Bent Christensen




Last revision of this page: 23.04.14: - CHURCH AND CONGREGATION IN NICOLAI FREDERIK SEVERIN GRUNDTVIG’S THEOLOGY AND CHURCH POLITICS / Kirke og menighed i Grundtvigs teologi og kirkepolitik. - Grundtvig-Studier 2013. - April 2014.



[If you read German, please see the page DEUTSCH too! (At the bottom of the menu). - And if you read Polish or Russian, please see the pages POLSKI and RUSSKIJ (Also at the bottom of the menu).]


NB! The texts will stand in chronological order - with the youngest text after the introduction »About myself«, and the oldest at the end of this page.




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Kirke og menighed i Grundtvigs teologi og kirkepolitik. - Grundtvig-Studier 2013, the annual journal, published jointly by the Grundtvig Society and the Grundtvig Study Centre. - April 2014.


My poem "100YSS" (100 Year Starship).


FROM HAMANN TO FASC. 209.10. On Grundtvig’s relation to Johann Georg Hamann and his contemporaries.

The English Summary of an article in Grundtvig-studier 2012, volume 63 of the annual journal, published jointly by the Grundtvig Society and the Grundtvig Study Centre.


THE TOTAL POET GRUNDTVIG. A Commented Survey of the History of Literary Grundtvig Research as a Contribution to the Understanding of Grundtvig’s Character as a Poet.

The English Summary of an article in Grundtvig-Studier 2011, volume 62 of the annual journal, published jointly by the Grundtvig Society and the Grundtvig Study Centre.




PLEASE HELP US! Help us today - next time it may be your country! - 01.02.06. in the situation when Denmark was under attack from the islamists.




CONCERNING »ABOUT GRUNDTVIG’S VIDSKAB. - Introductory speech at the public defense of »About Grundtvig’s Vidskab« and the replies to the two officially appointed opponents. - »Grundtvig-Studier« 2001.


FROM THE PUBLIC DEFENCE OF BENT CHRISTENSEN’S DISSERTATION FOR THE DOCTORATE, »ABOUT GRUNDTVIG’S VIDSKAB«. - By professor Theodor Jørgensen. - The University of Copenhagen 4th September 1998. - English Summary. Grundtvig-studier 1999.


The »English Summary« of my theological dissertation »ABOUT GRUNDTVIG’S VIDSKAB. An Inquiry into N.F.S. Grundtvig’s View of the Knowledge Aspect of the Commitment to Life that Is a Necessary Part of Christianity« (1998). – The original »Danish Summary« can be read on the page »GRUNDTVIG«.


WAS GRUNDTVIG’S NEW DISCOVERY IN 1832 A TRAGIC EVENT? - Summary of the lecture for the PhD Degree of Divinity at the University of Copenhagen, 19th November 1985. - »Grundtvig-Studier« 1989-1990.




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I was born 1943 in Sakskøbing, Lolland (island South of Zealand and North of Germany).


1958-1961: Amateur (modern) jazz pianist.


- 1962: “Studentereksamen” (A level exam).

- 1964: Lieutenant of the Reserve (“language lieutenant” with Russian).

- 1968: Cand. mag. (MA) in Danish and Russian.

- 1971: Supplementary theological examination.

- 1985: Lic. theol. (PhD).

- 1998: Dr. theol. (DD).


1990-2001: Study of Russian and Polish. - 1998-2001: Working at little with Czech and Slovak. (I can read Ukrainian with the aid of my dictionary). - Since 1999: Study of Sorbian (“Wendish”). - Since 2001: Intensified study of Polish.


- 1968: First lieutenant of the Reserve.

- 1968-1971: “Gymnasie-adjunkt” (secondary school (gymnasium) teacher).

- 1971-2003: “Sognepræst” (parish minister). - (1971-1974 in Pedersker-Povlsker, Bornholm (in the Baltic Sea, between Sweden and Poland), 1974-2003 in Døllefjelde-Musse-Herritslev, Lolland (the island where I was born), the Diocese of Lolland-Falster (the two islands South of Zealand and North of Germany)).

- 1972- 2003: Army chaplain. - (Army chaplain dancon/unficyp (Cyprus) November 1976 - May 1977 (many good experiences with the local Orthodox Church)).


I have published two books:

- 1987: My PhD thesis: “Fra drøm til program. Menneskelivets og dets verdens plads og betydning i N.F.S. Grundtvigs kristendomsforståelse fra Dagningen i 1824 over Opdagelsen i 1825 til Indledningen i 1832”. - (“From Dream to Programme. The place and significance of human life and its world in the theology of N.F.S. Grundtvig from the Dawn in 1824 through the Discovery in 1825 till the Introduction in 1832”, 324 pp.)

- 1998: My DD thesis: “About Grundtvig’s ‘Vidskab’. An inquiry concerning N.F.S. Grundtvig's view of the knowledge side of the engagement in life that is a necessary part of Christianity”, 630 pp. This is the theological and philosophical background for the Danish “Folk High School”!


(N.F.S. Grundtvig (1783-1872), the great Danish clergyman, theologian, philosopher, historian, mythologist, philologist (e.g. in Anglo-Saxon literature!), poet, educationalist (the father of the famous Danish "Folkehøjskole" (“Folk High School”) and national leader, one of the greatest and most influential figures in the history of Denmark and the Danish church).


Lectures at universities etc. Articles in theological and church periodicals etc.


IN ENGLISH - Marijane Osborn and Bent Christensen: "Singing Beowulf. Grundtvig’s Song of Skjold". - In: ANQ: A Quarterly Journal of Short Articles, Notes and Reviews, 2007.


See some other texts in English below!



1990- : Ecumenical and other activities in relation with the East and West Slavic countries and peoples.


1990-1999: Ecumenical and other activities in relation with Poland, Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, The Czech Republic and The Slovak Republic.


2000- : Ecumenical and other activities in relation with Poland and the Sorbs (“Wends”, the Slavic minority in southeastern Germany).


1990: Secretary for the Diocesan Committee on Inter-Church Relations in connection with the visit from a Polish Lutheran Church delegation, led by the present Bishop of the Church Jan Szarek (who is now my personal friend). - Since then I have studied Polish and corresponded in Polish with our new Polish friends. I have also participated in different activities during other Polish visits, now speaking Polish. I have been giving sermons etc. in Polish. I know the Mass Book of the Polish Roman Catholic Church very well and as often as possible listen to the transmissions of The Holy Mass in the Polish Radio. I am a member of The Association of Poles in Denmark (Związek Polaków w Danii). (For historical reasons (our sugar beets!) the largest number of Poles in Denmark, and Danes of Polish descent, live in our diocese, and therefore we have three Roman Catholic churches here - with good local ecumenical relations. A few times I have attended Roman Catholic masses in Polish here in our diocese, but unfortunately without the Holy Communion!).


1992: Church of Denmark observer at “The Ninth Theological Discussion between the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland and the Russian Orthodox Church” in Järvenpää, Finland, 1992. From then on many Russian contacts (Orthodox and Lutheran).


1994: My wife Anna and I went on a journey to Poland (the Lutheran church) and a journey to Russia (Orthodox and Lutheran churches). Sermons and lectures etc. in Polish and Russian. Meetings with a Russian archbishop, bishops, professors etc.


1995: Very actively engaged in three different visits from Russia to our diocese, local leader in connection with the visit from a very interesting “Democracy Fund group” (a visit financed by “The Democracy Fund” of the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs). Among other things I gave lectures in Russian on “my” Grundtvig and the local history of our diocese. In the same year I made contact with church representatives from The Czech Republic, The Slovakian Republic, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. I was a member of “The Danish-Russian Society”, till 1996 vice-chairman of the local branch.


1996: On request of the joint hymn book committee I translated a few Danish hymns into Russian for the new hymn book of the two Evangelical-Lutheran churches in the CIS countries.


I have co-operated with the ecumenical institutions of our church and with the universities of Copenhagen and Århus. In 1996 and 1997 with the new Centre for Research in European Church Establishment (Danish abbreviation: CEKK = Center for Europæisk Kirkeret og Kirkekundskab)


I have also co-operated with Radio Liberty ( “Radio Svoboda”), editor Mark Smirnov, whom I have given information on church affairs in Denmark. In 1994 I told (in Russian) about the history of the Danish church during the last 1000 years in Mr. Mark Smirnov's programme “Religion in the Modern World” (Religiya v sovremennom mire).


In January 1997 I became a member of the “Board of Guardians(?)” (Popechitel’skij Sovet) of the Moscow research centre “Religion and Society in the CIS and Baltic Countries” (Religiya i obshchestwo v stranakh SNG i Baltii).


1997: In September and October my wife and I made an 8 week journey to Russia and Kazakhstan (S. Petersburg, Moscow, Omsk and Almaty (Alma-Ata), supported by the “Democracy Fund” of the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Committee on Inter-Church Relations of the Diocese of Lolland-Falster. During this journey I gave sermons and lectures on church and cultural (Grundtvig!) subjects and met many important representatives of churches, universities and “culture”.


1998: My wife and I visited Belgium (our daughter worked at the Danish Representation to the European Union), The Czech Republic, The Slovak Republic and Poland - being on vacation, but at the same time meeting many contacts. In Prague we visited the headquarters of Radio Liberty. We met the director and members of the staff, and Mr. Giovanni Bensi took me into the studio for an interview.


When people from Russia (CIS), Poland, The Czech Republic and The Slovak Republic visited our diocese (or Denmark) I often met them and gave lectures, arranged special church services etc. And I had a comprehensive correspondence with my contacts in the countries concerned. My wife and I have been active members of the Danish-Czech and Danish-Slovak Societies.


My most recent West-Slavic contact is with the Sorbs – the fourth West-Slavic people – in the south-east corner of the former DDR. In the middle ages some of their relatives in the northern tribes, at the coast of the Baltic Sea, plundered and settled in the southern Danish islands, where I live.


