“[I]n the Spirit of Luther and with Biblical Evidence”: Scandinavian Pietists in Favor of Secularization of the Judicial and Legislative System

Saturday, January 7, 2017: 4:10 PM
Mile High Ballroom 4B (Colorado Convention Center)
Tine Ravnsted-Larsen Reeh, University of Copenhagen
The Reformation resulted in the abolition of canon law in Scandinavia. The replacement was not secular but rather an attempt to follow the Reformation doctrine of sola scriptura as well as a return to the Mosaic Law. However, as pietism entered and became the dominate force in the theological establishments in this Northern region, the situation changed. The young generation of Pietists left behind the Lutheran understanding of sola fide as they opposed the religious authority in matters of legislation and application of the law. Their push for radical religious individualism and arguments in favor of secularizing the legal system - out of theological motivations – was successful, and from 1756 the theological faculty no longer had primary influence in legal or judicial matters. This paper will examine the debate between the absolute Kings of Denmark-Norway, the theological faculty, and the faculty of law at the University of Copenhagen. It shows a story of fearful absolute kings who demanded the service and advice of the theological faculty and an increasing reluctance and protest by the theologians, which culminated with their termination of services. Thus, it offers a tangible example of the results of Pietism’s “Second Reformation” for society and culture and illuminates our understanding of secularization in Scandinavia.
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