Nordic preamble

We are a fellowship of gospel centered churches and leaders in the Nordic countries deeply committed to making God’s name known, and thereby reaching the Nordics with the gospel of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ alone. We want to renew our in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and to reform our ministry practices to be centered on and shaped by the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are committed to the theological tradition of the Protestant reformation, and to engaging our cultures with the gospel of Jesus Christ, to evangelize the lost. We believe that the aim of the gospel is reconciliation with God, and that it is God’s world we inhabit. Therefore, the more fluent we become in the gospel, the more capable we will be to engage with the ideas of the world, while also becoming more literate in God’s word. We have committed ourselves to invigorating our ministries with new hope and compelling joy based on the promises received by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone.

We have become deeply concerned about the state of the Christian church in our countries. There is an astounding level of Biblical ignorance, which leads to many not knowing what God’s word says or how to understand it, and consequently a loss of the true gospel message of salvation from God’s wrath by grace alone. It breaks our heart that this leaves so many in the Nordics lost, and without hope of salvation from that wrath. Here in the Nordics, there is a shell of “Christian” culture, that has largely given way to a common, enlightenment identity. There exists a level of Christian activity, and even theological reflection, done without basic Bible knowledge. On the one hand, we are troubled by the idolatry of religious pragmatism and/or the factional nature of faithful churches, who often feel themselves embattled and fragile; on the other hand, we are distressed by the unchallenged acceptance of theological and moral progressivism of mainline Protestantism, driven by a historical-critical hermeneutic to a “post truth” perspective on what should be the authoritative word of God. Common to both is the desire to ignore the foundational components of the gospel– such as God’s sovereignty, the total corruption of human nature, the penal substitutionary atonement, the reality of the physical resurrection of Jesus, the future judgment, and Jesus radical call to obedience–and instead mediate a message that appeases the Nordic cultures. In the Nordics those who challenge – being an outlier from the consensus – is frowned upon: but half a gospel is no gospel at all! This pressure in each Nordic country to change and/or supress the gospel, and to silence gospel proclamation affects all of us.

The Nordic region is large and sparsely populated. Evangelical churches are few in number and scattered. Although united in belief, these churches often feel isolated and are skeptical of partnership. The celebration of our union with Christ is often weakened by an awareness of the small, diminishing presence of the evangelical church in the Nordics, thus our shared foundation in Christ, cultural heritage and trust for one another can be replaced by a survival mentality, or by vague retreats into nominalism, and syncretism. We want to be a rallying cry, a unifying force, a place where the followers of Christ can come and be encouraged to preach the gospel faithfully, to follow Christ wholeheartedly, and to fearlessly engage the culture with the love of Jesus Christ, full of truth and grace.

Anything that replaces the gospel, will never promote a mission-hearted faith anchored in enduring truth, working itself out in steady discipleship ready to sacrifice our whole lives to the kingship of Jesus Christ. Rather, we aim to recover the gospels centrality through gospel advocacy, encouragement, and education so that current-and next-generation church leaders are better equipped to fuel their ministries with principles and practices that glorify our Savior and do good to those for whom he shed his blood and gave His life.

We want to cultivate a unified effort among all peoples in the Nordics-an effort that is eager to honor Christ and multiply his disciples in local churches, partnering together for Jesus. Such a partnership may be an important way forward for the Church in the increasingly post Christian world. This reality compels us to stand with others who are in consensus that the mercy of God in Jesus Christ is our only hope of eternal salvation. We desire to champion this gospel with clarity, compassion, courage, and joy-gladly linking hearts and arms with fellow believers across denominational, national, ethnic, and class lines.

Our desire is to serve the gospel-centered churches in the Nordics in a way that clearly communicates to our postmodern, post Christian age. As pastors and church leaders, we intend to do this in our churches through the ordinary means of God’s grace: prayer, the expositional ministry of the Word, baptism and the Lord’s Supper and the fellowship of the saints. We yearn to work with all who, in addition to embracing the common confession and vision set out here, seek the lordship of Christ over the whole of life with hope in the power of the Holy Spirit to transform individuals, communities, and cultures, to the glory of the Triune God alone!

This text was prepared by Carl Jan Christian Roth representing Denmark, Mikko Sivonen representing Finland, Daniel Garratt representing Norway, Nima Motallebzadeh representing Sweden, and Logan Douglas representing Iceland, with oversight from TGC founding member Tim Savage. 1 Dec, 2020.

Confessional statement

For more about our confessional statement, check out our series of 14 booklets written by the Council and edited by co-founders D. A. Carson and Timothy Keller.