After the DD-dissertation I continued my theological, church and ecumenical work, at home and abroad. But my real “opus proprium” is now in a more literary and cultural field - but, of course, based on my above-mentioned studies. First of all I want to work on the subject: “The poetry, poetic (art) and ‘enlightenment’ (in the special Grundtvigian sense) side of the engagement in life that is a necessary part of true Christianity”. But here things meet! I am convinced that it will be possible to integrate the study of Poland and the Sorbs and the relations to these peoples in this activity of mine. I am also very interested in the great perspectives in the interaction between our western culture and their post-communist culture (with the revival and continuation of their pre-communist culture).



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In May 2003 I retired from my church ministry


I retired in order to use all my time on the above-mentioned activities. First of all the poetic side of the engagement in life, in a very broad sense as well as in a more literary sense and as part of a broader cultural programme. - Right now (in the summer of 2005) my wife Anna and I are planning a “professional” vacation in the Gdańsk region in Poland, where we are going to visit the small Lutheran Church, The Kashubian Folk High School (and the Catholic Church) and the administration of The Province of Pomerania - and to witness the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the August strikes in Gdańsk and the birth of Solidarność (Solidarity).


Occasionally I serve as a minister at services in our diocese. But more often I play the organ at services in the diocese!


I am very active in the church debate and am in favour of a separation of the church from the state. The “chain of words” in which I give a short presentation of my point of view is: “evangelical-democratic, Lutheran-Grundtvigian minimal-Catholicity”. This means that I am a good Lutheran in the Danish (and Grundtvigian) tradition, but not in a “vulgar protestant” way. I realize that we stand in a 2000 year old tradition, and I have an open and brotherly ecumenical view.


I also take part in the political debate and am an active member of The Danish People's Party. - I know that my membership of The Danish People's Party may still seem very controversial to foreigners, but I cannot give a broad explanation here. But it becomes more and more evident that the European and Danish immigration policy up to this time (especially till 2001) has been a big misunderstanding. We have to limit further immigration to a minimum and to have a policy of integration that will secure a good life for the Danes as well as for the immigrants already being here. But I really could do without this particular (unfortunately necessary) political activity, and my positive political commitment is much broader. Some of the most important issues are the questions of social solidarity and democracy on a broad popular basis in the modern globalized world. My political engagement must also be seen as the practical side of my comprehensive cultural programme.



August 2005




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Church and Congregation in Nicolai Frederik Severin Grundtvig’s Theology and Church Politics / Kirke og menighed i Grundtvigs teologi og kirkepolitik


Grundtvig-Studier 2013, the annual journal, published jointly by the Grundtvig Society and the Grundtvig Study Centre. - April 2014.



English summary


[In Grundtvig-Studier 2013, an international journal for the study of

Nicolai Frederik Severin Grundtvig (1783-1872)]


Kirke og menighed i Grundtvigs teologi og kirkepolitik 1806-61

[Church and Congregation in Grundtvig’s

Theology and Church Politics 1806-61]


By Bent Christensen


From his 1806 work “Om Religion og Liturgie” (On Religion and Liturgy) and for the rest of his life, N. F. S. Grundtvig was preoccupied with the substance and the conditions of the church. In this paper, however, the latest text considered is the final chapter of his book Den christelige Børnelærdom (Christian Childhood Teachings) (1861).

The paper presents and analyses a number of statements showing what Grundtvig understood by the terms “church” and “congregation” through three main periods: 1. 1806-25 when Grundtvig by criticizing tried to clear the State Church of the Danish absolute monarchy of the current heterodox teachings and practices. - 2. 1825-32 when Grundtvig had to admit that the battle was lost and that he himself was close to ending up as a separatist - 3. The years after 1832 when Grundtvig developed a freedom strategy based on the right of each parishioner to choose another vicar or minister than the official incumbent of the parish (the so-called “sognebåndsløsning”).

“On Religion and Liturgy” (written 1806 and printed 1807) was conceived under the State Church of the Danish absolute monarchy, a situation in which it was not feasible to distinguish between the state and the church, nor between people and congregation. Grundtvig in his harsh criticism of contemporary clergy, however, was moving in the specific Christian dimension. He strove to change the state of things by criticizing them. In a poem dated 1811 he described in a strongly pentecostal and Apostolic perspective how he experienced his recent ordination and his future clerical calling.

In his treatise “Om Kirke, Stat og Skole” (On Church, State and School) (1818-19), Grundtvig endeavoured to define the word and the conception of “church” and to examine the relationship between the church and the state. He used the word “church” in a very broad sense, whereas he defined the Christian “kirkesamfund” (i.e. the community of Christians within the church) quite precisely.

In his great poem Nyaars-Morgen (New Year’s Morn) (1824), Grundtvig for the last time expressed his daring dream of a joint Christian and popular revival in Denmark, and in 1825 in the pamphlet Kirkens Gienmæle (The Church’s Retort) he used his “mageløse opdagelse” (i.e. his “matchless discovery”, as he termed it, that the confession of the Apostles’ Creed at the baptism is the only true basis for the authentic Church) for an attack on a heterodox professor of divinity. Grundtvig’s experiment to enforce true Christianity in this way was a failure. He lost the ensuing libel action brought against him by his victim, thus automatically, according to the Freedom of the Press Act of 1799, incurring life-long censorship.

“Skal den Lutherske Reformation virkelig fortsættes?” (Should the Lutheran Reformation Really Continue?) (1830-31) represents Grundtvig’s last attempt to preserve the state church as a Christian community. From the autumn of 1831 until February 1832 he and his revivalist friends approached a separatist solution. However, the outcome was that on 1 March 1832 Grundtvig was granted per- mission to officiate in a Copenhagen church as a free preacher.

From then on Grundtvig took on a radical freedom strategy. The state church was to be preserved as an institution embracing heterodox as well as orthodox believers. This would be possible if the parish-defined obligations were abolished (the possibility of “sognebåndsløsning”) so that those Christians who did not feel confident with the incumbent of their parish might choose to avail themselves of the services of another vicar. This model was presented in two papers: Om Daabs-Pagten (On the Baptismal Covenant) (1832) and Den Danske Stats- Kirke upartisk betragtet (An Impartial View of the Danish State Church) (1834).

Grundtvig could now, at one and the same time, be an orthodox Christian among his co-orthodox supporters and engage in realizing the cultural programme presented in the comprehensive Introduction to his Nordens Mythologi (Norse Mythology) (1832). From around 1835 he was seized by strong optimism.

In 1861 the final part of Den christelige Børnelærdom was published, subtitled “The Eternal Word of Life from the very Mouth of our Lord to his Congrega- tion”. In it, Grundtvig took as a supposition the most radical version of a free church, i.e. one with a congregation of perhaps only a few thousand members. Above all, however, this was meant to legitimate that Grundtvig and his friends remained in what was now, pursuant to the new Danish democratic constitution from 1849, labeled the Danish People’s Church. With the possibility of secession from the People’s Church, and after the passing in 1855 of the law legalizing “sognebåndsløsning”, there actually might be several good reasons to stay.

Grundtvig now viewed the People’s Church as a state institution with room for anything which could in any way be defined as Christianity, and indeed for the true congregation of orthodox believers. Things never went so far, however. The 1849 Constitution states that the Evangelical-Lutheran Church is the Danish People’s Church. In practice, however—and to a high degree thanks to Grundtvig—there is a great liberality in the People’s Church, and those who desire so may break their ties to their parish and attach themselves to a minister they trust or even form their own elective congregation within the People’s Church.




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My poem "100YSS" (100 Year Starship)


On April 1st 2013 I posted this on the Facebook wall of www.facebook.com/FriendsOf100yss and sent it directly to 100yss.org:


Dear Starship Friends! - Before Easter I wrote a poem with the title "100YSS", and today I posted it on my Facebook wall. This is my own (primitive) English translation. - But maybe someone reads Danish. And those who can read English (or German or Dutch) can understand some written Danish. And we live in global times. Everybody must know something about Denmark and our language. Therefore I have inserted the original Danish version below. - Bent Christensen, pastor (retired), DD & MA, Denmark.





In the midst of all the triteness

and smug global village talk

there are people who prepare

travels to the stars

within a hundred years,

a ten times Kennedy,

100 million times farther,

if we use Alpha Centauri

to talk about.

They do not know how,

but start from where we are now.

Above all

they simply want to do it;

the stars must be reached,

because they are there:

Look up!

But they also speak of

the large spin-off,

not just to appeal to those

who may be interested

in nothing but that,

but also because they can see

that side of it themselves.


Can we come close to

the speed of light?

Or must we arm ourselves

with greater patience

and prepare for travel

through many generations

in large rotating cylinders,

covered with earth inside?

Nobody knows,

but every possibility

must be considered.


Will it be possible for me

to follow the project

in the first slow tenth of it?

I will certainly follow it,

while I am here;

my life is just as much

part of what lies ahead

as of what lies in the past,

and we must, after all, live

during the rest of the time of this world.

And it will not prevent me

from seeing the Universe

reflected in the puddle,

while I cultivate my garden.


Bent Christensen 25.03.13. English version 02.04.13.



NOTE: 100YSS = 100 Year Starship. This is a project aiming at making the capability of human travel beyond our solar system a reality within the next 100 years. - LINK: http://100yss.org/




Original Danish version:




Midt i alle trivialiteterne

og den selvtilfredse

globale landsbysnak

er der folk, der forbereder

rejser til stjernerne

inden for hundrede år,

ti gange Kennedy,

100 mio. gange så langt,

hvis vi regner med Alfa Centauri.


De ved ikke hvordan,

men begynder fra en ende af.

De vil først og fremmest gøre det

for at gøre det;

stjernerne skal nås,

fordi de er der:

Look up!

Men de taler også

om det store spinoff,

ikke bare for at appellere til dem,

der måske udelukkende

er interesseret i det,

men også fordi de selv

kan se den side af det.


Kan man nå op i nærheden af

lysets hastighed?

Eller må man væbne sig

med større tålmodighed

og forberede sig på rejser

gennem mange generationer

i store roterende cylindre,

indvendig beklædt med jord?

