A Danish Lutheran Confessionalisation? The Case of Niels Hemmingsen
Through a study of the prominent Danish theologian Niels Hemmingsen (1513–1600) and his work as a popular religious educator this paper intends to investigate the usefulness of confession as a historiographical concept and thereby the limits of a Lutheran culture of knowledge.
The confessionalisation theory (Schilling) has been able to describe how confessional cultures of knowledge, competing with each other within the German empire, were tied to political interests and became agents of societal change. The concept of “confessional cultures” (Kaufmann) has been employed to describe how distinct confessional cultures, with an emphasis on the Lutheran, developed within this historical dynamic. This article will employ Danish material to test the limits of this Lutheran culture of knowledge and thereby also to investigate the significance of specific confessional characteristics for historical change.
Niels Hemmingsen was the most influential Danish theologian of his generation. He had been educated as a Lutheran theologian in Wittenberg and had been entrusted with the main teaching responsibility at the university in Copenhagen by the king. At the top of his career, however, the king dismissed him from office, after having been pressured by his brother-in-law, the elector of Saxony, who, advised by his theologians, regarded Hemmingsen as a Calvinist and thereby as a threat to the Lutheran block. Still, Hemingsen’s position in the disputes, and the outcome of the proceedings against him, might not conform well to the German pattern. Though the Danish King Fredrik II forced him out of office, he did so very reluctantly, and he continued to support Hemmingsen and, supported by the theological faculty in Copenhagen, to some extent protected his influence in the Danish church. This calls for a further investigation of what was regarded as important in the Danish religious politics and culture of knowledge. It raises the assumption that more than just confessional dynamics were at the foreground.
This paper will use this conflict and the careful positioning expressed by Hemmingsen as the context for a rhetoric analysis of the part of Hemmingsen´s authorship aimed at a broader audience, mainly his Liffsens Vey (1570), but also his Cathechismi quaestiones concionnatae (1560) and his Postilla seu enarratio evangeliorum.
The study aims at describing Hemmingsen as an historical agent in a wider perspective; not only as a partaker in theological discourse, but as a certain kind of pedagogue, aiming at a certain form of formatio for his addressees and making reference to a political context. Thereby it will be discussed whether there was a Danish confessionalisation, and if the culture of knowledge that appears in the case of Niels Hemmingsen is best described as a confessional culture or if it calls for a different perspective.
Dr. Sivert Angel, Rektor, Practical-theological seminary, Oslo