Grew up in Orthodoxy

Kierkegaard was also having doubts about Christianity at this time, as it seemed to him to have 'such great contradictions that a clear view is hindered, to say the least' (JP v. 5092). The Lutheran orthodox 'colossus' under which he had grown up began to totter when he started to think for himself. This colossus was built upon the Bible as the absolute standard and sole authority for all Christian teaching, the confessional writings of the early church (the Apostolic, Nicene, and Athanasian creeds), the Augsburg Confession (a comprehensive statement of the articles of the Lutheran faith adopted in 1530), and Luther's Small Catechism (1529), which together constituted the official writings and tenets (dogma) of the Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church as prescribed by Danish law.25 There were also a host of theological works by Lutheran scholastic theologians of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries who systematized Luther's teachings and engaged in doctrinal disputes and theological hairsplitting in the interest of emphasizing right belief (orthodoxy) as the basis of faith. Kierkegaard became familiar with the major dogmatic theology texts of his day while preparing for his degree.26 But he apparently had little or no first-hand knowledge

25 N. Thulstrup (1984: 32-7). The Formula of Concord (1577) was also widely adopted in

German Lutheran churches but was not officially recognized in Denmark. See N. Thulstrup (1980c).

26 See Barrett (2006: 155); N. Thulstrup (1978: 42-3; 1980b: 88.)

of Luther's writings at this stage, as they were not generally studied in the theological faculties of the time.27 As late as 1847 Kierkegaard stated in his journal, 'I have never really read anything by Luther' (JP iii. 2463), although several entries in earlier years indicate that this statement should not be taken too literally (JP iii. 2460-2). When he did begin to dip into Luther, it was mainly Luther's sermons, not his theological works, which were read (JP iii. 2463-2556).

It has been plausibly argued that the thinker most influential in mediating Luther's theology to Kierkegaard was Johann Georg Hamann (1730-88), a German philosopher, theologian, and literary-social critic known as the 'Wise Man in the North'.28 Hamann's witty, ironic, satirical, and aphoristic writing style undoubtedly left its mark on Kierkegaard, and Hamann's writings, particularly his Socratic Memorabilia (1759), which emphasized Socratic ignorance, faith, revelation, passion, and paradox rather than reason as the foundation for the knowledge of God, anticipated major themes in Kierkegaard's theology, leading one of Kierkegaard's biographers to declare of Hamann: 'I am inclined to say that he is the only author by whom Soren Kierkegaard was profoundly influenced.'29

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