Ingen ved det,

men alt må overvejes.


Kan jeg nå at følge projektet

den første langsomme

tiendedel af tiden?

Jeg vil i hvert fald følge det,

mens jeg er her;

mit liv er jo lige så meget

en del af det, der ligger forude,

som af det, der ligger bagude,

og vi skal trods alt også leve

i resten af denne verdens tid.

Og det forhindrer mig heller ikke

i at se Universet

spejle sig i vandpytten,

mens jeg dyrker min have.


Bent Christensen 25.03.13.


NOTE: 100YSS = 100 Year Starship. Det er et projekt med henblik på at foretage rejser ud af Solsystemet og til andre stjerner inden for de næste hundrede år. - LINK: http://100yss.org/




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From Hamann to Fasc. 209.10. On Grundtvigs relation to Johann Georg Hamann and his contemporaries


English summary of the article


Fra Johann Hamann til Fasc. 209.10: Om Grundtvigs forhold til Johann Georg Hamann og dennes samtidige


Grundtvig-studier 2012, volume 63 of the annual journal, published jointly by the Grundtvig Society and the Grundtvig Study Centre.


By Bent Christensen


The German critic of the Enlightenment Johann Georg Hamann (1730-1788) can be seen as a German forerunner of Grundtvig, who according to a few places in his Verdenskrøniken (World Chronicle), 1817, has known about his writings and perhaps felt a spiritual kinship to him. By all accounts, the only other mention of him at all by Grundtvig occurs in brief and somewhat enigmatic manuscript entitled “Synchronismer” (synchronisms) (The Grundtvig Archive Fascicle 209 nr 10). It lists names of 24 German authors supplied with dates marking periods in their careers between the years 1741 and 1781 and has been regarded as a preliminary study for the World Chronicle 1817. But it can also be seen as a view of these authors from a specific “synchronistic” angle, resulting in a particular profile of these 40 years. The list also reflects Grundtvigs detailed knowledge of German literary history.


After a presentation of Hamann, Grundtvigs evaluation of him in the World Chronicle 1817 is quoted and commented upon, followed by an examination of the manuscript list author by author, inclusive of references to treatments in the World Chronicle.


The list begins with “Rabener 1741-57” and finishes with “Bürger 1769-78”, the latest year brought up, however, is “1781” (under the names of Kant and Hamann). In his World Chronicle, Grundtvig states that the period he wants to depict, covers the reign of the Prussian king Frederick the Great (1740-1786). The list corresponds almost exactly to this ambition. Hamanns first year, 1759, is the year in which Sokratische Denkwürdigkeiten appeared, his first work addressing a general public. Hamanns last year, 1781, indicates that he at that time started to write a critical review of Kants Kritik der reinen Vernunft, having read the proofs of it, as a personal friend of the philosopher, before its publication that same year. At first, however, Hamann did not print his text but only communicated it to Herder in a personal letter. The Metakritik über den Purismum der Vernunft was finished in 1784 but not published until 1880. When Kant in his work asks for a foundation of cognition prior to and independent of experience, Hamann accuses him of aiming at constituting a new kind of metaphysics. Two later works published by Hamann (1784 and 1786) are of a retrospective and summary nature.


Concerning the other authors listed, the “first year” in most cases presents the very first step in their literary careers, and the “last year” marks the ending of their initial period. This applies, for example, to Rabeners “last year”, 1757, when his satires had started already to appear in book form. In Lessings case 1761 is the year in which he accepted a position as secretary for the governor of Breslau. Wieland was appointed town clerk in Biberach in 1760, but in the World Chronicle Grundtvig emphasizes the importance of his Shakespeare translations which did not begin to appear until 1762, though it is likely that Wieland had been encouraged to take up this project as early as 1759. Herders “last year” is 1767, the date of publication featured on the title page of Fragmente über die neuere deutsche Literatur - a date often considered to be the prime year of the “Sturm und Drang” ("Storm and Stress") movement. Goethes “last year” is 1774, due to the publication of his best-seller novel Die Leiden des jungen Werthers.


In several cases the often paired dates of Grundtvig’s  differ from those found in ordinary histories of literature as well as in the World Chronicle of 1817. A closer study of them - and a study of Grundtvig as compared to Hamann - might cause important contributions to Grundtvig research and to the study of German intellectual and literary history.




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The Total Poet Grundtvig - English Summary


This is the English Summary of my last contribution to the study of Grundtvig - in Grundtvig-Studier 2011, volume 62 of the annual journal, (now) published jointly by the Grundtvig Society and the Grundtvig Study Centre.




Totaldigteren Grundtvig: En kommenteret forskningshistorisk oversigt som bidrag til bestemmelsen af Grundtvigs egenart som digter


[The Total Poet Grundtvig: A Commented Survey of the History of Literary Grundtvig Research as a Contribution to the Understanding of Grundtvig’s Character as a Poet]


By Bent Christensen


In his Omkring Grundtvigs Vidskab (About Grundtvig’s Vidskab: An Inquiry into N.F.S. Grundtvig’s View of the Knowledge Aspect of the Commitment to Life that Is a Necessary Part of Christianity [see the Summary below, BC]), the author first and foremost sees Grundtvig as a “kirkelig og folkelig totaldigter” (total poet of the church and the people). The term "total poet" is analogous to “total theatre”, in which the spectator is drawn into the drama and the actors mingle with the audience. An extensive examination of the poetic aspect of the said commitment is desirable but outside the scope of this article. The commented survey of the literary Grundtvig research and criticism therefore presents some key points in the understanding of Grundtvig as a “total poet”.

First, following an exchange of views with Poul Borum regarding the various attempts to use Grundtvig for certain purposes, there is an analysis of the extended text of Gustav Albeck’s lecture "Har Grundtvig‑Selskabet forsømt Digteren Grundtvig?" (Has the Grundtvig Society Neglected the Poet Grundtvig?). Albeck provides an overview of the Grundtvig literary research and criticism from the nineteenth century till Poul Borum’s book Digteren Grundtvig (Grundtvig the Poet), and he shows that the study of Grundtvig’s poetry requires a different approach than that of usual literary criticism and research.

Next, Albeck’s own contribution: Omkring Grundtvigs Digtsamlinger (About Grundtvig’s Collections of Poems) is dealt with. Albeck especially calls attention to Grundtvig’s half jocular characterisation of himself as a “deponentisk digter” (deponent poet - the term “deponent” from Latin grammar indicating passive form and active meaning in verbs). It is pointed out that the active side of Grundtvig’s efforts eventually developed into an actual historical and political interactive commitment increasingly centring on the idea of “Folkelighed” (meaning both what comes from and what pertains to “the people”).

In Grundtvigs Symbolverden (Grundtvig’s Universe of Poetic Symbols), Helge Toldberg focuses on mapping all main symbols which Grundtvig since 1814/15 constantly draws upon in his poetry. From his chosen perspective of theories on symbolism, Toldberg registers a number of connections and associations which also are being considered in Omkring Grundtvigs Vidskab.

Already in Fra drøm til program (From Dream to Programme: The Place and Significance of Human Life and Its World in the Theology of N.F.S. Grundtvig) the author agrees with Flemming Lundgreen-Nielsen’s understanding of the year 1819 as the year when Grundtvig places himself totally outside ordinary poetry. And he also agrees with Flemming Lundgreen-Nielsen in so far as his concept “selvsymbolik” (self-symbolism) is concerned. But according to the author, the literary scholar Flemming Lundgreen-Nielsen does not go sufficiently deep into the matter when sticking to the question as to whether Grundtvig despite his unique character, still has a sense of common literary poetic factors. The contrast between “aesthetics” and “poetry” in Grundtvig’s works is not only a contrast between the “total poet Grundtvig” and “aesthetics” but also a contrast between the merely “aesthetic” and the poetical depth dimension as a whole. But Flemming Lundgreen-Nielsen provides an apt expression of Grundtvig’s unique character as a poet when saying in Det handlende ord (The Operative Word: The Poetry, Literary Criticism and Poetics of N.F.S. Grundtvig 1798-1819) (1980) that Grundtvig’s book [work as a whole, BC] is composed as a progression from the 15 year old school boy’s exercise books to Grundtvig understood by himself as a symbolic character in the history of Denmark [in the original version of the Summary, instead of the last thirteen words, just: “the symbol Grundtvig”, BC].

In Digteren Grundtvig (Grundtvig the Poet), Poul Borum looks upon Grundtvig as a “total poet”, stressing above all his qualities of a “poet” and taking a “total poetic” view of him as the prophet bard (“skjalde‑profeten”).

Finally, Hans Hauge’s reply to Poul Borum called "Alt‑i‑alt" (All in all) is considered. Hauge’s conception of Borum’s book as belonging to the aesthetic and literary nineteen 1980s, placed between the political 1970s and the universalising 1990s, seems particularly interesting. However, it is hard to tell Hauge’s own notion of Grundtvig as a poet.

In conclusion, the author suggests that it is specific to Grundtvig that, for one thing, within a peculiar historical vision or construction and in a peculiar, highly unified, symbolic world, he conducts an extensive and continuous interweaving of the nation and his own fate, and that Christianity is almost always included in his poetry.




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Danish version (“Farlig romance - med Kurt Westergaard”):



English version (“Risky Romance - with Kurt Westergaard”):





17 year old Nikoline Astrid Nielsen - alias Nikolinenikki - who lives in Silkeborg, Denmark, has made an astonishing video - brilliant in its kind - in support of Muhammad cartoonist Kurt Westergaard who had been attacked in his home by a Somalian muslim armed whith an axe and a knife.


I am a (retired) pastor in The Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Denmark and a Doctor of Divinity in our famous Grundtvig (freedom!!!). I like and support this video. In another context it might be too strong for my taste. But in this particular context I see and hear it as a good and serious joke - a young girl giving her support to a threatened person with her show, words and music, and at the same time sending a strong Danish and Western answer to the people who want to control us. Anybody with a sense of humour and an understanding of the whole context will understand this - and enjoy the video. I hope it will be known and enjoyed worldwide - as a new Danish contribution to freedom.




