Balles Catechism

One of the religious texts in which Kierkegaard was instructed as a child was Balle's Primer, a catechism that contained an elementary exposition

11 Ibid. 224, 228-9, 231-5. 12 Ibid. 235-43. 13 Burgess (2006).

14 Tudvad (2004: 168-9); Kirmmse (1996: 14). 15 Kirmmse (1996: 3-4, 6-8, 10, 151).

of the main tenets of the Christian faith.18 It was from this book that Kierkegaard received his first formal theological instruction. Balle's catechism was authorized for use in all Danish schools in 1794 and remained the standard text for the religious education of Danish children until 1856, when it was replaced by a new one. Structured differently from most catechisms, which are usually organized as a series of questions and answers, Balle's text was intended to be used in conjunction with Luther's Small Catechism.19 It was divided into eight chapters that gave a systematic, theologically conservative, and somewhat rationalist account of the accepted doctrines of the Lutheran tradition, with particular emphasis on spelling out one's duties to God, self, and neighbour and in particular relationships (man/wife, parent/child, master/servants, authority/subjects, teachers/students).20 The deep impression this catechism made upon Soren may be glimpsed in a poetically transmuted autobiographical account in one of his early works about a young boy who is assigned the first ten lines of Balle to be learned by heart for the next day (EO ii. 266-7). In this reminiscence he makes the following telling observation: 'That this event made such an impression on me, I owe to my father's earnestness, and even if I owed him nothing else, this would be sufficient to place me in an eternal debt to him' (267). Kierkegaard often incorporated autobiographical tidbits in his writings, and this was surely one of them, testifying once again to the importance of his father in structuring his early life.

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