Denmark's Christian Heritage


Danish shield - A crown above three blue rampant lions Danish flag Danish coat of arms - Two men on either side of the coat of arms

Denmark is the smallest of the three Scandinavian kingdoms, and is located on numerous islands and the mainland peninsula of Jutland. Though Denmark is small, it is one of the very oldest continually existing national states, tracing its kings and queens back to before the 9th century. The name “Denmark” is called “Danmark” in the Danish tongue, and means “the border district of the Danes". It was used from sometime earlier than the 10th century by the dominating tribe of the Danes.

In ancient times, all the Norse peoples, kingdoms and tongues, referred to themselves as “The Danes”, as the chronicle writer of Norse mythology, Snorre Sturlasson of Iceland (12th century), writes in the history of the Norsemen, The Younger Edda. In these ancient chronicles of the Norse peoples, Snorre writes that the Norsemen came to Scandinavia as the twin-people of the Aser and the Vaner, led by the chieftain with the name (or rather title) Odin, who ruled in a kingdom at the Black Sea in Eastern Europe. In the Norse tongue, this distant eastern homeland of the Norseman was called Svithjod the Great: which is equivalent to Scythia the Great. It is here that we find the connection of the Danish people with the Israelites of the Bible. After their deportation by Assyria, the Israelites took on various names, one of them being Scythians, who moved from their original place of exile around the Caspian Sea to the Northwest (see 2 KINGS 17:6), eventually arriving in Scandinavia.

Picture of a dolmen - an ancient grave for noblemenAccording to biblical prophecy, the tribe of Dan, one of the ten Israelite tribes, left its mark wherever it went (see GENESIS 49:17 and JUDGES 18:29). Thus, the present day Russian river Dniepr, which was originally called Danapir; the Danube; and, of course, Danmark are other geographic names named after Dan. (see ‘What Does the Topic of National Israel Mean?’)

Across the Danish landscape are more than 5,000 dolmens: ancient graves for noblemen consisting of huge rocks. When the dolmens were erected is uncertain, but they are also found across Western Europe, the Western Mediterranean, and in Palestine. Everywhere Israelite people went, these dolmens can be found. The national song of Denmark mentions them in one verse, as being built in very ancient days.

The Vikings

Over time, the Danes didn’t lose their sense of adventure. As Vikings in their longboats they set about pillaging many monasteries and settlements along the coasts of England and the continent and were dreaded by the Catholic monks. During and after the Viking age, most of Scandinavia and the main part of England were under the Danish Crown.

Catholic Conversion

In the year 1000 AD under King Harald the Blue Tooth, the Danes (as we know them today) converted to Catholicism, as witnessed by the so-called “baptismal stone of Denmark”, which Harald erected near the southern Jutland town of Jelling.

From the 10th century to the 16th century, Denmark was the predominant power in northern Europe. Queen Margrethe I of Denmark (1387-1412) at one time united all of Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Finland, the Faroe Islands, and Greenland under her Crown in the Kalmar Union.

1536 - The Danish Reformation

When the German monk Martin Luther began Northern Europe’s spiritual revolt against the bondage of Rome (see the German Christian history page;), Luther’s German pupils had a great impact on the Danish clergymen. In particular, he influenced Hans Tausen, who preached Luther’s teachings openly in Viborg, and who was defended by the local populace against the guards of the bishop of Viborg. In 1536, Denmark was one of the first nations to formally convert to the teachings of Martin Luther’s Protestant Christianity. In contrast to what occurred in Germany and England, there was no shedding of blood. Subsequently, Lutheranism became the country's official religion and remains so to this day.

King Christian III locked up the Catholic bishops, banned all Catholic monk orders, and put all of the property of the wealthy Catholic Church under State control. Christian III was himself a preacher, and gained much help for the Reformation of the Church from Peter Palladius, who made the Lutheran theology understandable for common people.

The Reformation Monument in CopenhagenOne of the godliest kings of Denmark was Christian VI, although he was not very popular with his subjects as he tried to impart his biblical beliefs on them. As a friend of Count Zinzendorf (see the German Christian history page;), he opened the Danish colonies in the West Indies and Greenland as missionary fields for the Moravian brethren. Politically, King Christian VI remained neutral and didn’t involve Denmark in any of the wars of his time.

Unfortunately, not too many Danish kings were as God-fearing as Christian VI. Neither did they possess his good political judgment. In the following centuries, there was constant conflict between Sweden, who was rising in power and Denmark, whose power was receding. In the infamous Thirty Years War (1618-1648) which tore Germany apart, the Swedish King Gustav Adolph proved to be a champion of the Protestant Faith in the Protestant-Catholic struggle in Germany (see the Swedish Christian history page;). The Danish King Christian IV, however, chose to attack Sweden, and Gustav Adolph turned against Denmark. The Swedish siege of Copenhagen remains a fearful memory even today in the minds of Copenhageners. It ended in capitulation with Denmark seceding its eastern third: and this southern part of the Scandinavian Peninsula, the Skåneland, is still a part of Sweden today.