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To all democrats in the world:




Help us today - next time it may be your country!





I am glad that many European (and, I think, other) newspapers have printed the Danish Muhammad cartoons. And that Reporters Without Borders have also spoken for the freedom-of -speech. I hope that there will be many other spokesmen for freedom and democracy in this situation. And I hope that the European Union will act in a firm and solidaric way.


But in all circumstances, we must go on fighting islamism, in a fight that is also a fight for the liberation of the people who are suffering under this tyranny.


I am Danish. I have my DD degree in Grundtvig. Therefore I am not only obsessed by the question of freedom. I am also a Christian with a deep understanding of the dignity of all people. We are all created by God, in His image, according to His likeness. And I believe that the individual moslem who prays in sincere piety somehow prays to the same God to Whom I pray. But still we must fight for the freedom of these fellow human beings too.


Help us! Help Europe! Help the whole democratic world! Help all human beings to freedom!




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Some of the texts on this page are English Summaries from the (annual) periodical »Grundtvig-Studier«, published by The Grundtvig Society. In »Grundtvig-Studier« the Society gives the following information about itself:


The Grundtvig Society has as its object to promote knowledge of N. F. S. Grundtvig's life and his contribution to Danish and international culture. This is done by an annual meeting and a periodical, »Grundtvig-Studier«, to appear each year. Articles for the periodical should be sent to […] Centre for Grundtvig Studies, University of Aarhus, 8000 Århus C.


The annual subscription is now [2001] 170 kroner (undergraduates 130 plus postage 30 kr.); foreign members will be informed of method of payment. Application for membership to: Grundtvig-Selskabet, Vartov, Farvergade 27, DK-1463 Copenhagen K.




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The introductory speech at the public defense of »About Grundtvig’s Vidskab« and the replies to the two officially appointed critics. - English Summary. - »Grundtvig-Studier« 2001.


[The Danish title of this text is »Om “Omkring Grundtvig’s Vidskab”« and ought to have been translated: »About “About Grundtvig’s Vidskab”«]



Bent Christensen' s contribution presents three texts, viz. firstly his introductory speech at the public defence of the dissertation »About Grundtvig’s Vidskab. An Enquiry into N.F.S. Grundtvig's View of the Knowledge Aspect of the Commitment to Life that is a Necessary Part of Christianity« - and, secondly, replies to the two officially appointed critics, as they appear in Grundtvig Studier 1999.


In his introductory speech Bent Christensen describes the disciple relationship to Kaj Thaning which has, admittedly, developed into an increasingly critical direction as far as the evaluation of »1832« and the circumstances attached to that year are con­cerned, but which remains unchanged with respect to the recognition of Kaj Thaning's pioneer work as regards the understanding of the radicalism in Grundtvig's view of the »intrinsic value«, given in creation, of human life. The divergence is due, more than anything else, to a generational difference in church views. Bent Christensen' s main concern, however, is the question what importance the commitment to life here and now has for the Christian's relation with God and the Christian expectation of the Kingdom of God.


The keyword is precisely »importance«, The famous stanza from» The Seven Star of Christendom« really says it all:


If our people and our fathers' land

To us are empty words and sounds,

If we know not what they signify,

Beyond a crowd and soil and strand,

Then vain is every word we speak

About God's Kingdom's mount and vale,

About God's people and His flock.


For what is said here, of course, applies to the total involvement in life, of which the [scholarly and] scientific activity of understanding is only one particular part. In the most elementary experience of life as well as in science and scholarship on the highest level, we have to do with a consciousness of God - if an indirect one - without which all the words of the history of salvation become »empty«.


In his reply to Anders Pontoppidan Thyssen Bent Christensen defends his - in a certain sense - looseness of method, and he denies the implication that his thesis could be seen as a »thesis of vidskab on tottering feet«. »I have not from the outset had so much method nor so much thesis that I have been prevented from seeing the hitherto unnoticed, indeed hitherto neglected, aspects of Grundtvig which have been uncovered and interpreted in my dissertation.«


Bent Christensen refers to the introduction to the thesis, where he has given a detailed account of how it became clear during his work with Grundtvig's life and writings that »Grundtvig's view of the knowledge aspect of the commitment to life that is a necessary part of Christianity« must needs be seen precisely as a side or part of an all-embracing totality of life and culture. In the technical terms of a dissertation, the thesis corresponds to what is written on the back of the book's cover:


On one hand it is pointed out that absolutely supreme scholarship (of a humanistic and life-interpreting character) is the upper layer in the all-embracing cultural totality that Grundtvig dreamt about and worked for.


But on the other hand it is described in detail how both inner, crucial, factual and positive factors and external, partly highly negative factors cause Grundtvig from a­round 1835 to concentrate more and more on the preservation, awakening, activities and enlightenment of Danish cultural and national life - with Grundtvig himself in the centre as the great »total poet« of church and people.


Responding to Anders Pontoppidan Thyssen's criticism of the way in which the aspects of church policy and church view are dealt with, Bent Christensen insists that Grundtvig's l832-solution assumed its particular form very much as a consequence of the clerical jam that he had to wriggle out of.


In the reply to Theodor Jørgensen Bent Christensen denies that his own cultural-theological vision should have put a slant on his work. He is not disappointed that Grundtvig did not attempt to a still larger extent to maintain a Christian unified culture, but on the contrary criticises Grundtvig, on the one hand, for taking a very exclusive view of the »free congregation of Jesus Christ«, but on the other hand for seeking nevertheless, through rather diffuse constructions in church view and »secondary theology«, to preserve an at least kriste-lig (i.e. Christ-like) unity in the Danish society.


Bent Christensen goes on to state his reasons why his work has not been more systematically problem-oriented or contextually based on the history of ideas. The decisive fact is that all the influences that Grundtvig obviously received are melted into his Christian universe to such an extent that it would not have been profitable if the reading of Herder and Schelling, for example, which was of course a fact, should have entered explicitly into the presentation.


Finally, Bent Christensen declares himself in agreement with Theodor Jørgensen' s concluding observations as far as the relation between the universal and the particular in Grundtvig is concerned. Grundtvig' s concept of a national and cultural organism is only part of his view of the whole human race as an organism, so that he cannot be cited in support of a nationalistic self-sufficiency. This is true also of the »super­ university« in Gothenburg, which, for one thing, was to be a shared Scandinavian project, and which, for another thing, was expressly intended to be the specifically Nordic contribution to the universal-historical scholarship and development of clarification of the collective human race. The same thing applies concerning Grundtvig's understanding of the relationship between the small Danish congregation and »the horizon of understanding to the catholicity of the Christian church«. In his ecumenical activity Bent Christensen himself has experienced »how good it feels to have the ecumenically universal Grundtvig with him when travelling the world.«


The full Danish text can be read on the page »Grundtvig«.




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From the Public Defence of Bent Christensen’s Dissertation for the Doctorate, »About Grundtvig’s Vidskab«. - By professor Theodor Jørgensen, second officially appointed opponent. - The University of Copenhagen 4th September 1998. - English Summary. Grundtvig-studier 1999.



By way of introduction, the thesis of the dissertation is briefly presented, viz. that, according to Grundtvig, the commitment to life inherent in the Christian faith has a cognitive aspect which he develops in a universal-historical vidskab view, but which he later abandons - if not in principle, at least in reality - in favour of a concentration on his church programme on one hand and his programme for the enlightenment of the people on the other. According to Bent Christensen, the reason was of an apologetic and strategic character in that Grundtvig wanted to overcome the isolation in which he found himself in his relations with his age in his first long phase of work.


This thesis is partially contested in the article. As an objective reason for this development it is pointed out that Grundtvig recognised the unattainableness of a united Christian culture and prepared himself for the pluralism of modernity. This rendered it necessary to seek out the possibility for interaction between people with different opinions in essential areas of popular life as well as Christian life. This is why the idea of freedom plays an increasingly important role for Grundtvig. His thinking moves more and more in an elliptic direction with the universal and the local or particular as the two focal points. lt is true that the two focal points are sometimes brought into relation with each other by means of the notion of the Chosen People, in which there is an inherent danger of an ethnocentric nationalism which Grundtvig does not always escape. The article further points to the necessity of a study of Grundtvig' s attitude to the theories of science of his age. An immanent interpretation such as that presented in Bent Christensen' s dissertation is not sufficient.



The first officially appointed opponent professor Anders Pontoppidan Thyssen’s opposition, was also printed in »Grundtvig-Studier« 1999, but unfortunately without an English Summary.




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of my theological dissertation. (The original Danish Summary is on the page »GRUNDTVIG«).


-  -


Bent Christensen




An Inquiry into N.F.S. Grundtvig’s View of

the Knowledge Aspect of

the Commitment to Life that Is a Necessary Part of Christianity






First motto:
Far be it from us to envy our Christian children and descendants the progress that is reserved to them ... ... ...
(Grundtvig in »Om Natur og Aabenbaring« (»On Nature and Revelation«))
Second motto:
Denmark is the Palestine of History, and Grundtvig is its prophet.
(Christensen, here!)

Gads Forlag


This dissertation has been accepted by The Faculty of Theology
at The University of Copenhagen
to be publicly defended for the degree of Doctor of Divinity.
The University of Copenhagen, 1 December 1997
Jens Glebe-Møller


The defence will take place on Friday 4 September 1998 at 2 PM

in Annexauditorium A, Studiestræde 6 o.g.

DK-1455 København K.




On the cover: The Sorø Academy with the lake and forests in the Zealandic countryside. Grundtvig’s dream of a Danish university for the people [folk high school].





By Knud Børge Bendtsen



About Grundtvig’s Vidskab


An Inquiry into N.F.S. Grundtvig’s View of the Knowledge Aspect of the Commitment to Life that Is a Necessary Part of Christianity




The present work is a continuation of Fra drøm til program (From Dream to Programme), PhD dissertation, published 1987, with special reference to the knowledge aspect of the commitment to life which, to Grundtvig, was partly of intrinsic value, and partly the meaningful content of the Christian relationship between God and man, and of the Christian expectation of the Kingdom of God.

