Sketches: Gustavus Adolphus

The followers of Islam seem bent on converting the world to their beliefs by killing any who oppose them. Sadly, it is no longer surprising to hear about a suicide bomber. They are also involved with internal wars regarding their particular interpretation of the Muslim religion. While their religion is false and their actions are deplorable, it should be noted that similar events have happened within the broader scope of Christianity.

The struggles between Roman Catholics and Protestants in the 16th Century resulted in wars which greatly troubled France, Germany, and the Netherlands. But another religious war was yet to be fought. It took place in Central Europe in the mid-17th Century and was the worst war of them all, ‘the most appalling demonstration of the consequences of war to be found in history.’ (144)

The Peace of Augsburg (1555) had made peace between Roman Catholics and Protestants in the sense that the prince of each German state could decide which his people would follow. But that agreement made no provision for the followers of Calvin. Thus, the proposed peace was only temporary. What people longed for was the freedom to worship as they saw fit. When the Catholic Emperor, Ferdinand II, began to persecute Protestants in Bohemia, they decided to push back. The Czech Protestants went so far as to throw “Ferdinand’s deputies out of the windows of the council building, a sign of disapproval not uncommon in Czech history” (145). But their revolt was crushed by the forces of the emperor. Soon, “three out of four Czechs disappeared and the fourth was enslaved.” But the war was far from over. Other Protestant countries joined the fight.

The king of Sweden, Gustavus Adolphus (1594-1632), brought his small army of 18,000 men to fight against the seasoned Catholic army which had already won thirty battles. Emperor Ferdinand was unimpressed with Gustavus. He revealed his disdain by saying, “Another of these snow kings has come against us. He too will melt in our southern sun” (146). He would soon see how wrong his opinion was. Unfortunately, Gustavus was not able to reach Magdeburg in time to stop the terrible massacre. It was there that Tilly, leader of the Catholic forces, murdered 26,000 citizens of that town including women and children. But this horrific event only strengthened the Protestant cause by uniting a larger army under the leadership of Gustavus.

Things went well for the Swedish king. His Protestant army was finally able to defeat Tilly at the battle of Breitenfeld, where they captured 10,000 enemy troops. After another battle, during which Tilly was killed, Gustavus seemed ready to defeat the emperor himself. So, Ferdinand quickly enlisted the help of Wallenstein who agreed to help as long as he was given political and military control of Germany. This being agreed upon, the emperor’s strengthened army met Gustavus at Lutzen on November 6, 1632.

On the morning of that day, after the blessing of the Lord had been invoked, the whole Swedish army sang Luther’s great hymn, ‘A Mighty Fortress is our God’ and also Gustavus’ own battle-hymn, ‘Fear not, O little flock, the foe’. Then the King and his army kneeled down and again offered prayer. A dense fog, which covered the field of battle, lifted about ten o’clock. The king then addressed his troops, gave the watchword, ‘God with us’, cried ‘Forward’ and led them personally against the foe. But there came the moment, in the tumult of battle, with the fog again descending, when the king found himself isolated from his men. He fell wounded. One of the enemy seeing his plight, asked him who he was, and he replied: “I am the king of Sweden: and this day I seal with my blood the liberty and religion of the German nation!” (147)

As may be expected, Gustavus lost his life that day, but his death caused his army to fight even harder, leading to the defeat of the Catholic army. The war continued for another eighteen years and the emperor eventually gave up his plan to force Catholicism on Germany. The end result was the Peace of Westphalia in which “Calvinists received equal rights with Lutherans and Roman Catholics” (147). While, complete religious freedom would not come about for many years, little would have been accomplished without the efforts of the godly king of Sweden, Gustavus Adolphus.

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7 thoughts on “Sketches: Gustavus Adolphus

  1. dale

    Like the ELCA here in the United States, the Swedish Lutherans are very “progressively liberal” in their theology: homosexuality is OK, same-sex unions also, gay ministers, etc. It’s no wonder many ELCA youth attend Adolphus as the ELCA is big in Minnesota. The LCMS (theologically orthodox) has nothing to do with the ELCA or the beliefs of the Swedish church.

  2. Andy Rupert

    That’s interesting, Dale, as I know very little about either group. Why would Adolphus have a link to both groups on their web site? Trying to reach both?

  3. dale

    The LCMS has long been trying to “reprove” the ELCA as it has become more and more liberal in many of its positions (ref the 1998 LCMS Synod summary on church and theological relations).

