebuttal that a friend made to me once years ago when I had blithely said the same about “distance.” We know this to be true after the many weeks this year spent physically distant. When this pandemic is over, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could remember how much of a toll this social deprivation took on us? How unsatisfying it was to do absolutely everything online: meeting, teaching, worshipping, and happy-hour socializing? Or how hard it was to tend to the sick, counsel those in distress or with mental health struggles, or attempt to mourn the dead? We are learning a lot about our resilience and interdependency, about who and what we value most.

More than we could ask or imagine: North Park and the flu pandemic of 1918 (Spring/Summer 2020)

As North Park College President, David Nyvall, prepared to give his report to the Covenant annual meeting in Rockford, Illinois, on June 18, 1919, the church and the school, like the rest of the country, was still reeling from the terrible experience of a global flu pandemic.

Holy Week out of order: Lazarus, come forth! (Spring/Summer 2020)

Already at the beginning of Lent this year the storm cloud of an epidemic was looming on the horizon. As in past years, ashes were imposed on my forehead in Ascension Chapel at Augustana, there was time for one Friday fish fry with friends at the Irish American Heritage Center in Chicago, but then the regular rhythms of preparing for Easter came to an abrupt halt. Everything was rebooted in an alternate reality. My college went online, church went online, we “sheltered in place,” and then found creative ways to be physically, but not socially, distant.

Humility, curiosity, and a sense of humor (Fall/Winter 2020)

The first day of fall classes was both eerie and comical. By the time I had walked up three flights of stairs in Old Main and reached my classroom, my plastic face mask and face shield were fogged up and dripping with condensation. I greeted the class, apologizing for being out of breath: “I don’t normally teach with a lampshade on my head.”

Shepherds play for the baby Jesus (Fall/Winter 2020)

The cool of the day (Spring/Summer 2021)

As I write this I have been spending hours on the water of a lake in Northern Michigan, reading, thinking, swimming, kayaking. I’m no purist outdoorsman, but I am pretty sure that a tent and a Coleman stove are plenty of civilization to bring to a campground. The generator that starts up at 7 a.m. to make someone else’s breakfast in someone else’s camper doesn’t fit well in my morning ritual of hopping in the lake first thing. This is not solely an objection to the noise I hear, but because of the sounds I can’t. I hope someone else’s breakfast is amazing. When the machine sputters and finally turns off – oh, what a sound!

A treasure hidden in a field (Fall/Winter 2021)

Nearly a century and a half ago, in the June 1872 issue of Pietisten, Pastor Waldenström wrote a sermon ostensibly on the parable from Matthew’s gospel about a treasure hidden in a field. A man finds the treasure, covers it up, and sells all that he has in order to buy that field. In applying the parable, Waldenström embarked on a multi-faceted explanation of the nature of God’s kingdom. “This kingdom is called the Kingdom of God because it has its origin, not in human ingenuity, strategy, or power, but in the grace and power of God’s eternal purpose to save man’s fallen race.”

In no one else is salvation (Fall/Winter 2021)

In 1872, Waldenström published a sermon in Pietisten on the doctrine of the atonement, the “Sermon for the Twentieth Sunday After Trinity.” This sermon launched a debate among revival Christians in Sweden and Swedish immigrants in North America, and came to be consequential in the development of new church institutions, chiefly the Swedish Mission Covenant, in the coming decades. Throughout his career, Waldenström continued to preach on the atonement, revisiting his earlier texts to clarify his views. One example is the following excerpt from a devotional book in 1877 titled I ingen annan är frälsning (“In no one else is salvation”), in which Waldenström reworked and added to his original sermon.

The popular academic (Spring/Summer 2022)

A distinction often made in the book market is between the popular book and the academic book, which is as true for history as for theology or any other discipline. The academic book is written mostly for a narrow audience, to specialists in the field, though there are best-sellers even in that category. The popular book is written to appeal to a wide audience of lay readers. Some authors are able to write to both audiences, though not often in the same books.

Greater and lesser lights (Fall/Winter 2022)

As I write this it is the end of one church year and the beginning of the next. The ecclesiastical calendar concludes with Christ the King Sunday and its reminder that Christ is the ultimate ruler and judge of heaven and earth. As Christ’s kingdom is both “now and not yet,” Christians can claim this reality now while also anticipating its full realization at the end of the age. Advent then begins the church year all over again with messages from the Hebrew prophets who similarly anticipated a coming Messiah, who will bring the kingdom of peace and justice.

Jeremiah buys a field (Fall/Winter 2022)

We have in our texts for today three stories. A symbolic act by a Hebrew prophet who buys a field, despite an impending invasion by a foreign empire. A parable of Christ about a rich man, now deceased, who regrets actions he didn’t take during his life to help a beggar, and thereby gain eternal life in heaven. Finally we are given advice from an epistle about avoiding the pitfalls of the “love of money” and instead seeking contentment with the “life that really is life.”

You are the salt and light of the world (Fall/Winter 2022)

The Savior says here to his apostles: “You are the salt of the earth.” And what he says to them, applies to some degree to all Christians and in particular to all preachers of the gospel. He says this in regard to their work, their profession in this world. He had previously said to them: “Blessed are you, when human beings defame you and persecute you, saying all evil against you for my sake. Be glad and rejoice, for your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way they persecuted the prophets, who came before you.” The reason why they must be prepared to suffer such persecution is precisely because they are the salt of the world and the light of the world. If the prophets had simply remained silent and let everything they saw pass by without further comment, then they could have been left in peace…

General revelation and Bible reading on tough topics (Spring/Summer 2023)

It has been my habit lately to begin the day by reading the lectionary texts and the newspaper, both on my smartphone. The lectionary I find on sites like WorkingPreacher.org, through Luther Seminary, and my newspaper of choice has been a Washington paper, the Kitsap Sun (whose editor happens to be Pietisten’s own David Nelson!). Having these resources available wherever I am has made this double reading habit rather easy to maintain and inexcusable to miss. Though the news headlines can be disquieting, having some word or phrase in mind from a psalm or other scripture passage usually brings a calming reassurance or needed change in my perspective.