Just as thieves do not lightly attack a place where they see royal weapons prepared against them, so he who has grafted prayer into his heart is not easily robbed by thieves of the mind.
“People understand me so little that they do not even understand when I complain of being misunderstood.”—Søren Kierkegaard, Journals Feb. 1836″
If you know me, or have skimmed through this blog enough, you will quickly see my love for Soren Kierkegaard as a philosopher and as a foundational thinker within the history of Christian thought. I believe he is misunderstood in many ways, either because those who have read him did not take the time and energy to really understand what he was truly advocating, or those who have been told by others and have done no further investigation into who he was and what he was up against. Mind you, I do not fully endorse all of the thoughts and ideas of the theologians and philosophers I read, Kierkegaard included. Proper understanding and critique of opposing views should always be our goal. Never dismiss and ignore what we do not understand or agree with.
My wife recently purchased me a book (Kierkegaard and Theology by Murray Rae) for my birthday, and it is because she knows me so well, it is a tremendous blessing to finally read some justified understanding of Kierkegaard’s thoughts and words on what it means to be a Christian and how we can live authentically Christian. The book has eight chapters, and within those chapters are detailed in sub sections on Kierkegaard’s thoughts and beliefs on individual subjects such as; grace, atonement, consciousness of the self and many more. The third chapter is called “What it means to Become a Christian” where a few statements hit hard and challenged me to critique my own way of thinking about the faith that I hold.
One of the main reasons I hold such reverence for Kierkegaard is his ability to call out my own inauthentic beliefs. More specifically in recent years, I have become far more rationalistic in my approach to faith and the things of God.
Johannes Climacus was one of the pseudonym’s Kierkegaard wrote under, and he poses the question;
“How can I, Johannes Climacus, share in the happiness Christianity promises?”(1)
We cannot be a Christian by just following the crowd, Christianity is foremost concerned with the individual and their heart. We can look to the the question Jesus posed to the rich young man in Luke 18:18-25. “And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” To which Jesus offered no universal formula, but a challenge addressed to the young man’s point of greatest resistance (2): “Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Murray Rae cohesively sums up Climacus’s (Kierkegaard’s) attack upon the methodology of Modernity upon Christianity:
“The first problem, he is well on the way to dealing with; it is the problem of Christendom, that cultural landscape in which it is supposed that everyone is Christian without having to do anything at all. Climacus, however, has discovered that Christianity requires something more of him. But what? Here the second obstacle proves much more difficult to overcome. It is the obstacle posed by the supposition of Modernity that everything must be reasonable, that we cannot commit ourselves to anything about which there is the least bit of reasonable doubt. The difficulty is, in Modernity, that setting aside one’s reason is every bit as scandalous as selling one’s possessions and distributing the money to the poor.” (3)
Following Jesus is what it means to be a Christian. Not to just believe in a set of objective propositions, but to set all of our reason to follow Christ wherever He calls us. Christianity is at war with our whole being, because we are about the “self”. We want to depend on our “autonomous reasoning” and nothing else. To believe with all certainty and no doubt. This is not the call of Christ. Trust Him, when all seems uncertain.
(1) Kierkegaard and Theology, Murray Rae
(2) Kierkegaard and Theology, Murray Rae
(3) Kierkegaard and Theology, Murray Rae
In my readings of Barth, which is fairly limited, he already has had a big influence over me on how to approach the Christian message and exposition of the Gospel. In the preface to his Epistle to the Romans he states;
“If I have a system it consists in the fact that I keep as consistently as possible before me the negative and positive significance of what Kierkegaard has called the ‘infinite qualitative distinction between time and eternity.’ ‘God is in heaven, and thou on earth.’ The relation of this God to this man, and this man to this God, is for me the theme of the Bible and the sum of philosophy.”
Elsewhere in his Church Dogmatics (I; Revelation)
“The introduction of the term “God” is not an abuse to this name, but meaningful and helpful, if in respect of it we think of what is attested by Holy Scripture concerning God’s speech and action. God is the One whose name and cause are borne by Jesus Christ. Hence, there is no question of divinity in the abstract as suprahuman and supra-cosmic being. Holy Scripture knows nothing of this divinity. To be sure, the God of Holy Scripture is superior to man and the world as the Lord. But He has also bound Himself to man and the world in creating them. God is here introduced to us in the action in which He is engaged, not merely in His superiority over the creature, but also in His relationship to it.”