  1. The Tri-une God We believe in one God, eternally existing in three equally divine Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, who know, love, and glorify one another. This one true and living God is infinitely perfect both in his love and in his holiness. He is the Creator of all things, visible and invisible, and is therefore worthy to receive all glory and adoration. Immortal and eternal, he perfectly and exhaustively knows the end from the beginning, sustains and sovereignly rules over all things, and providentially brings about his eternal good purposes to redeem a people for himself and restore his fallen creation, to the praise of his glorious grace.
  2. Revelation God has graciously disclosed his existence and power in the created order, and has supremely revealed himself to fallen human beings in the person of his Son, the incarnate Word. Moreover, this God is a speaking God who by his Spirit has graciously disclosed himself in human words: we believe that God has inspired the words preserved in the Scriptures, the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments, which are both record and means of his saving work in the world. These writings alone constitute the verbally inspired Word of God, which is utterly authoritative and without error in the original writings, complete in its revelation of his will for salvation, sufficient for all that God requires us to believe and do, and final in its authority over every domain of knowledge to which it speaks. We confess that both our finitude and our sinfulness preclude the possibility of knowing God’s truth exhaustively, but we affirm that, enlightened by the Spirit of God, we can know God’s revealed truth truly. The Bible is to be believed, as God’s instruction, in all that it teaches; obeyed, as God’s command, in all that it requires; and trusted, as God’s pledge, in all that it promises. As God’s people hear, believe, and do the Word, they are equipped as disciples of Christ and witnesses to the gospel.
  3. Creation of Humanity We believe that God created human beings, male and female, in his own image. Adam and Eve belonged to the created order that God himself declared to be very good, serving as God’s agents to care for, manage, and govern creation, living in holy and devoted fellowship with their Maker. Men and women, equally made in the image of God, enjoy equal access to God by faith in Christ Jesus and are both called to move beyond passive self-indulgence to significant private and public engagement in family, church, and civic life. Adam and Eve were made to complement each other in a one-flesh union that establishes the only normative pattern of sexual relations for men and women, such that marriage ultimately serves as a type of the union between Christ and his church. In God’s wise purposes, men and women are not simply interchangeable, but rather they complement each other in mutually enriching ways. God ordains that they assume distinctive roles which reflect the loving relationship between Christ and the church, the husband exercising headship in a way that displays the caring, sacrificial love of Christ, and the wife submitting to her husband in a way that models the love of the church for her Lord. In the ministry of the church, both men and women are encouraged to serve Christ and to be developed to their full potential in the manifold ministries of the people of God. The distinctive leadership role within the church given to qualified men is grounded in creation, fall, and redemption and must not be sidelined by appeals to cultural developments.
  4. The Fall We believe that Adam, made in the image of God, distorted that image and forfeited his original blessedness—for himself and all his progeny—by falling into sin through Satan’s temptation. As a result, all human beings are alienated from God, corrupted in every aspect of their being (e.g., physically, mentally, volitionally, emotionally, spiritually) and condemned finally and irrevocably to death—apart from God’s own gracious intervention. The supreme need of all human beings is to be reconciled to the God under whose just and holy wrath we stand; the only hope of all human beings is the undeserved love of this same God, who alone can rescue us and restore us to himself.
  5. The Plan of God We believe that from all eternity God determined in grace to save a great multitude of guilty sinners from every tribe and language and people and nation, and to this end foreknew them and chose them. We believe that God justifies and sanctifies those who by grace have faith in Jesus, and that he will one day glorify them—all to the praise of his glorious grace. In love God commands and implores all people to repent and believe, having set his saving love on those he has chosen and having ordained Christ to be their Redeemer.
  6. The Gospel We believe that the gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ—God’s very wisdom. Utter folly to the world, even though it is the power of God to those who are being saved, this good news is christological, centering on the cross and resurrection: the gospel is not proclaimed if Christ is not proclaimed, and the authentic Christ has not been proclaimed if his death and resurrection are not central (the message is: “Christ died for our sins . . . [and] was raised”). This good news is biblical (his death and resurrection are according to the Scriptures), theological and salvific (Christ died for our sins, to reconcile us to God), historical (if the saving events did not happen, our faith is worthless, we are still in our sins, and we are to be pitied more than all others), apostolic (the message was entrusted to and transmitted by the apostles, who were witnesses of these saving events), and intensely personal (where it is received, believed, and held firmly, individual persons are saved).
  7. The Redemption of Christ We believe that, moved by love and in obedience to his Father, the eternal Son became human: the Word became flesh, fully God and fully human being, one Person in two natures. The man Jesus, the promised Messiah of Israel, was conceived through the miraculous agency of the Holy Spirit, and was born of the virgin Mary. He perfectly obeyed his heavenly Father, lived a sinless life, performed miraculous signs, was crucified under Pontius Pilate, arose bodily from the dead on the third day, and ascended into heaven. As the mediatorial King, he is seated at the right hand of God the Father, exercising in heaven and on earth all of God’s sovereignty, and is our High Priest and righteous Advocate. We believe that by his incarnation, life, death, resurrection, and ascension, Jesus Christ acted as our representative and substitute. He did this so that in him we might become the righteousness of God: on the cross he canceled sin, propitiated God, and, by bearing the full penalty of our sins, reconciled to God all those who believe. By his resurrection Christ Jesus was vindicated by his Father, broke the power of death and defeated Satan who once had power over it, and brought everlasting life to all his people; by his ascension he has been forever exalted as Lord and has prepared a place for us to be with him. We believe that salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name given under heaven by which we must be saved. Because God chose the lowly things of this world, the despised things, the things that are not, to nullify the things that are, no human being can ever boast before him—Christ Jesus has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption.