    However, St Louis has pulled out of many Lutheran theological conferences as a response to the growing liberalism within the ELCA (currently no pulpit fellowship [akin to the separatist stance in the fundamentalist arena] is extended to the ELCA, and LCMS members are advised to not partake in worhip with the ELCA).

    The ELCA is the much larger of the two major synods (there are numerous smaller synods: the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod [WELS] being a predominate one), and has wider appeal (go figure). It also stresses “multiculturalism” and “diversity” rather than sound theological doctrinal positions. It is no wonder that the ELCA would promote, and have links to, the LCMS. It understands its message to be correct and that the LCMS is in error. It is reaching out to the wayward Lutherans who are not as tolerant as it is.

    One other issue (and please forgive me since I’m giving a superficial response here). In the LCMS there are two different “fellowships”: alter (or “pulpit”) fellowship (theological/doctrinal), and the “social” fellowships (charities, educational endeavors, softball games, picnics, etc) that do not fall into strict theological mandates. The Metropolitan Lutheran Ministries would be an example of “social” ministries not under any strict theological mandates: LCMS support and whomever else wishes to give to the poor. The Lutheran high schools in Cleveland are also an example of social fellowship. Adolphus College would be another would be my guess. How many LCMS youth attend? I would be sad if there were any. It certainly is not promoted among the youth in my experiences. The many Concordias (LCMS colleges) is where most attend. But hey, many just lump all lutherans together without a full understanding, so thanks for asking!

    I hope this helps. Visit for better explainations of LCMS views. My education is MA in liberal studies (government and economics focus), not theology.

  4. Andy Rupert

    That was very helpful, Dale. A man at our church was asking questions about Lutherans and I didn’t know what to say. I’m more familiar with Martin Luther’s life than what the denomination now practices. Are there any fundamentalist Lutherans?

  5. dale

    Andy, that is a really good question. I would very much consider the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod a fundamentally orthodox church, and the membership thereof fundamental in doctrine. Remember, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the LCMS are mutually exclusive synods, and theological opposites.

    Are there unbelievers and theological liberals in the LCMS? I would dare say that salvation is for the Lord to determine, but then again, are there unbelievers in independent non-denominational congregations? Only God knows the heart. Liberal lutherans find their home in the ELCA.

    Do members in any church rely solely on their membership in the church for salvation? In many instances, yes some do. Orthodox lutheranism holds to the five fundamentals of the historic christian faith (emphasis on justification by faith alone, by grace alone via the vicarious sacrifice of Christ on the Cross [the Gospel of Christ can not be compromised], the bible is the errorless innerant Word of God and the only rule for faith and practice, the second coming of Christ, the virgin birth, the Trinity) just like the OBF does. There are many doctrines that would be absolutely in line with BCC, although the WELS would be more in line with “fundamentalism” as practiced by the OBF, imho.

    Having grown up in the church in which you now minister, I can honestly say that, no, the LCMS is not a “fundamentalist” church in the same definition as BCC (the flagship of fundamentalism in Ohio, imho), but sound in its defense of the faith. I know that from a theological/doctrinal stand the LCMS is ardently orthodox/fundamental even to the point of being militantly so (sounds like “fundamentalist”?). It holds to the truth of scripture as the only way to find the revealed God through his son Jesus Christ, and the Gospel to be the centrality of the Word.

    Differences would include, but not be limited to, matters of christian practice, the sacramental natures of communion and baptism (infant baptism being a primary difference [LCMS does not teach an “age of accountability”]), the Law and Gospel position of Luther, dispensationalism (LCMS is not), calvinism primarily in the sense of “double-predestination” (LCMS is neither arminian nor calvinistic), and the nature of worship (“the means of grace” issues that I was taught permeate RCC’ism [it doesn’t]).

    Anyway, while I don’t call myself a “fundamentalist” any longer, I certainly consider myself sound in doctrine, and have no issues holding membership in an LCMS church. I defend the Gospel as much as I did when I attended a baptist high school, even more so, and God has graciously placed me in a position where I can proclaim his grace and love. In the LCMS, it is Christ and his Gospel that is the priority, not the church. I think, if memory serves me correctly, it’s the same at BCC.

  6. dale

    The last comment in my response above should read “I know it is the same at BCC, as my memory serves me, when I was there. I know it has not changed.” It sounds better than what I wrote and submitted before reviewing it. My apologies.

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