Grundtvigs Matchless Discovery

Another anti-rationalist theological movement in Denmark from which Kierkegaard disassociated himself early on was the cultic Christianity of Nikolai Frederik Severin Grundtvig (1783-1872) and his followers, one of whom was Kierkegaard's older brother, Peter Christian. A pastor, theologian, poet, hymnodist, educator, politician, historian, and philologist,

38 Tice (2006: 1-16). 39 Schleiermacher (1996: 22, 29-31, 46-7; 1956: 5-18).

40 N. Thulstrup (1978: 46); see also Crouter (2005: 98-119).

43 See further Cappelörn et al. (2006); Crouter (2007); Quinn (1990).

Grundtvig was a monumental figure who exerted great influence on the development of Danish religious life and culture in the nineteenth century.44 While serving as a Lutheran pastor in Copenhagen, Grundtvig professed to have made 'the matchless discovery' that it was not the 'dead wood' of the New Testament but the 'Living Word' of the Apostles' Creed, together with the sacraments of baptism and communion instituted by Christ, that gave birth to the Christian church and constituted the 'exclusive condition' for incorporation into its cultic community.45 This view of the church was utterly at odds with orthodox Lutheran Christianity as well as theological rationalism, inasmuch as it replaced the authority of the Bible, whether established through revelation or through reason, with that of the church, its creed, and other symbols. Already as a university student Kierkegaard found Grundtvig's theory of the church unsatisfactory pointing out, among other problems, different versions of the creed and the questionable status of translations of the original (JP v. 5089). A more incisive critique of Grundtvig was later mounted in Kierkegaard's authorship, particularly in his late writings and journals, where Grundtvig is taken to task for selfishly seeking religious freedom for himself and his adherents rather than fighting for true Christianity and for being hypocritical on the issue of the separation of church and state, which he strongly advocated but did not uphold by resigning his pastorate in the state church as a paid servant of the Crown (TM 207-8, 564-75).

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