  8. The Justification of Sinners We believe that Christ, by his obedience and death, fully discharged the debt of all those who are justified. By his sacrifice, he bore in our stead the punishment due us for our sins, making a proper, real, and full satisfaction to God’s justice on our behalf. By his perfect obedience he satisfied the just demands of God on our behalf, since by faith alone that perfect obedience is credited to all who trust in Christ alone for their acceptance with God. Inasmuch as Christ was given by the Father for us, and his obedience and punishment were accepted in place of our own, freely and not for anything in us, this justification is solely of free grace, in order that both the exact justice and the rich grace of God might be glorified in the justification of sinners. We believe that a zeal for personal and public obedience flows from this free justification.
  9. The Power of the Holy Spirit We believe that this salvation, attested in all Scripture and secured by Jesus Christ, is applied to his people by the Holy Spirit. Sent by the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit glorifies the Lord Jesus Christ, and, as the other Paraclete, is present with and in believers. He convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment, and by his powerful and mysterious work regenerates spiritually dead sinners, awakening them to repentance and faith, and in him they are baptized into union with the Lord Jesus, such that they are justified before God by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. By the Spirit’s agency, believers are renewed, sanctified, and adopted into God’s family; they participate in the divine nature and receive his sovereignly distributed gifts. The Holy Spirit is himself the down payment of the promised inheritance, and in this age indwells, guides, instructs, equips, revives, and empowers believers for Christ-like living and service.
  10. The Kingdom of God We believe that those who have been saved by the grace of God through union with Christ by faith and through regeneration by the Holy Spirit enter the kingdom of God and delight in the blessings of the new covenant: the forgiveness of sins, the inward transformation that awakens a desire to glorify, trust, and obey God, and the prospect of the glory yet to be revealed. Good works constitute indispensable evidence of saving grace. Living as salt in a world that is decaying and light in a world that is dark, believers should neither withdraw into seclusion from the world, nor become indistinguishable from it: rather, we are to do good to the city, for all the glory and honor of the nations is to be offered up to the living God. Recognizing whose created order this is, and because we are citizens of God’s kingdom, we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, doing good to all, especially to those who belong to the household of God. The kingdom of God, already present but not fully realized, is the exercise of God’s sovereignty in the world toward the eventual redemption of all creation. The kingdom of God is an invasive power that plunders Satan’s dark kingdom and regenerates and renovates through repentance and faith the lives of individuals rescued from that kingdom. It therefore inevitably establishes a new community of human life together under God.
  11. God’s New People We believe that God’s new covenant people have already come to the heavenly Jerusalem; they are already seated with Christ in the heavenlies. This universal church is manifest in local churches of which Christ is the only Head; thus each “local church” is, in fact, the church, the household of God, the assembly of the living God, and the pillar and foundation of the truth. The church is the body of Christ, the apple of his eye, graven on his hands, and he has pledged himself to her forever. The church is distinguished by her gospel message, her sacred ordinances, her discipline, her great mission, and, above all, by her love for God, and by her members’ love for one another and for the world. Crucially, this gospel we cherish has both personal and corporate dimensions, neither of which may properly be overlooked. Christ Jesus is our peace: he has not only brought about peace with God, but also peace between alienated peoples. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both Jew and Gentile to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. The church serves as a sign of God’s future new world when its members live for the service of one another and their neighbors, rather than for self-focus. The church is the corporate dwelling place of God’s Spirit, and the continuing witness to God in the world.
  12. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper We believe that baptism and the Lord’s Supper are ordained by the Lord Jesus himself. The former is connected with entrance into the new covenant community, the latter with ongoing covenant renewal. Together they are simultaneously God’s pledge to us, divinely ordained means of grace, our public vows of submission to the once crucified and now resurrected Christ, and anticipations of his return and of the consummation of all things.
  13. The Restoration of All Things We believe in the personal, glorious, and bodily return of our Lord Jesus Christ with his holy angels, when he will exercise his role as final Judge, and his kingdom will be consummated. We believe in the bodily resurrection of both the just and the unjust—the unjust to judgment and eternal conscious punishment in hell, as our Lord himself taught, and the just to eternal blessedness in the presence of him who sits on the throne and of the Lamb, in the new heaven and the new earth, the home of righteousness. On that day the church will be presented faultless before God by the obedience, suffering and triumph of Christ, all sin purged and its wretched effects forever banished. God will be all in all and his people will be enthralled by the immediacy of his ineffable holiness, and everything will be to the praise of his glorious grace.

