Konversion och konfession – om konversionsliknande övergångar hos Henric Schartau och F. G. Hedberg i relation till en andra konfessionaliseringsperiod

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Conversion and Confession – Religious Transitions similar to Conversion in Henric Schartau and F. G. Hedberg, related to a Second Confessional Age

The nineteenth century has often been called an Age of Secularisation. This has been criticized as blindness of religion. The »long» nineteenth century meant a mobilization of religion. German Historian Olaf Blaschke has interpreted the period as a second confessional age, understanding »confession» in a wide, cultural perspective. The British Church Historian Hugh McLeod has stated the importance of pluralism in the balance between religious and secular powers in Western Europe up to the 1960s. In this article, these theories are combined in the interpretation of the second confessionalization as pluralistic (or manifold).

The object of this study is the religious transition similar to conversion in Henric Schartau (1757-1825) in Sweden and Fredrik Gabriel Hedberg (1811-1893) in Finland. They both were the origin of new religious groups, where their individual experiences were transformed into general models for both women and men. These groups were organized in different ways, but they both formed a religiously motivated anti-culture, that brought its adherents from a questioned into a powerful position.

The conversion experience of Schartau in 1778 led him to circles around the Moravian Brethren. In 1787, he turned against the Moravians, partly following the criticisms of J. A. Bengel. Against the Moravians, Schartau emphasized the purity of doctrine, the public status of Church services, common order, and ethical firmness. His criticisms have also purely Lutheran points. Despite the fact that Schartau rejected religious societies, his followers created a strong group and tradition. Schartau taught a detailed Order of Grace, according to conservative, Pietist tradition, but with Lutheran corrections.

After his early conversion experience in 1826, Hedberg moved into the context of Finnish Pietism, which he left, finally after his evangelical experience in 1842, and founded the Evangelical movement. He approved of the Lutheran separatists in northern Sweden, but when these turned to Baptism, he criticized them, and developed into Lutheran confessionalism. Like Schartau, Hedberg looked for the common faith, delivered in history, but his position was formed by his negative experiences of Pietism and separatism. His movement was organized in associations, though strictly within the Lutheran Church.

My theoretical model for conversion has five parts: vision (individual conversion experience), mission (the new religious fellowship), aversion (what Rambo calls apostasy), deconversion (from Barbour – the combination of vision and aversion), and conversion. These are not gradually steps, but sometimes parallell or uncompleted.

The sources to Schartau are mostly spiritual letters to confidents, where he tells his own story. This stories are dependent on the confidents’ questions and on conventional patterns. His tendency is anti-Moravian (aversion), but still partly dependent on Moravianism. His vision and his aversion are emphasized, while the context of mission is criticized. These letters cannot be cut and pasted to reconstruct a personal experience. Each letter has to be analyzed as such. The emphasis is different in different letters, for example, the mission context is toned down when the confident has not been near the Moravian circles. I read the letters as dialogues with religious texts, with God, and with the confidents. One letter was never sent, but prolonged into an apologetical essay.

Among the first generation of Schartau’s followers, several had had experiences like Schartau. Later on, aversion turned against a context that never had been the individual’s. Aversion is turned against the others, such as Free Church movements in the early twentieth century. In tradition, the individual’s process is simplified as a doctrine about conversion. A consequence may be that aversion and deconversion are directed against tradition.

The majority of letters are written to women, and Schartau writes much about the limits in relations between women and men, in combination with rules for believer’s relation with each others and with the others. The gender positions are constructed both according to the Lutheran teaching of the three estates, and from the spiritual position of the confident.

Hedberg’s many records of his early conversion experience were formulated at twelve occasions during 55 years. Those letters have also been cut and pasted by former researchers. Their form is more objective than Schartau’s, and the construction of a new tradition is obvious. The final conversion is made interpretative. Hedberg’s followers had made their own experiences of aversion towards Pietism, but later on aversion turned against a Pietist context that never had been their own. The risk for a new conversion in other directions is obvious, like among Schartau’s followers.

To Hedberg, the dialogue with Luther’s writings were decisive. But he still regarded his early conversion experience as positive experience. The vision is an actual one. His reaction against the separatists may be regarded as a second deconversion.

Some special and general reflections are made on tradition as an expression of confessionalisation, with reference to other confessional sub-cultures in Western Europe during the latter half of the nineteenth century as a specific, conservative modernity. While the tradition from Hedberg used modern forms and channels for the defence of traditional values, and created a special, evangelical milieu, Schartau’s followers up to the early twentieth century used only traditional weapons for their defence of traditional values, though their individualist direction was clearly modern.

Finally, conversion and confession are linked together in the cases of Schartau and Hedberg, and their strong emphasis on the confessional elements of Christian life and teaching. Though, to the Schartau tradition, his experience was dogmatized: conversion as confession, while in the Hedberg tradition we find only conversion to confession.

SpecialistpublikationKyrkohistorisk årsskrift
FörlagSvenska kyrkohistoriska föreningen
StatusPublished - 2003

Bibliografisk information

The information about affiliations in this record was updated in December 2015.
The record was previously connected to the following departments: Centre for Theology and Religious Studies (015017000)

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