However, at a very early stage, as the study progressed, there emerged a much broader and more complicated view of Grundtvig’s vidskab[1] than expected. Thus the decisive contribution to the study of Grundtvig, offered by the present work, has turned out to be a comprehensive interpretation of the entire Christian - or at least kristelig (literally: Christian-like) - culture that Grundtvig had worked for at least since 1816, and in which knowledge and enlightenment played a significant role, but of which the joyful participation in the Folke-Liv (i.e. life of the people) was a fundamental feature, with Grundtvig’s own gigantic figure at the centre as a folkelig[2] leader, and as the ‘total poet’ of the church as well as the people.

In critical continuation of Kaj Thaning (Man First..., 1963), the present work covers a ground that, roughly speaking, all Grundtvig scholarship up till now has been only circling, its closest parallel being Kim Arne Pedersen’s (unpublished) PhD dissertation from 1993 (his lecture was published in Grundtvig Studier, 1995).



Grundtvig and Scholarship. 1805-1872


1. From Awakening to Conversion

This chapter follows Grundtvig’s development from he was a young man with aspirations as a poet in the 18th century manner, until he emerged as a recently converted future clergyman after a dramatic mental and religious crisis. The decisive observation made is that not only was it during the Langeland years, 1805-1808, that the real Grundtvig emerged (or at least the most urgent personal questions took shape in his mind), but it was also in the period treated in this chapter that Grundtvig produced at least a prototypic example of the special type of Grundtvigian scholarship of a kind that was never to be quite so ‘pure’, i.e. unaffected by external influence and conflict.

After a vehement ‘romantic’ crisis of awakening in the summer of 1805, and after experiencing the inadequacy of Romanticism as a means of liberation or reconciliation, Grundtvig - in principle, though not fully clarified - fell back on Christianity, while at the same time trying to escape from the problems and misery of existence into the so-called asa-rus (i.e. intoxication with Norse mythology). This escape, however, turned out to be the first step in the long descent into reality that took place over the remainder of his life

So, as early as 1806, the twofold basis of Grundtvig’s subsequent development was present: His rejection of Romantic philosophy as a whole, while absorbing the good parts of it into a new all-embracing view of Christianity, deeply committed to life activities, and within the framework of this view, a professional scholarly (philological and mythological) activity at a high level. While still under the influence of natural philosophy, Grundtvig’s scholarship culminated in the chief work Nordens Mytologi (Norse Mythology), 1808. In that particular work, however, Christianity breaks through with surprising strength, and for the remainder of the period, with Grundtvig living in Copenhagen, his field of interest extends substantially, which among other things leads to the composition of the Compendium for his high school students, which is his first and basic world history.


2. Up to Danne-Virke. 1811-1815

Important events in this period: Grundtvig takes up holy orders in 1811; the 1812 World Chronicle is published; in 1814 follows the publication of En mærkelig Spaadom (A Remarkable Prophecy), and the polemical controversy provoked by these publications; 1815 sees the beginnings of Grundtvig’s Danishness and his use of symbolical language.

The World Chronicle from 1812 is better than its reputation; it contains many essential reflections on the relationship between religion/Christianity and scholarship, and on scholarship as part of culture. But above all it is a work of an apologetic and prophetic character, intended to awaken the people, and its consequences for the development of Grundtvig’s view of scholarship and knowledge are to a very great extent due to the ensuing polemic controversy, during which Grundtvig’s ideas in relation to natural philosophy are clarified and elaborated.

Of more positive importance, however, is the increasing closeness to the historical and Danish reality that sets in, partly as a result of the loss of Norway in 1814. The far more scholarly (although never finished) 1814 World Chronicle is also part of this process. The decisive breakthrough, however, finds its expression in the Fortale-Riim (Preface Rhymes) to the Roskilde-Saga from 1814 (containing elements of a Christian poetics), in the poem Et Blad af Jyllands Rimkrønike (A Leaf from the Rhymed Chronicle of Jutland) from 1815 (couched in the new symbolical language, in fact, even suggesting a symbolical world or universe), and in the closing statement in the controversy that followed the 1812 Chronicle: Imod den lille Anklager (Against the Little Accuser) from 1815, with its new free and humorous style.

The dream of a university appointment and the attempt to achieve it is also of great significance in this period - and thus important for the development, throughout the remainder of Grundtvig’s life, of alternatives to the prevalent scholarship, culture and education.

With his St. Stephen’s Declaration of December 26th, 1815, Grundtvig announces his decision to refrain from direct preaching and to concentrate instead on the ambitious and all-embracing ‘total project’ of the three translations and the publication of Danne-Virke.


3. The Danne-Virke Period. 1816-1819

Apart from the periodical Danne-Virke[3], only one published work from this period is of any immediate interest, viz. the 1817 World Chronicle. These publications - and the three translations of Snorri Sturlason, Saxo and Beowulf - constitute nearly all of Grundtvig’s production in this period.

In Danne-Virke the eight ‘philosophical’ articles provide the material for this part of the study. These articles are not only, however, seen as a whole, a ‘textual complex’; they are also viewed in the context of the ‘textual complex’ of Danne-Virke as a whole. Thus it becomes clear that many of the philosophical - or even ‘scientific’ - elements play a more secondary and defensive role than one might be led to believe. The elements of philosophy and knowledge in the Danne-Virke articles are part of a comprehensive alternative cultural programme - in fact, quite similar to the programme that is partially realized in the period after 1835.

According to Grundtvig himself, the poems, translations and historical articles are meant to bear fruit in a long-term perspective, whereas the eight articles are already ‘fruits’ (though not yet quite ripe) - products for immediate (apologetic and preparatory) use.

In Danne-Virke, Christianity and Danishness are intermingled in an extraordinary and slightly confusing manner, and there is a similar example of intermingling, when Grundtvig sees the aim of Danne-Virke as "the promotion of true patriotism and thorough scholarship".

In the Danne-Virke articles Grundtvig’s exposition is broad and matter-of-fact as well as apologetic and pedagogical - with Christianity and the Christian faith as the ultimate framework. The motivation and basis for vidskab (i.e. philosophy, acquisition of knowledge, scholarship and science) is a theology of creation and forklaring[4] of the same kind as the theology behind the Introduction to the 1832 Mythology, but in 1816-1819 Grundtvig is still working and fighting for a Christian-Danish common culture, and thus the construction of a ‘secondary’ theology of anskuelse (i.e. view) and forklaring is not yet in question.

The purpose of the efforts of philosophy, scholarship and science in this world is to acquire an indirect knowledge of God through a historical scholarship of clarification which interacts with the development through history of human life itself, and mainly consists in an interpretation of the life of mankind, i.e. the part of it that has actually been lived up to now. For all creation, and especially all history, is the self-revelation of God and must be known and understood if man is to come to know God. Beyond that, Being must be conceived in man, who, for his part, must conceive himself in truth (God), thus obtaining the indirect knowledge of God, as all being is an image of God.

On the basis of this determination of the Why of vidskab, the articles contain a number of observations on the How of vidskab, from the epistemological basis and conditions to the observations on the methodology of the actual professional study of history. The Danne-Virke epistemology (or general observations on the questions of knowledge) is largely a continuation of the previous polemic against contemporary philosophy, and, on the positive side, a more or less rationalized presentation of the results that Grundtvig came to on the basis of his immediate experience of life and his Christian faith on one hand, and his acquaintance with the theological tradition of Christianity on the other. Actually, Grundtvig goes from experience to Trinitarian theology - and back to experience (with a rationalistic element to it). While the theology of creation underlies the understanding of natural revelation (including the understanding of billedlighed (i.e. the image-likeness of Creation), it is a theology of the Logos that underlies the role of reason and understanding. But once scepticism and speculation and the rationalistic narrowness has been rejected, Grundtvig does not take much interest in epistemology. And, correspondingly, once reductionism has been rejected, the natural sciences are left in neither more nor less than their proper place in the total system of Knowledge - with the historical, all-embracing interpretation of the life of mankind in an indisputable first place.

Among the elements of the Danne-Virke philosophy, the following may be pointed out:

l. The understanding of self-consciousness, existence, being, truth and logic (the laws of thinking - at the same time based radically on experience and sublimely on a Trinitarian theology). Thus revelation and faith - and everyday experience - constitute the decisive life-elucidating and epistemological basis. The result is an epistemological realism within the Christian view - with all kinds of scepticism, reductionism and speculation having been left behind. In addition to the limitations of man’s possibilities of obtaining knowledge that are inherent in the condition of being created, the recognition of the Fall into Sin (Original Sin) has, of course, an important epistemological significance, too.

2. The partition of functions - and the interaction between them - of the special revelation and faith, the natural revelation in and through Existence as it actually is, and the videnskabelig (i.e. philosophical, scholarly and scientific) acquisition and interpretation of it.

3. A main point is that all true vidskab must be historical, which means, firstly, that the vidskab must be objective and based on experience (unlike rationalism, idealism and speculation), and, secondly, that its object is not a mere static re‑ality (reality of things!) but the act‑uality of the history of the world and mankind as an ongoing process (just as you cannot understand a piece of music by studying the grooves of the record through a microscope, but only by listening to it!). Finally, the historical character of vidskab means that its object will always be only part of reality (actuality!) - as history is not yet finished or complete. Thus all proper ‘system-building’ is precluded. But this concept of scholarship is based on an organistic conception of mankind and individual peoples.

The fact that Grundtvig attaches such great importance to scholarship in its position after revelation and ‘Art’ (i.e. the artistic, poetic reproduction, expression and representation of the visions of natural revelation) is undoubtedly due partly to the influence from, and consideration for, the way of thinking of the age, partly to the already mentioned foundation in a theology of the Logos.