A few months ago I began reading Metaphysics and the God of Israel by Neil B. MacDonald. It is a challenging read, but one that is worth investing time in. In these days, where many want to first interpret natural science and than apply it to the text of Genesis 1:1-11, I think the most important thing is to properly interpret the text itself, without reading anything into it in terms of natural science. Not that the text can’t be read in this way, but science is not the only form of knowledge by in which we can know truth.
Some terms to understand what is being said;
- A locutionary act, the performance of an utterance: the actual utterance and its ostensible meaning, comprising phonetic, phatic and rhetic acts corresponding to the verbal, syntactic and semantic aspects of any meaningful utterance.
- an illocutionary act: the pragmatic ‘illocutionary force’ of the utterance, thus its intended significance as a socially valid verbal action.
The first chapter “The First Two Days of Creation: Time and Space” where he heavily relies on Claus Westermann’s exegesis on Genesis 1:3 in his commentary Genesis 1-11: A Continental Commentary which I recommend highly. In it, he applies the speech act theory to the saying “Let there be light.” Westermann contends that at this point God isn’t really creating anything; he is creating the possibility of something (1). More is to be said on theories of time, A-B theories, how God relates to time and how time existed before God created the universe we now experience. What God was creating was the possibility of something other than Himself. He was creating temporal successiveness. He concludes it by summing up this way;
“From Claus Westermann’s exegesis we learned that in saying, “Let there be light”, God was creating temporal successiveness. Putting the speech-act theory and Westermann together, we can see that there are two different actions at work here. One is the locutionary action corresponding to the God saying “Let there be light”. The other is the illocutionary action- which is other than the locutionary action- corresponding to God creating the possibility of time…”(2)
(1) Metaphysics and the God of Israel, pg. 9, MacDonald, B Neil, Baker Academic 2006
(2) Metaphysics and the God of Israel, pg. 18, MacDonald, B Neil, Baker Academic 2006
“I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin.”
— Psalm 32:5
David’s grief for sin was bitter. Its effects were visible upon his outward frame: “his bones waxed old”; “his moisture was turned into the drought of summer.” No remedy could he find, until he made a full conconfession before the throne of the heavenly grace. He tells us that for a time he kept silence, and his heart became more and more filled with grief: like a mountain tarn whose outlet is blocked up, his soul was swollen with torrents of sorrow. He fashioned excuses; he endeavoured to divert his thoughts, but it was all to no purpose; like a festering sore his anguish gathered, and as he would not use the lancet of confession, his spirit was full of torment, and knew no rest. At last it came to this, that he must return unto his God in humble penitence, or die outright; so he hastened to the mercy-seat, and there unrolled the volume of his iniquities before the all-seeing One, acknowledging all the evil of his ways in language such as you read in the fifty-first and other penitential Psalms. Having done this, a work so simple and yet so difficult to pride, he received at once the token of divine forgiveness; the bones which had been broken were made to rejoice, and he came forth from his closet to sing the blessedness of the man whose transgression is forgiven. See the value of a grace-wrought confession of sin! It is to be prized above all price, for in every case where there is a genuine, gracious confession, mercy is freely given, not because the repentance and confession deserve mercy, but for Christ’s sake. Blessed be God, there is always healing for the broken heart; the fountain is ever flowing to cleanse us from our sins. Truly, O Lord, from our sins. Truly, O Lord, thou art a God “ready to pardon!” Therefore will we acknowledge our iniquities.
(Morning and Evening Charles H Spurgeon)
“O Lord my God, give me the courage to hope. O God of pity, allow my soul to never become withered and sterile so that I no longer reach out in glorious expectation. When I am tempted to feel that You no longer listen to my raucous complaints or my silent sighs, remind me to continue my insistent praying until, like the bothered judge who was vexed at importunate, You answer out of love and pity.” (Soren Kierkegaard: The Mystique Of Prayer and Pray-er)
I have yet to delve into all of these resources, but I recommend anyone looking for the truth of who Jesus was, and the certainty that He rose from the dead, please check this link out. Grace and peace to you.