The Reformation and Danish Society: Faith and Deeds

In the 1500s people had a supernatural, religious view of the world governed by the battle between God and the Devil. Both of them intervened in the ways of the world, and people thought they could influence them through their own deeds. Even though God, according to the theologians of the Reformation, was above human action, the Protestant world was – and still is – full of deeds with significance for the individual and society.

After the Reformation people still believed that God could punish sinful behaviour with wars, crop failures or disease. But he could also reward them with peace, a good harvest or by healing the sick. Many people therefore tried to live a good Christian life, praying to God and performing rituals to appease him. Protestant good deeds, also called ‘the fruits of faith’, included giving alms to the poor or taking care of family and neighbours.

The Devil was seen as evil and as active as God. This meant people had to be constantly vigilant of the temptations of the Devil and his demands for allegiance and help. People feared that weakness could lead to severe punishments in this life and the next.