The Herrnhuters

Another major influence in Kierkegaard's early upbringing was his family's involvement with the Herrnhuters, a Moravian pietist group that Michael Kierkegaard joined soon after coming to Copenhagen. Although its roots go back to the Czech reformer John Hus (1374-1415) and his followers, this movement originated in the eighteenth century in the German state of Saxony through the good will of Count Nikolaus Ludvig von Zinzendorf (1700-60), a Lutheran nobleman who invited a group ofMoravian refugees to form a settlement called Herrnhut (meaning 'the Lord protects') on his estate.8 The Herrnhuters formed part of a wider pietist movement of inner religious awakening that erupted on the European continent in the seventeenth century and was popular throughout the first half of the eighteenth century. Often characterized as a 'Christianity of the heart' for its emphasis on the primacy of feeling in Christian experience, this movement was heralded by Johann Arndt's immensely popular book, True Christianity (1605), and received its name from a book titled Pia Desideria (Pious Desires), written by a German professor at the University of Halle, Philipp Jakob Spener (1635-1705).9 Spener and another Halle colleague, August Hermann Francke (1663-1727), organized lay groups for devotional study of the Bible and cultivation of personal piety and trained ministers to revitalize the Lutheran church, which in their view emphasized doctrine over personal experience. 10

Unlike the Halle pietists, the Herrnhuters tended to be lay-centred, mission-oriented, and separatist in organization. Although officially part of the Danish Lutheran Church, the Moravian society in Copenhagen existed alongside it. Thus the Kierkegaard family attended the Lutheran

7 See also Tolstrup (2004); Saxbee (2003); Kirmmse (1990: 100-35).

9 Ibid. See also M. M. Thulstrup (1981); Kirmmse (1990: 29-31).

church on Sunday mornings for worship and went to Moravian meetings, often devoted to congregational singing, on Sunday evenings.11 Moravian theology, with its emphasis on the suffering and crucifixion of Christ, the consciousness of sin, repentance, conversion, grace, joy witnessing, and martyrdom for the sake of Christ, made a strong impression on young Soren and figured importantly, both pro and con, in shaping his understanding of Christianity12 What seems to have impressed him most about the Moravians, however, was the way they put their beliefs into practice, especially those who were willing to leave everything to preach the gospel in foreign lands and to become martyrs for their cause.13 Their examples of dedication and discipleship stood powerfully in the background as Kierkegaard later formulated his own understanding of Christian witnessing and martyrdom.

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