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date: 19 June 2018

Summary and Keywords

In Denmark, Martin Luther was initially seen as a humanist reformer on a par with other humanists, but during the 1520s he increasingly became a divisive figure separating those wanting only to reform the Roman Catholic church from within, and those working for a break with Rome. Ways of understanding Luther differed widely within the evangelical camp too. Early “Lutherans” in Denmark, such as Hans Tausen and the drafters of the Confessio Hafniensis of 1530, presented legalistic and spiritualistic elements. In 1536, however, King Christian III announced the Reformation of Denmark, using robust Wittenberg theologians such as Johann Bugenhagen and Peder Palladius to reform the church, the university, and the society at large. Since then Denmark has been an unusually homogeneous Lutheran country, compared to Lutheran areas of Germany in the 17th and 18th centuries, including Luther’s own Sachsen. Yet Danish views of Luther have changed significantly over the centuries, especially after the national awakening in the 19th century. Thereafter, Luther was seen as a church father, though also as a somewhat remote figure. In 20th-century theology, N. F. S. Grundtvig and Søren Kierkegaard served as mediating figures between premodern Lutheranism and contemporary theology. After World War II, the Reformation is still widely regarded as formative for Danish history, albeit in combination with other inspirations. A secular mindset grew stronger both within and outside the Evangelical-Lutheran Church, with some promoting a liberalist interpretation of Luther’s two-kingdoms doctrine, and others challenging the Evangelical-Lutheran Church’s status as the “People’s Church.” By January 1, 2016, 76.9 percent of the Danish population were tax-paying members of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Denmark.

Keywords: Martin Luther, Bible humanism, Hans Tausen, Peder Palladius, N. F. S. Grundtvig, Søren Kierkegaard, Scandinavian creation theology

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