As many perceived God as the foundation of all human life on earth, it came naturally to understand the state and nation as fixed entities given by God. On the one hand, this idea made critique of the nation possible. For, as a great number of ministers argued, God had called Denmark as a country and the Danes as a people into existence. A deterioration in their situation would be the result of God’s dissatisfaction with the people. Elaborating on this topic, the nation could be lectured on its faults. On the other hand, it could offer consolation, since God could ensure that the war was not to disturb the world order and the Danes and their country would survive, provided the nation abided by God’s will.
This idea already made it possible to presuppose the existence of a national community. The elements that characterized this Danish nation were presented as God’s creation too, as can be illustrated from a sermon by Peter Rørdam, related to H.C. Rørdam, in 1864. This pastor worked in Lyngby, some fifteen kilometers from the centre of Copenhagen. He was so popular that the Danish railways had to adjust their time-table in order for the church-goers from the capital to arrive in time for the service. Nevertheless, he was ill-liked by churchmen like Martensen. At the outbreak of the war in 1864, Peter Rørdam left his parish and enrolled voluntarily as an army-chaplain, despite his age of 58. Twenty-four of his field-sermons were published. All express a clear sense of Danishness – inspired by Grundtvig – which derived from God: “God’s creation, order and blessing […], which is our own Danish mentality, our own Danish language, our own Danish nature.”
To argue explicitly in favour of the idea of a God-given geopolitics, ministers referred to the Bible too, amongst other texts to Acts 17: 26. Comparing several sermons, it becomes clear how many possibilities there were in the use of one pericope. The verse declares that God made all people from the same source, and determined the times and the geographical borders for their lives. In 1848, H.C. Rørdam referred to the New Testament text. The pastor not only used Acts to emphasize that the geopolitical situation in the world was fixed by God. In the nineteenth century, Danish nationalism had been influenced heavily by Romantic thinking. Herder’s ideas gained much popularity in Denmark too and the term ‘people’ was no longer primarily understood as all the king’s subjects, but as a nation which should be congruent with the state. H.C. Rørdam used Acts to argue in favour of the existence of borders that also discerned between and defined peoples of different nationalities. These national borders (‘borders of the people’ [Folke-Grændser]) were allotted by God. Thus, the pastor used the biblical text to advocate the modern understanding of the nation-state as the political territory where one people, or nation, lives.
In mid-nineteenth century, Danish national culture had not yet crystallized, as the sermons from this period may illustrate. One comes across texts that only understand the Danes as the people that live in the country Denmark. In this case, the people as a cultural category is defined by the political category of the state. Extra arguments for a national identification with the state would be the benefits the people had enjoyed from the soil and the sea. At the other end of the scale, one can engage in a presentation of the Danes as a national community which is united by a shared place of birth, language, history and habits, all elements which have imprinted the nation with its own national character. Whereas the above sermon by H.C. Rørdam may be close to the former position, the latter is represented by the text of the pastor from Slagelse, K.F. Viborg (1813-1885):
Who gave us our country? who designated the borders of the peoples? and who let us be born as Danes? who gave every nation its nature and characteristics? yes, God wished explicitly, that there would be different nations, each within its own borders, across the world; and therefore he gave them each their own mother tongue, because he gave them each their country.
Whereas Acts starts from the idea of the shared origin of mankind, Viborg here actually uses the pericope to stress the borders between the people on earth. Furthermore, besides determining territories and periods for nations, God is said to have given every people its own national characteristics too. Keeping the arguments in the conflict over Schleswig in mind, it comes as no surprise that the pastor attributes special significance to the mother tongue. The languages characterize nations and define states, and are therefore God-given.