The 5th of May 2013 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of the world famous Danish theologian and philosopher, Søren Aabye Kierkegaard. As Kierkegaard also had a great influence on the Faroese people and their religious convictions, we are celebrating this 200th anniversary in a joint issue with Post Danmark.
Søren Kierkegaard experienced both the Church and the Moravian Brethren during his childhood. Despite becoming an opponent of churches and congregations later in life, Kierkegaard played a key role in Faroese church history, serving as a source of inspiration to Victor Danielsen’s clash with the Church of the Faroe Islands.
Søren Kierkegaard strongly opposed many of the predominant ideas of his time, yet it was also an era characterised by its break with inherited beliefs in areas ranging from politics and religion to science and philosophy.
A revolutionary political spirit spread across Europe and in 1849 Denmark became a constitutional monarchy. The Danish constitution did not fall from the heavens, but was a result of the ideal from the 1700s that every person is born equal and free. The Church, faith, God and the bible were under fire; Ludwig Feuerbach’s proclamation in 1841 that God is a product of man’s ideas paved the way for the intellectual youth of Germany, and George Elliot was quick to translate Feuerbach to English.
In 1844, Arthur Schopenhauer wrote that the world is driven by an increasingly insatiable desire, which is what makes man an unhappy and suffering creature. The growing trend of European individualisation had been clearly established.
Some years later, Danes could read the young writer Frederik Dreier’s socialist ideas and confrontation with religious conservatism, in which priests were lambasted by Dreier’s sharp pen; Drier’s critique was followed shortly by a sarcastic thrashing of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark and the state-authorised clergy by Kierkegaard.
A review of Kierkegaard’s works is a journey through European intellectual history – a journey that also points towards the future emergence of modern existentialism. One of Kierkegaard’s core ideas is that man is a loner, an individual that must break from the ignorant and anonymous rabble. He had nothing but contempt for epigones, people who imitate others’ words and deeds.
When Kierkegaard died in November 1855 at the age of 42, worn down by controversy and mentally demanding work, he had made his message heard beyond Denmark that it is futile to hide behind a mask of biblical or state authorised faith, fine titles and bishops robes, because man’s relationship with God is a matter between the individual and God. Kierkegaard, the once avid churchgoer, had become a fierce opponent of all forms of religious congregations.
The last half of the 1800s saw sweeping social changes in the Faroe Islands. Free trade and the fishing industry replaced monopoly trade and a peasant and class society, but the National Church remained virtually unchallenged by other religious institutions and beliefs. There were some challenges, however. In 1865, the Plymouth Brethren sent William Sloan from the Shetland Islands to do missionary work in the Faroe Islands. Sloan’s preaching was simple and straightforward: No salvation without a personal belief in Jesus Christ. A few years before the turn of the twentieth century, the Danish Inner Mission arrived in the Faroe Islands. The aim of the Inner Mission was to bring Christianity back to the modern secular society by reforming the Church. Thus the ground was laid for Faroese cultural criticism and a deeper critique of the Church of the Faroe Islands.
It was not until long after Kierkegaard’s death that he first caused a stir in the Faroe Islands. And when it finally happened, it was not as a philosopher, but as a critic of the Church. Kierkegaard’s criticism was disseminated by Victor Danielsen, who attended the teacher training college in Thorshavn from 1911-1914; in the autumn of 1913, Danielsen experienced a deep spiritual crisis in his search for God.
Victor Danielsen sought spiritual guidance from Inner Mission, but quickly realised that the Church could not possibly be reformed; instead, it must be rejected because the Church and priests lived a lie, in which their living did not come from the spirit, but from a state-paid salary.
During the years 1914-1916, Victor Danielsen wrote many letters to the editor in the Faroese newspapers, harshly attacking the Church and its culture, which in his view was a road to perdition. He saw the Church as rotting in a misguided perception of the existence of Christian culture. Victor Danielsen had a sharp and focused pen. Kierkegaard’s "Church Storm" emerged clearly in Danielsen’s letters to the editor, which were often a direct copy both in form and content of Kierkegaard’s work.
Victor Danielsen also accepted the consequences of his conclusions and refused to work as a teacher, as he would not teach in accordance with the Church’s Lutheran doctrine. Danielsen could not accept infant baptism, which he viewed as unbiblical and therefore not applicable. In 1916 he was baptised and became active as a spiritual leader of the Plymouth Brethren, living a very productive life as a bible translator, song and hymn writer, and author.
Issue Date: 04.03.2013
Designer: N. Chr. Kierkegaard
Engraver: Bertil Skov Jørgensen
Printer: Posten Frimärken, Sweden
Colours: 4 Colours
Size: 25,50 x 22,72 or 65,88 x 22,72 mm
Size of the sheetlet: 125 x 90 mm
Values: 35.00 kr
Postal use: large letters inland 251 - 500 gr