Lavrids Ludvig Gundelak Nyegaard (1846-1916)

Grundtvigian clergyman, MA theology 1872, folk high school teacher in Marielyst and Ryslinge 1872-73, reverend in Ådum 1878-84 and in Ølsted 1884-98 in Jutland, and in Gimlinge on Sealand 1898-1908.

Lavrids Nyegaard was the son-in-law, and from 1874 to 1878 the assistant, of the conservative and orthodox Grundtvigian pastor of the free congregation in Ryslinge, Vilhelm Birkedal. Throughout his career as a prolific debater in the Grundtvigian press Nyegaard eagerly defended this position against liberal neo-Grundtvigians. In 1889, however, he wrote a relatively sympathetic assessment of Darwinism in the orthodox Askov journal Danskeren [The Dane] four months after the physicist Poul la Cour had dismissed evolution in its columns. Nyegaard distinguished between scientific and philosophical Darwinism and referred to Thomas Henry Huxley’s agnosticism in order to distance British evolutionism from the philosophical materialism and infidel naturalism prevalent in Germany. He quoted Huxley for stating that the theory of evolution was neither theistic nor atheistic and concluded that Judeo-Christian theism would just as easily survive reconciliation with real Darwinism as it had survived the reconciliation with the Copernican worldview. Nyegaard emphasised that the concept of evolution did not conflict with the mosaic history of creation. He thus argued apologetically that Genesis 1:11 and 1:24 implied that creation occurred gradually and not through six literal days. Nyegaard’s pro-evolutionary stance was exceptional among orthodox Grundtvigians who generally dismissed at least natural selection and human evolution well into the twentieth century.

Hans Henrik Hjermitslev

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