In Danne-Virke the grand purpose of scholarship is the awakening and reviving use of history with its great memories and cultural ‘monuments’, whereas the occupation with the lower forms of scholarship belongs to more negative, defensive or concessive contexts. After his ‘death’ in 1819 - and his Discovery in 1825! - Grundtvig never again takes up this subject in a similar way. Nevertheless, the Danne-Virke articles are of great interest since they give a broader and more detailed account than Grundtvig’s other publications, of the view on scholarship that should have been part of an all-embracing Christian culture.

The 1817 World Chronicle appears as an actual example of the historical scholarship which Grundtvig has been advocating in Danne-Virke. It is presented as a - now more impartial - Udsigt over Tidens Løb (View of the Course of Time). Grundtvig’s balanced treatment of recent and contemporary German philosophy is, however, not only an instance of impartiality. In giving a fundamental criticism, but on the other hand also a relative recognition of it, Grundtvig partly professes his approval of and his fascination with the goals that Romanticism had been an unsuccessful and delusive attempt to reach, partly gives his own presentation of the way they should be reached. And the book ends in a direct connection of the Luther Anniversary with an approaching historical awakening and revival in the North - with Denmark and Grundtvig at the centre.


4. Between Danne-Virke and Norse Mythology. 1819-1831

The period 1819-1831 is marked by decisive events and developments, but offers little material that is pertinent to the present context. The most important events are: Grundtvig’s ‘death’ in 1819; his ‘Easter resurrection’ and pentecostal ‘incandescence’ in 1824; his discovery of the Church and its Creed in 1825, and the publication of Kirkens Gienmæle (The Rejoinder of the Church) against Professor Clausen shortly afterwards, resulting in the Church Struggle - the increasingly difficult situation which, in the winter of 1831-32, he partly wrote himself out of, partly compromised with (by making a virtual compromise with the official authorities, especially in the form of his new church policy). The most important publications are Nyaars-Morgen (New Year’s Morning), 1824, some of the articles in Theologisk Maanedsskrift (Theological Monthly), especially Om Natur og Aabenbaring (On Nature and Revelation), 1825, and the twin-treatise Om den sande Christendom (On True Christianity) and Om Christendommens Sandhed (On the Truth of Christianity), 1826-1827, Litteraire Testamente (The Literary Testament), 1827, Søndagsbogen (The Sunday Book), especially vol. III, 1831, Krønike-Riim (The Rhymed Chronicle), 1829, and Skal den Lutherske Reformation virkelig fortsættes? (Should the Lutheran Reformation Really Be Continued), 1831.

Three facts are of crucial importance: 1. That Grundtvig’s genuine inclination emerges again and again, most magnificently in New Year’s Morning, but also in his observations in connection with the resumption of his friendship with Chr. Molbech, in The Literary Testament, in The Sunday Book and in The Rhymed Chronicle. - 2. That the 1825 Discovery in itself implies a liberation from the heavy burden of apologetic duty. - 3. That the church-political situation after the publication of The Rejoinder of the Church definitely quelled the prospects opened up by the Discovery, and forced Grundtvig into a strategy that may have been the best possible in the circumstances, but which nevertheless led to a distortion of his ecclesiastical and church-political views, and which - to some extent - added secondary motives to his statements about culture and scholarship.

The most positive outcome of this period is the fact that den kirkelige anskuelse (i.e. the view that the Church is an actual and historical reality) becomes the basis of the practical realism that dates back to the Danne-Virke period: When the heart adopts true Christianity, all apologetical and epistemological problems disappear or can be ignored, thus permitting an undisturbed occupation with the present, actual reality - as it is. Which is the reality that should be interpreted - and in which life should be lived.

But at the same time a direct line can be drawn from the Danne-Virke project via New Year’s Morning and - partly - The Testament and also, of course, via the Introduction to Norse Mythology up to Grundtvig’s position as a leading figure in Danish national and cultural life and his achievements in the field of enlightenment of the people.


5. Norse Mythology, 1832

Besides Danne-Virke and together with the Gothenburg-article[5], Om Nordens videnskabelige Forening (On the Scholarly Unification of the Nordic Countries), the Introduction to Norse Mythology is one of the principal texts for the present study. No critical revaluation can shake the estimate of this text as one of the most magnificent expressions of the view that mankind’s progress towards ‘clarification’ and the achievement of knowledge as a clarifying activity is nothing less than the very purpose of Creation. Nevertheless, a more critical view of this magnificent text was already expressed in Fra Drøm til program. It was seen as part of a breakaway manoeuvre from an impossible situation in his personal life and an untenable position in his relations with the Church and his attitude to culture. In the present study this is followed up in that it is pointed out that already in the drafts for the introduction to Haandbog i Verdens-Historien (The Handbook of World History) Grundtvig commences his long descent from the high-level ‘scholarship of clarification’ to the activity of enlightenment of the people - in its interaction with this life as being lived (which, however, was already an important part of the 1832 Introduction).

Apart from the magnificent expression of the workings of ‘clarification scholarship’ and its all-comprehensive connection with life, the real innovation in the 1832 Introduction is the clear distinction between the traditional Christian believers and the ‘Naturalists’[6], and the recognition of a cultural and scholarly co-operation between Christians and ‘Naturalists’ (insofar as they have ‘spirit’), indeed, the recognition that these groups might share the same church institution, which would, then, in principle, be a state establishment for public religious service of a general character, with the view of life implied in Christianity as the common denominator. But the true Christian congregation ("the free Church of Jesus Christ") gathers round the few believing ministers and their preaching, their ministration of the Sacraments, and their teaching. With this distinction and - at least partial - separation, the ground was prepared for the securalization or ‘secondarization’ of Christian theology that takes place during the remainder of Grundtvig’s life. This applies, of course, only to the community in general; no secularization whatsoever occurred in Grundtvig’s true, ‘primary’[7] theology.


6. Between the Mythology and the Folk High School Writings

Already in the summer of 1832 Grundtvig began working on his own contribution to the realization of the programme from the Introduction to the Mythology: The Handbook of World History. But as it is evidenced from the numerous drafts of the introduction to the Handbook, he also begins the descent from the heights of the ‘clarification scholarship’. Having had his church-political problem solved, Grundtvig now has to adapt to the practical demands of the work that lies before him in the field of the cultural and national life of the people. After the first drafts of this introduction he never again occupies himself with his relation to natural philosophy, and the notion of den kristelige anskuelse (i.e. the Christian view) hardly plays a role in his later production. The Handbook is meant to present the great facts of world history as the foundation upon which an all-embracing scholarship, education and culture can be built.

The second part of the Handbook, published 1835-1836, marks a new stage in the descent. It is closely related to Højskole-skrifterne[8] (The Folk High School Writings), the first of which are now being written. The scholarly approach is still considered highly important, but Grundtvig now talks explicitly of a human scholarship and aims at what he calls Folkelighed, Modersmaal og verdenshistorisk Oplysning om Menneske-Livet (i.e. National and Popular Culture, the Mother Tongue, and Enlightenment, through World History, of Human Life). The poetical side of the occupation with history is given particular emphasis.

Another important text from this period is the Golden Jubilee and Birthday Poem to King Frederik VI, Gylden-Aaret (The Golden Year, cf. Herder’s reproduction of Isaiah 35). This poem clearly belongs with the poems from New Year’s Morning up to those written in the period after 1839. It expresses an urgent concern for Grundtvig: that the Danish people should enjoy love, light, good fortune, joy and happiness.

In Den Danske Stats-Kirke upartisk betragtet (An Impartial View of the Danish State Church), Grundtvig presents his new church policy, according to which the State Church should be maintained as a public religious institution, with Christianity as the ‘medium’ common to orthodox Christians as well as heretics, indeed ‘heathens’ (i.e. post-Christians, Naturalists). One of the main reasons for this ‘monstrous’ church policy is the consideration for scholarship, education, culture and enlightenment. In a living interaction with a world of mainly non-believers in the orthodox sense, the ancestral faith will be able to maintain and promote the universal historical scholarship which is the only way to a thorough and profound ‘clarification’ of man and the world.


7. The cultural and national life of the people and its enlightenment. 1835-1848

From about 1835 and onwards Grundtvig began to meet with recognition and respect in a new and much broader sense, and he was seized by an overwhelming and indomitable optimism. At the same time the political development from stænderforsamlinger (i.e. Assemblies of the Estates of the Realm) to democracy was of great importance to him.

Grundtvig’s central aim in this period is the transformation of Sorø Akademi into a kind of alternative university or rather a højskole (a folk high school or college) for the enlightenment of the people. The proper kind of scholarship and science is seen as part of this enlightenment. Even the Gothenburg article (1839) is - to an astonishing degree - just another (now Scandinavist) occasion for Grundtvig to promote his Sorø idea! At the same time he involves himself in a number of new activities, all of which are, in one way or another, related to the preservation, awakening and enlightenment of the people.


8. Grundtvig and Denmark. 1848-1872

During this period the tendency to concentrate on the preservation, awakening and enlightenment of the Danish people is, of course, immensely strengthened because of the two wars over Slesvig (1848-1850 and 1864). As far as the concept of scholarship and science is concerned, the already strong anti-German tendency is intensified, and in the end it amounts to the claim that God simply has to save Denmark because the scholarly effort of Denmark is necessary for the realization of His plan for the development towards ‘clarification’.

During the 1848-1850 war and through the year 1851, Grundtvig published a one-man periodical, the weekly Danskeren (the Dane), which was his contribution to the war effort, especially on the home front where Danishness was threatened by the dominance of German culture. But even here a number of the texts reach Danne-Virke heights. In Danskeren the Grundtvigian connection between life and knowledge, or rather the connection between life and the study and knowledge of it, stands out with particular force.

The great poem on the history of the Church, Christenhedens Syvstjerne (The Seven-Star of Christendom), 1854-1855, is, of course, mainly of a primary-theological character, its subject being the progress of events towards the ‘clarification’ of the salvation and redemption through Jesus Christ. The more interesting is the fact that even here - in the context of primary theology - Grundtvig is preoccupied with scholarship and enlightenment.

