Nathan Söderblom

Speed read

Nathan Söderblom was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to create a common Christian platform for peace.

Nathan Söderblom
Nathan Söderblom Photo from the Nobel Foundation archive.

Full name: Lars Olof Jonathan (Nathan) Söderblom
Born: 15 January 1866, Trönö, Sweden
Died: 12 July 1931, Uppsala, Sweden
Date awarded: 10 December 1930

Sweden’s bishop of peace

Nathan Söderblom was the first clergyman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. As a student he was active in the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) and the international Christian student movement. Söderblom was a professor of theology at the University of Uppsala until his appointment as archbishop in 1914. Söderblom was the driving force behind the 1925 Universal Conference on Life and Work in Stockholm, which advocated international law and arbitration and actively supported the League of Nations. All Christian denominations were encouraged to oppose racism, militarism and excessive nationalism. The goal was to spread Jesus’ message of love from the pulpit, in the press and through the school system. In this way, Söderblom hoped to create a powerful commitment to peace among Christians worldwide.

”Archbishop Nathan Söderblom's great achievement is that he has thrown the power of the spirit into the fight for peace. As holder of high ecclesiastical office, he understands the enormous importance of the church in this fight, the powerful influence which it can bring to bear.”

- Johan Ludwig Mowinckel, Presentation Speech, 10 December 1930.

The Stockholm conference of 1925

As theologian and church leader, Nathan Söderblom sought to reunite all Christian denominations in an ecumenical movement. These efforts culminated in the Universal Christian Conference on Life and Work, held in 1925 in Stockholm under Söderblom’s direction. Over 600 Protestant and Greek Orthodox delegates from 37 countries discussed theological questions and approved resolutions on peace-related issues. The Stockholm Conference created a network of Christian leaders that laid the framework for the founding of the World Council of Churches in 1948.

World Council of Churches
Worldwide organization for all Christian denominations. Founded in 1948.

”I do not know of anyone who has done more for the reunion of Christendom or the promotion of the world’s peace than the archbishop.”

- The Duke of Montrose, The Scotsman, 27 May 1929.

Nathan Söderblom 1924
Archbishop Nathan Söderblom at his desk, 1924. Tor Andræ: Nathan Söderblom, Uppsala 1931, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

”The Church teaches that Law and Order are not merely a human creation, ministering to man’s lust of power; not merely a necessary evil to avert a worse evil; but an ingredient in God’s plan for the world.”

- Nathan Söderblom, Burge Memorial Lecture, 1929.

Nathan Söderblom and Alfred Nobel

From 1894 to 1901 Söderblom was pastor of the Swedish-Norwegian parish in Paris, where he became acquainted with Alfred Nobel. The two men discussed religious and philosophical issues together. When Nobel died in 1896, Söderblom gave a eulogy at the inventor’s villa in San Remo. He quoted from a letter Nobel wrote just before his death: “Life in the here and now and life in the hereafter comprise an eternal mystery; but its dying spark moves us to holy prayer and silences every voice except that of religion. Eternity alone may speak.”

Fackeltåg för Nathan Söderblom
The students’ union hailed archbishop Nathan Söderblom with a torchlight procession, when he returned to Uppsala, Sweden, after being awarded the 1930 Nobel Peace Prize. Tor Andræ: Nathan Söderblom, Uppsala 1931, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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Nathan Söderblom near the beginning and near the end of his illustrious career, found his name linked with that of another Swedish citizen of the world, Alfred Nobel ...
Nathan Söderblom

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