« Bassermann, Heinrich Gustav Bastholm, Christian Bates, William »

Bastholm, Christian

BASTHOLM, CHRISTIAN: Danish court preacher, and an influential representative of the prevalent rationalism of his time; b. at Copenhagen Nov. 2, 1740; d. there Jan. 25, 1819. He had a varied education, and was specially attracted to philosophy and natural science, but was persuaded by his father to embrace a clerical career without any real love for Christian doctrine or the Church. He was preacher to the German congregation at Smyrna from 1768 to 1771. His renown as a great orator won him in 1778 the position of court preacher, to which other court offices were subsequently added. Full of the ideas of the "Enlightenment," he felt called upon to be a missionary in their cause to his countrymen, and published a number of works in popular religious philosophy and history which have long since fallen into oblivion. His greatest success was his text-book of sacred oratory (1775), which so impressed Joseph II that he introduced it into all the higher educational institutions of the empire, though its recommendations seem laughable today. He published a history of the Jews (1777–82), attempting to "rationalize" it after Michaelis, and a translation of the New Testament with notes (1780). A small treatise on improvements in the liturgy (1785) aroused a storm of controversy; his idea was to make the service "interesting and diversified," after the model of balls and concerts; to exclude from hymnody not only everything dogmatic but all that was not joyous; and to eliminate from the sacramental rites whatever was contrary to sound reason. In the days of the French Revolution, he offered so many concessions to the antireligious spirit that he made himself ridiculous even in the eyes of freethinkers; and his book on "Wisdom and Happiness" (1794) taught a Stoicism only colored by Christianity. In 1795 he lost his library by fire, and with the new century withdrew from public life and authorship to live quietly with his son, a pastor at Slagelse, absorbed in the study of philosophy and science.

(F. Nielsen.)

« Bassermann, Heinrich Gustav Bastholm, Christian Bates, William »
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