A more direct expression of the necessity of scholarly knowledge in connection with primary theology and the church can be found in the final chapter of Grundtvig’s ‘Dogmatics’, Den christelige Børnelærdom (Elemental Christian Teaching), first edition ab. 1827. The title of the chapter is Det evige Livs-Ord af Vorherres egen Mund til Menigheden (The Eternal Word of Life from Our Lord’s Own Mouth to the Congregation). In this chapter Grundtvig moves from the idea of a Christian church school for intending teachers (i.e. church ministers) to the notion of a veritable Christian university that was to "aim at comprising all treasures of wisdom and knowledge, which cannot possibly be ‘hidden in the knowledge of the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ’, without also coming to light in the free church of the Lord which shall at last be measured by Him" (Eph. 4,13). What Grundtvig is talking about here is an all-embracing universal activity of obtaining knowledge, based on theology, Christology and ecclesiology - and seen as an absolutely necessary part of the life of the church, no matter how small the Danish church for example will turn out to be after its separation from the national church, i.e. the national religious establishment.

This is the clearest and most detailed passage in Grundtvig’s entire writings as far as the subject of the present study is concerned: the knowledge aspect of the commitment to life that is a necessary part of Christianity. And it is a rare passage. On the whole Grundtvig has conducted his discussion of the knowledge question in the non-church, ‘secondary theology’ connections, whereas his preaching in the church concentrates on what is virtually quite a restricted or narrow ‘church context’ or ‘divine service context’. A closer reading of this testament-like final chapter shows that its main theme is the idea of a separation from the national church (or the presentation of that idea). Even the most splendid expressions about the connection between crucial ideas in Christianity and the achievement of knowledge appear to be subordinate to another purpose - that of church policy.

But in his last major text Grundtvig returns to his occupation with the national and popular culture of the Danish people, namely in the magnificent poem of the future, Dansk Ravne-Galder (Danish Raven Prophecy), written in 1860, but never quite finished, and not published until 1909. This vision of the future is interesting since it is a fairly direct expression of what Grundtvig imagined to be the result of his efforts in scholarship and enlightenment. Everything is there, not only Sorø (and a Vallø, too - for women!), but also Gothenburg. Denmark is a scholarly and cultural centre to which people flock from all over Europe, indeed all the way from India. All the major themes are played through - in a generally very amusing dialogue in which the representatives of the different peoples show that they have acquired many of the Grundtvigian‑Danish ideas, but that, on the other hand, they understand them and express them according to their respective national characters. But here - as always - everything centres on Denmark’s - enlightened - life and lykke (i.e. good fortune, happiness and joy). The scholarly ‘clarification’ (here in the sense of understanding) is always subordinated to and included in the ‘clarification’ of life as lived - which, in fact, is nothing less than a secularized or ‘secondarized’ aspect of the greater clarification, transfiguration or glorification, the DOXASMÓS of Redemption itself, seen as the unfolding of the full meaning of Creation.

Besides these four important titles, the following events and publications from the period 1848-1864 have a more or less immediate interest: The foundation of Danske Forening (The Danish Society); the inauguration of Grundtvigs Højskole paa Marielyst (Grundtvig’s Folk High School at Marielyst), 1856; the series of church history lectures (1859-1863) that were later published under the title of Kirke-Speil (Church Mirror), 1871. Here Grundtvig continues his preoccupation with the national and cultural situation of the Danish people under the now current political conditions, carrying on and intensifying his struggle against ‘Germanness’. Scholarship as such plays a minor role - but is present. And it is of great importance to see how Grundtvig works in the broad ‘folkelig’ (national) context that scholarship, too, should be a part of. A magnificent example of this is Højskolesangen (The Folk High School Song): Hvad solskin er for den sorte muld (What Sunshine is to the Black Mould).

The first Kirke-Speil lecture contains a brief, but powerful presentation of the perspective of ‘clarification’ and of the broader human context, and besides that a good deal of autobiographical information. These lectures convey the very strong impression that what really mattered to Grundtvig was the life of the Church as well as the life of the people - considered as life. The remarkable thing is that Norse Mythology is not even mentioned! And while one might have expected the last lecture to have ended with some kind of anticipation of the ‘clarification’, it actually ends with the advice to the Christian free church that, now that the sognebånd (i.e. the obligation to use the vicar in the parish where one is a resident) has been abolished, it should do all it can to stay in the National Church! An interesting example of Grundtvig’s own activity as a professional scholar (philologist) at a high level is his publication in 1861 of Beowulfes Beorh eller Bjovulfs Drapen, det oldengelske Heltedigt paa Grundsproget (Beowulfes Beorh or the Beowulf Drapa, the Anglo-Saxon Heroic Poem, in the Original Language).

The 1864 War stirs Grundtvig into impressively forceful action; most of the old themes recur in his struggle against Germanness and in his effort to strengthen the hope for Denmark. While scholarship and enlightenment remain elements of the struggle, the novelty is that the diction moves closer to the core of Christian speech. Everything now falls back on Christianity. Christianity itself is the enlightenment, and it is Christianity, i.e. Christ, that leads to ‘clarification’.

But at this time Grundtvig’s production draws to a close, although his speeches at vennemøderne (the gatherings of friends), which were held from 1863 onwards, are of some interest. It is quite impressive how many of the old important themes he manages to include in his speeches, e.g. ‘the old and the new human life’, ‘the progressing Christian enlightenment of everything human’, ‘clarification’, etc. In the didactic poem Havamaal (The Speech of the High One (i.e. Woden)), 1866, scholarship and enlightenment are also dealt with; everything now finds its place, however, within the life of the Church, the destination being eternal salvation and bliss and ‘clarification’ (in the sense of transfiguration and glorification) in the Kingdom of God.

Grundtvig’s last poem but one, Ved fjerde nordiske Kirkemøde (At the Fourth Nordic Church Meeting), is an extremely interesting and important text, which may be characterized as, in every respect, the utmost expression of the fusion of the secondary eschatology of ‘clarification’ and the primary, central-Christian eschatology of Salvation. But then it is of even greater importance that it speaks so strongly and clearly about the Danish and Nordic hjertelig (hearty or cordial) profundity in the last great time of enlightenment, which, in the supreme sense, will see time out (before Christ "closes Time with His Day").



Grundtvig’s Vidskab


9. The ‘total poet’ Grundtvig and his Vidskab.

The final conclusion has two sections: ‘Themes and Main points through the Phases’ and a more systematic summary of ‘The Main Points’.

The survey of the themes and main points through the many different phases of Grundtvig’s life ranges from his ‘naked’ ambition to become a poet on the premisses of the 18th century to the period 1835-1872 when Grundtvig holds a unique position as a leading figure in the Church and in the national and cultural life of the Danish people and as a ‘total poet’. The decisive point is that in the end Grundtvig succeeds to a very large extent in realizing the goals he had most at heart, but also that this success was partly due to a resigned adjustment to what was possible. And the successful achievement of his goals failed to include a menneskelig (i.e. human) high-level scholarship with which the life of the people could interact. To this must be added that in all the phases Grundtvig was forced or caused to deal with scholarship in a way implying that he was really motivated by other considerations: church policy, enlightenment (Sorø) and national work.

The most important main points are: Knowledge as the very purpose of Creation; the total context of culture; folkelighed, the national and cultural life of the people; the anti-speculative and anti-sceptic attitude to experience; the historical, ecclesiastical, and eschatological foundation on Christianity, and the enlightenment derived from it.

Epistemologically Grundtvig partly solves, partly ignores the classic dilemmas. Man must realize that he is situated within Existence and will never be able to embrace it as a whole. Therefore he must not waste his life and his time on futile pondering. Man and his world were created in order that man should obtain and gather knowledge. But as a creature - and a fallen creature - man must be humble, also in his activity of obtaining knowledge. The solution of the epistemological dilemmas lies in the understanding of man being "in Truth", between God and the rest of the Creation - his self-consciousness being a reflection of the eternal and absolutely fundamental self-consciousness of God. Grundtvig’s kirkelige anskuelse" (i.e. view of the Church as a historical and actual fact) plays a very special epistemological or fundamental role. When the human heart has adopted "true Christianity", everything, including the activity of obtaining knowledge, takes place in the light of Christianity.

But the combination of a very narrow understanding of the notion of the Church or church community and, in spite of that, an unceasing solidarity with the people, indeed an unceasing dream of a ‘united culture’, influenced by Christianity to the greatest possible extent, leads Grundtvig to develop gradually a theology, at times absolutely ‘secondary’ or ‘secularized’, about the Danish people and its enlightenment and about scholarliness. Only very rarely does Grundtvig deal with the commitment to life, including its knowledge aspect, in connection with the life of ‘the free church of Jesus Christ’ itself. Everything has been referred to the ‘clarification’ contexts in which, outside the divine service, the true Christians are to live their Christian human lives together with their not quite so Christian fellow countrymen.

Grundtvig himself pointed out that only the realization of the scholarly project would be able to show what it involved. But in spite of Grundtvig’s impressively comprehensive influence, the fact is that his universal-historical programme of vidskab and enlightenment has only been partially realized! This must be kept in mind if one wants to understand how Grundtvig’s vidskab was intended. And this is also a prior condition of the possibility that a more extensive realization may yet take place!




* * *






By Bent Christensen


[English Summary of the lecture for the PhD Degree of Divinity at the University of Copenhagen, 19th November 1985, in the Grundtvig Society’s periodical »Grundtvig Studier« 1989-90]



The titIe of this lecture for the PhD Degree of Divinity has been given its provocative wording by the Faculty of Theology at the University of Copenhagen. In his thesis for the PhD Degree of Divinity, published in 1987 and reviewed in Grundtvig Studies in 1988, Bent Christensen has described and evaluated Grundtvig's attitude in the field of church policy over the years from 1824 to 1832, a critical period of time for himself, in such a way as to give the reader the impression that the writer regards the attitude taken by Grundtvig in the comprehensive Introduction to his "Norse Mythology", 1832, towards the thoughtful people of his time, as a step backward compared to the attitude taken by Grundtvig in his great autobiographical poem, "New Year's Morning", 1824, and in the preface to it. In this preface Grundtvig wrote that the goal which God "surely wants to be achieved" is "the revival of the heroic spirit of the North to Christian deeds in a direction suited to the needs and conditions of the time”.