Nordic theological vision

This statement is not meant to be a theological statement of doctrinal beliefs, nor meant to be a coalition purpose statement like the Nordic theological introduction, but seeks rather to answer the question, “How do we want to mediate the gospel in the Nordic countries?” and “What themes do we see as primary for faithful gospel ministry in the Nordics?” Additionally, this document serves as a supplement to the original theological vision for ministry document, not as a substitute.

1. How should we renew the gospel and Biblical worldview? (The issue of
Christian cultural heritage)

With the long and rich history of the Lutheran protestant church, yet currently swimming in the shallow waters of secularism and post-Christian culture, Nordic countries provide a unique situation in world history. The protestant reformation had a significant influence on the Nordics. Yet, the sweeping effect of higher criticism and deconstructionism have, however, not only weakened the church, but challenged the foundation of the Gospel, namely the authority of the Scripture, the atonement of Christ, and the physical and historical resurrection of Christ. Most Lutheran ministers in the past fifty years have received theological education that questions these pillars of Christian faith.
Consequently, history and science has been divided from the Christian faith, including in all spheres of education. The ramifications of this are brutal, namely, the collapse of the understanding of the Gospel and the Christian understanding of life.
Thus, we need the special emphasis in the very foundation of the Christian faith and consequently faithful biblical expository preaching and teaching on how the Gospel and the Christian worldview shapes every area of life.
2. How should we renew the concept of covenant communities? (The issue
of biblical commitments)
Nordic countries are one of the most both private and individualist cultures in the world. Authentic expressions of personal taste are a self-authenticating pursuit. Consumerism  often drives the lifestyles of our cities and often infects our churches. So often these pursuits trump universal truths and the commitments that those truths entail. The Lord relates always to his creatures through covenants. Covenant is a legal agreement between two persons. The renewal of the reformed protestant understanding of covenantal framework of Scripture, the trinity, human identity and biblical hermeneutics must shape our Christian commitments.
Consequently, the pivotal role of covenant in the marriage and church should be taught and exercised in the new Christian marriages and churches. As a result of this covenant  renewal, we will build healthier faith communities through biblical literacy, be the church together, and reach out to the lost.
3. How should we renew holistic Christian education and thinking? (The issue of pedagogy)
By education we mean all that which is intended to shape our mind, soul body, character and behaviour. In the Nordics there is commonly a distinction between formal education, and the education that includes the nurture of character. We believe that both of these concepts of education need to be reformed. From day care starting as early as 6 months, all the way through post-graduate education is a decisive, if not the most pivotal aspect, of how to raise the next generation of Christian influencers. While the Nordic school system was established on the Christian Protestant worldview, and thus for centuries have
been considered among the best in the world, that reality is changing rapidly. Secular thought has invaded Nordic schools, and therefore the quality of education is decreasing, and the lack of Christian worldview is quickly vanishing in our education institutions. The consequences are seen everywhere. We need education that is based on the Christian worldview that places everything under the lordship of Christ. Christian families, faithful local churches and networks must lead the way in this reformation. While this
education endeavour is by no means limited to theological education (proper), it must flow out of it.
4. How should we renew human welfare? (The issue of human nature and social flourishing)

Chief among Nordic values is the welfare society—the promise that all have equal rights to have quality of life, education, and health. Welfare characterises the Nordics globally but has also become an internal badge of the countries themselves. Welfare was derived from the common Christian belief that humanity is created in the image of god, but perhaps more consistently applied in the Nordics as a result of a deep collective awareness of each human’s equal guilt and sinful nature. The concept of welfare, though, has also been amputated from this body of Christian truth, and seeks now to thrive and advance as a
secular concept.

The good of health and welfare should continue to be heralded in the Nordics but needs to be regrafted into the tree of biblical truth. We must recall that all forms of satisfaction: bodily, psychological, and intellectual—fall short of true human flourishing if they leave the heart without its only true satisfaction in God.

First Presented by Mikko Sivonen and Carl Jan Christian Roth
at the 2022 TGC Nordic Oslo meeting (revised on July 5, 2022)