I would normally not do this – quote someone as a “bad example” – but this tweet speaks volumes to me. (BTW: I have great respect for the person who wrote it as someone of insight and spiritual maturity and hence I have blacked out the name.)
“Allows an encounter with great doctrines”?? “Stay close”?? If the rosary, or any devotion (reading the Bible or saying the Office), keeps us close to a doctrine, all is lost!!! Not to put too fine a point on it, no doctrine will ever “save” us but only the person of God-incarnate, Jesus Christ. Yes, theology and doctrine is important. But it is the person who is behind the rosary – Our Lady leading us to Jesus – that is of the upmost importance. It is the person who is behind the doctrine. A devotion is never (!!!!!) an encounter with a doctrine, a teaching, an idea, a moral. It is always an encounter with a person.
My main problem – after much reflection and soul-searching – with modern forms of Christianity is that it has become a “philosophy” (in the broadest sense of the word) and has abdicated the encounter with the divine for intellectual consent. It feels to me like Christianity needs people to agree with it – culture at large or individuals – and they have a product to sell (one among many). All of this makes God an object and individuals “brains in jars”.
Christendom is the enemy of Christianity—it is, Kierkegaard says repeatedly, the “blasphemy”—that stands in the way of encountering Christ as our contemporary. Christendom assumes that Christ is far in the past, having laid the foundation for the wonderful thing that has historically resulted, Christendom. Of course we are all good Christians because we are all good Danes. It is a package deal and Christ and Christianity are part of the package. If we are good Danes (or good Americans), if we work hard and abide by the rules, the church, which is an integral part of the social order, will guarantee the delivery to heaven of the package that is our lives. But Christ is not in the distant past, protests Kierkegaard. He confronts us now, and a decision must be made. “In relation to the absolute there is only one tense: the present. For him who is not contemporary with the absolute—for him it has no existence.”
This encounter with Christ the contemporary is not to be confused with today’s evangelical Protestant language about conversion as a decisive moment in which one “accepts Jesus Christ as one’s personal Lord and Savior.” Kierkegaard did not, of course, know about the nineteenth-century American revivalism from which today’s evangelicalism issues, but he had some acquaintance with the enthusiasms that were in his day associated with “pietism.” As he inveighed against Christendom, it seems likely he would also inveigh against Evangelicaldom today. As he would inveigh against Christianity of any sort—whether it calls itself liberal or conservative, orthodox or progressive—that neatly accommodates itself to its cultural context. To decide for Christ our contemporary is always a decision to be a cultural alien, to join Christ on his way of suffering and death as an outsider.
There is in us an instinct for newness, for renewal, for a liberation of creative power. We seek to awaken in ourselves a force which really changes our lives from within. And yet the same instinct tells us that this change is a recovery of that which is deepest, most original, most personal in ourselves. To be born again is not to become somebody else, but to become ourselves.
I appreciate in Merton that “faith” is a deepening of what I am not an abandonment. I wonder if it has something to say about our concept of sin and especially original sin. Again it is an emphases on the “Christ in us” and not the triumphalism of the “Christ for us”.
The article makes a deeper point yet: some of the rhetoric round the “born again” question is really a discussion about what it means to be in the image of God. Is every human being in the image of God? Or has the “fall” somehow smudged it only to be redrawn in the “choice of faith”?
Anyway, I would like to know the source of the above quote!
I read a great article on SK and possibility this morning. It is especially useful since I am reading Sickness unto death. Anyway, here is a quote:
The important step for Kierkegaard is the concept “before God”. This is a Christian concept. He sees this actuality, standing in prayer before God, or becoming contemporary with God, as the highest for any Christian. Here the possibility of the offense is present, and must be ever-present. But here also the possibility of being able to become a believer is present and is ever present.
“A man who as a physical being is always turned toward the outside, thinking that his happiness lies outside him, finally turns inward and discovers that the source is within him.”
I often think about SK’s “inside vs outside” at the start of Either/Or. I especially think about it when I listen to modern preaching. There appears to be a common understanding of religion that, simply put, emphases the external over the internal. “Just be obedient, follow the rules” – learn the script to play the part! Or, in theological terms, there is an emphases on “Christ for me” over “Christ in me”. It often strikes me that modern religion calls me to give up “me”, to conform to a model (of worship, life, thinking, emotions, vocations), and then calls that obedience.