In a book "The Land of the Living 1984", a series of lectures held in the 200th anniversary of Grundtvig's birth, Professor Aage Henriksen proposed the view that the poem "New Year's Morning" is the crowning achievement in Grundtvig's writings. However, already in 1963 Dr. Kaj Thaning had advanced the idea that the Introduction to "Norse Mythology", 1832, was a decisive turning­ point in Grundtvig's literary career since, from 1832 onwards, human life and the human world acquired an entirely different position and importance in his un­derstanding of Christianity than was the case before that crucial year. Bent Christensen is inspired by both these writers, but adopts a critical attitude to Kaj Thaning.


In part 1 of his lecture Bent Christensen describes the entire progress of his Grundtvig studies and the problem he has posed: What is it really that the In­troduction has which was not already present in the inspiration behind the poem "New Year's Morning"? In the answer to this question he particularly emphasises the sermons from 1823 to 1824, which are influenced by Irenaeus, and which are imbued with the thought that man was created in God's image and has preserved this image of God also after the Fall!. According to Bent Christensen they re­present "a Grundtvig who is at least as good as the Grundtvig we got".


Next he asks "if the 'Grundtvig of 1832' is in any way better than the 'Grundtvig of 1824'"? - Before he answers this question he presents a survey of the development from 1824 to 1832. He agrees with Thaning that "the deeds came to nothing". There was a general atmosphere of stagnation, but in the meantime the situation in the Church came to a head: members of a so-calIed "godly assembly" in Funen were positively persecuted. And at the University of Copenhagen the popular Professor H.N. Clausen propagated his "Protestant Chri­stianity", diluted beyond recognition. In opposition to this, Grundtvig pointed to "the real Church of Jesus Christ on Earth" and published his "The Rejoinder of the Church" against Professor Clausen's latest book.


"This was where the tragedy began. For instead of entering into an eccle­siastical discussion, Professor Clausen brought an action for libel against Grundtvig!"


According to Bent Christensen the full extent of the tragedy was that the country had a state church which everybody had to be a member of, and which was bound to Lutheran Christianity, but in reality it also had a clergy whose leading circles represented a rationalism and idealism, which was completely at variance with Christianity. This was the situation which Grundtvig described as "the legal HelI", Bent Christensen says.


He describes Grundtvig's writings on church policy in this situation as a development consisting of 3 phases:


1. The time from the discovery of the Apostles' Creed in July 1825 and the Rejoinder in September 1825 until his resignation from office in May 1826. At this time Grundtvig thought that the anomaly could be redressed once it was clearly pointed out.


2. The time from September 1826, shortly before the sentence was pronounced, until winter 1830/1831, when Grundtvig presented various proposals for church organisation with a Christian state church, while those who did not want to join such a church could leave it in complete freedom of religion.


3. The time from April 1831 when Grundtvig declared himself willing to be in charge of the organisation of a free-congregation church, to the "amicable settlement" which, towards the end of February 1832, led to his per­mission to function as a free evensong preacher in Frederick's Church.


During the time up to this "amicable settlement", Grundtvig had worked his way through the numerous drafts for the Introduction to his new "Norse Mytho­logy", and in the process, according to Bent Christensen, "had managed to con­struct an entirely new model of church policy", characterised by peaceful co­existence and competition between the real Christians and those Grundtvig called the "Naturalists", "within the framework of what Grundtvig continues to term a "church", but what is in reality a common, public religious service system". In the same year he drafted his proposal for "sognebåndsløsning" i.e. abolition of the obligation to use the vicar in the parish where one is a resident, for all church ministrations.


According to Kaj Thaning, Grundtvig had now finally "found himself, having learnt to distinguish rightly between what is "human" and what is "Christian", so he could now call off the ecclesiastical controversy and instead throw himself into a cheerful effort to turn his new view of life to practical use".


"In my opinion, I have invalidated this evaluation," Bent Christensen says. Grundtvig's concept of Christianity was optimistic already in 1824, as was the factual distinction between the intrinsic value of life and the salient feature which is Christian salvation. The question now is what it was that Grundtvig managed to free himself from in the years 1831 to 1832. Bent Christensen's thesis is that he 1) managed to free himself from the ecclesiastical controversy that he could not win, and 2) from the feeling of obligation to be in charge of an illegal organisation of free-congregation churches which would isolate him from ordinary public and cultural life.


In the context of church policy, Bent Christensen describes what happened with the Introduction to "Norse Mythology" as an emergency solution. - But is this the same, then, as "a tragic event"? - No, he answers. The tragedy was that Grundtvig's dream from "New Year's Morning" did not come true, but was on the contrary followed by the nightmare of the libel lawsuit and the church con­troversy. "But there is another tragedy which we suffer from even today - namely the failure of influential circles to properly understand what it was Grundtvig found himself obliged to do in 1832, so that it has almost come to be regarded as the only right way to practise church organisation! In that perspective what happened in 1832 may be seen as a tragic event, Bent Christensen claims in the conclusion of part 1 of his lecture.


Part 2 of the lecture is a discussion of key passages in the two main texts, "New Year's Morning" and the Introduction to "Norse Mythology". The intention is to show that the fundamental ideas in the Introduction (and in The Rejoinder of the Church) have been anticipated in the great poem from 1824: "Indeed, the mythical-biographical descent of this poem through Danish history to the Land of the Living ... stands out as a great "a human being first!”


"What the Introduction has ... to a fuller extent and in a clearer form than "New Year's,.Morning" is the fully developed view of evolution and “forklaring” [see the “inserted here” after this section!] and the scientific programme connected with il. Thus the Introduction provides a unique contribution to the understanding of what it means that the world exists, and that we exist in it as human beings!”


[INSERTED HERE: Forklaring is a very special and highly central Grundtvig term, the meaning of which ranges from 'explanation' or 'enlightenment' or 'clarification' to 'transfiguration' and the very 'glorification' in the Kingdom of God.]


In the concluding part 3 of his lecture, Bent Christensen poses the question "whether what happened in 1831/32 really and truly meant that Grundtvig gained himself, or whether it meant that he lost at least part of himself'. Like Aage Henriksen, Bent Christensen considers "New Year's Morning" to be a culmination in Grundtvig's writings, and incidentally the point from which Grundtvig's comprehensive influence on the Danish people stems, and he sees the Introduction as a point, from where Grundtvig moves on by leaving something behind. Aage Henriksen blames Grundtvig that from being a personal poet he changed into a reformer. Bent Christensen asks instead "from the point of view of the church ­whether it was after all the right programme with which Grundtvig attempted to save his dream that had been crushed by the outside world."


The alternative he mentions is that Grundtvig could have left the Church with whoever wanted to follow him, and could have worked with unflagging soli­darity on this basis for the public life of the people as well as for "universal­-historical scholarship". At least he did not have to make quite so much good fortune of necessity - with the tragic consequences for the Danish Lutheran Christian congregation's self-conception that it has to this day.


He concludes by emphasising a passage towards the end of Grundtvig's book, "Elemental Christian Teaching" (Den Christelige Børnelærdom), where Grundtvig imagines the situation that church and state were completely separated. In that case the Christians would have to establish their own educational in­stitution for clergymen. But this would have to be a "Christian high school", i.e. a whole university. Bent Christensen finds there is good reason to turn one's attention to this thought from 1861 - as well as to Grundtvig's dream from 1824, when one seeks inspiration in Grundtvig.


The full Danish text can be read on the page »Grundtvig«.




[1]  Vidskab is a special Grundtvig term, meaning philosophy, scholarship and science as a whole, the whole activity of obtaining and interpreting knowledge. Videnskabelighed, scholarliness, is another word for vidskab, with special reference to scholarship and science as an aspect of culture, or to the scholarly and scientific inclination. Videnskab (pl. videnskaber) refers to the particular branches of scholarship or special sciences.

[2]  Folkelig is a special Grundtvigian and Danish word, and any translation of it is bound to be in-adequate. It refers to the national and cultural life of the people and may best be rendered by the word 'people' used as an adjective. In order to fully understand the word, it is necessary to view the people as an organism.

[3]  Danne-Virke is the name of a fortification wall at the old border between Denmark and Germany. Used as the title of this periodical, it refers to the cultural struggle for Danishness.

[4]  Forklaring is a very special and highly central Grundtvig term, the meaning of which ranges from 'explanation' or 'enlightenment' or 'clarification' to 'transfiguration' and the very 'glorification' in the Kingdom of God. In the present context Grundtvig uses it mostly in a secularized or 'secondary' sense, referring to the clarification and unfolding of Creation in Time, till the end of Time or History.

[5]  Grundtvig's entire 'system' of education, enlightenment and scholarship consisted of: the education of children at home or in children's schools, the folk high schools, national seminaries for civil servants, church ministers etc., and the great Nordic super-university in Gothenburg, a kind of Nordic Academy or 'Oxford', with a staff of a few hundred 'super-professors'. This was to be the decisive Nordic contribution to the 'scholarship of clarification' of mankind.

[6]  'Naturalists' (Danish: naturalister) is Grundtvig's term for the representatives of the age who considered themselves good and enlightened Christians, but were actually post-Christian, 'romantic idealists'.

[7]  In the present context, the actual Grundtvigian theology, expressing Grundtvig's own genuine Christian faith, is called his 'primary theology', whereas his very peculiar construction - which he uses in connection with the national and cultural life of the people and with scholarship - is called his 'secondary' or 'secularized' theology. It is a kind of broader 'theology of Creation', but it is more than that, see also note 4.

[8]  These are the texts in which Grundtvig presents his plan for the transformation of Sorø Akademi into a kind of alternative university (see chapter 7). But the Sorø plan was never realized. Instead a large number of small folk high schools arose all over Denmark. But the intention remains the enlightenment for life of the people as an alternative to the education in what Grundtvig called the 'black' Latin schools or grammar schools and at the 'Latin' university.