About the project – University of Copenhagen

ProNoLa > About the project

About the Project

ProNoLa aims to provide a nuanced and critical genealogy of the negotiations of law and religion in the Northern parts of Europe from the Regormations and up to the present. The research efforts will focus on the particular constellations between law and religion in the West-Nordic realm (Denmark and Norway), the East-Nordic realm (Sweden and Finland), and the German realm (the mixed case), in order to analyze the use of theological norms and standards as a framework for a general understanding of law as secular – not only in early modernity, but also beyond the era of the Enlightenment (in contrast to the French pattern of laïcité).

Lutheran Concepts

The project takes its point of departure in the Lutheran Reformation in Germany from 1520, followed up by the subsequent Reformations in Sweden/Finland from 1527 onwards, and in Denmark/Norway in 1536. A central dimension of the Lutheran Reformation was the rejection of Canon Law (burnt by Luther in 1520).

Three Lutheran concepts are central to this project:

  1. The idea of the two regiments was from the beginning critical of ecclesiastical domination of lawmaking. The Reformation thus meant abandoning a direct involvement of the church in government: The land is to be ruled by law, not by the gospel.
  2. However, the concept of the three estates gave room for zones of interaction between the two regiments (politeia and ecclesia). In the mediating realm of the oikonomia, the King as father was designated to take care of the religion of the citizens; also in an era of democracy, religion is seen as a matter of public concern.
  3. Finally, the concept of Natural Law, developed in a pragmatic vein in the Nordic countries, is central to the project. 

Historical Turning Points

In order to identify historical turning points that paved the way for a change of the former uses of the past, these concepts are examined historically through historical, hermeneutic and legal studies in six different steps. 

(I) Confessionalization & Institutionalization (ca. 1530s-ca. 1730s) 
(II) Consolidation & Codification (ca. 1660-ca. 1820)
(III) Constitutionalization & Hegemonization (ca. 1800s-1950s) 
(IV) Re-confessionalization and Internationalization (ca. 1914-today) 

The overarching research question will be answered within a nuanced and context-sensitive grand history concerning relations between Lutheranism, other forms of Protestantism and the secularity of law. This is done through a research conference on Norden meets Europe, showing how the insights from the research in the transformation of ideas from the South, the East and the West of the Nordic countries can contribute to current discussions on a regionalized and pluralist Europe in a global world. 

Within and across each of the overlapping periods and historic turns, the consortium conducts research on minority issues in order to identify tensions as well as also the darker sides of majority cultures on law.