Martensen, Hans Larsen

Martensen, Hans Larsen one of the most prominent Danish Lutheran theologians, was born August 9, 1808, at Flensburg. He studied at Copenhagen, and in 1832 passed the ecclesiastical examination and received a gold medal. The same .year he received from the government a travelling scholarship, and visited Berlin, Munich, Vienna, and Paris, giving particular attention to the study of the philosophy of the Middle Ages. On his return to Denmark, in 1836, he became a licentiate in theology, submitting a thesis on the Autonomy of the Human Conscience, which was afterwards translated from the Latin into Danish (1841), and into German (1845). The next year he began to lecture to the younger students in the University of Copenhagen on moral philosophy. The material of these lectures was published in his Outline of a System of Moral Philosophy, in 1841. His lectures on Speculative Dogmatik, from 1840, when he became professor ordinarius, awakened extraordinary interest. "It was a new and unheard-of gospel, in charming language, that flowed from his inspired, enrapturing lips. Not merely did the students contend with one another for places in his lecture-room, but men advanced in years, of various callings, were found regular hearers." His popularity became greater still when, in 1845, he became courtpreacher, and his Hegelianism began to give a coloring to the conscience of his generation. The public was thoroughly prepared to receive his doctrines gladly when, in 1849, he published the most successful and famous of his contributions to theological literature, his Christian Dogmatics, which has been translated into most European languages, even into modern Greek, and has exercised as wide an influence on Protestant thought as any volume of our century. In Germany it has enjoyed a popularity even wider than in Scandinavia, and has been honored by a formal refutation from the propaganda at Rome. It was not, however, unchallenged at home, a severe attack upon it having been made by professor Rasmus Nielsen, supported secretly by Kirkegaard (q.v.). In 1854, when bishop Mynster died, Martensen, who had refused the bishopric of Sleswig, accepted the primacy of Denmark, and began his administrative labors in the Church with acts of great vigor and determination. He became in consequence cordially detested, and violently attacked by all those sections, of the Danish Lutheran body which wavered to this side or to that from a hierarchical orthodoxy.A great part of Martensen's time and energy henceforth was taken up with polemics against Grundtvig, Nielsen, the Catholics, and the Irvingites. Many of his later writings are of this purely controversial character, his Exposure of the Socalled Grundtvigianism, which he styled "a leaven, but not a principle," his Catholicism and Protestantism, against the claims of the Vatican Council, his Socialism and Christendom. The time at his command, after faithful administration of his duties, was, during his earlier years, devoted to the preparation of his System of Christian Ethics (1871-78; German, 1878-79; English, 1873-82), and his final scientific work in the line of his early studies of the mystics, on Jacob Boihme (1879; German, 1882; English, by T. Rhys Evans, 1885). As a fitting conclusion of his literary activity, he published his Autobiography (1883). Dr. Martensen died, February 3, 1884, and was buried with great solemnity in his own cathedral of Our Lady. The king and the Conservative party knew what they owed" to the rigid Tory prelate, whose face was set like a flint against the modern spirit in politics, in literature, in philosophy. He was a great man, a man who did honor to Denmark. It is not the critics of his own country only, it is the more impartial Germans, who have declared Hans Larsen Martensens to be the greatest Protestant theologian of the present century." See Zuchold, Bibl. Theol. 2:856; Quarterly Review (Lond. April 1884); Lutheran Church Review (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, July 1884; Expositor (Lond. and N.Y., January 1885). (B.P.)

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