During the Napoleonic Wars, Napoleon was able to get Denmark, with its great navy, second in might only to that of Great Britain, on his side. The British Admiral Nelson bombarded Copenhagen twice (1801 and 1807), and razed half of Copenhagen to the ground. Nelson sailed away with the entire Danish Navy, the pride of Denmark. The Danish state became bankrupt in 1813 and, after Napoleon’s fall, Denmark eventually lost Norway, which until then had been under the Danish Crown. Denmark was now a small and poor country.

Religious Movements in the 19th Century

Logo of the Home MissionReligious movements were an important part of these developments. In the 1820’s, many of those who lived in the countryside, particularly in Funen and Zealand, became involved in the religious revival which, through widespread lay preaching, urged followers towards personal acceptance of Christian principles.

During the 19th century, two movements originated that influence Danish thinking even today: Grundtvigianism with a moderate, compromise-seeking view on life; and the Home Mission, a revival movement based on fundamental biblical beliefs.

Pastor N.F.S. Grundtvig combined Christianity with the national love of the history of the Danes. Grundtvig wrote prolifically on Christian and Danish history and on the peculiar national spirit of the Danes. Even today, more than one third of the 700 psalms in the Hymn Book of the Lutheran Danish People’s Church, are written by him. As Grundtvigianism spread, free schools and folk high schools were established and a number of elective congregations (which chose their own minister), as well as independent congregations, began to appear. All these had a lasting effect on the culture of the rural population.

Having originally been established as a layman’s association in 1853, the Home Mission became a strong revival movement within the Danish National Church during the 1860’s. The Home Mission had its roots in Evangelicalism, and was characterised by the demand for personal conversion. It became particularly popular during the 1890’s. The movement has a conservative approach to the Bible. In public debate, the Home Mission often speaks critically about the church. The Home Mission is opposed, among other things, to the ordination of women as ministers and to the benediction of homosexual couples.

On 13th September, 1861, the Church Association for the Inner Mission in Denmark (Danish: Kirkelig Forening for den Indre Mission Danmark), commonly called the Inner Mission, was founded. The Inner Mission has its historical roots in the Reformation period and the revivals of the 1800's. It is a fundamentalist Lutheran Christian Church and is believed to be the largest revival movement within the Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church. From its very beginning, the movement has emphasised two important aspects of its work. Firstly, the movement is a church-based movement, where believing pastors and lay people work together. Secondly, the movement aims to bring about a revival in the Christian faith and create a fellowship of believers in the Communion of Saints.

The Inner Mission has, as its basis, the Bible and the Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church's articles of confession. The movement stresses the importance of the Bible as the Word of God and a clear Lutheran understanding of the Sacraments. The Inner Mission is therefore a non-ecumenical movement, and has the twin objectives of reviving and preserving faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.

Pentecostal Revival in Denmark

One of the people who experienced the new “Pentecostal Revival” was the Norwegian Methodist Pastor, Thomas Ball Barratt. He was in the USA collecting funds for a church building in Norway, and by chance heard about the happenings in Azusa Street (where the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that began in Los Angeles, California in April 1906). He was in contact with people from Azusa Street and experienced the baptism of the Holy Spirit for himself. Barratt took his experience back to Norway (see the History of Norway) and with the aid of Revival Meetings was instrumental in the Revival that spread throughout Scandinavia. The Pentecostal Revival in Denmark started in Copenhagen in 1907-09, through Barratt’s meetings. The first Danish Pentecostal Church was established in 1908.

During the 2nd World War

On 9th April, 1940, Denmark was occupied by the German Army. This five-year occupation was the first real occupation of Denmark since time immemorial, though casualties were very small compared to the rest of Europe. The five years of foreign rule were unlike anything else in the history of the Danes. One of the greatest events was the fact that the Danes saved almost all the Jews and managed to get them to Sweden where they were safe.

Denmark Today

Recently Denmark, especially in the larger towns, has become more international and is losing its national identity: partly as a result of the large influx of immigrants from Muslim countries. Denmark has also become very liberal; among other things allowing the civil and church marriage of homosexuals. Although the general view of the people appears to be more conservative, there is too much apathy and political correctness to become involved in such issues.

Throughout history, GOD has chosen men and women to bring His people back to the truth, and when there was a longing for more of GOD, HE heard the prayer of HIS people and fulfilled their longing. GOD can bring revival to Denmark in these latter days if there are people who are prepared to become HIS instruments.

PSALM 85:6 “Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?”

LUKE 11:9 “And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”