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.Kierkegaard for Grownups
Some SK from SUD:
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.Thomas Merton (via Born Again = Imago Dei)
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!
Via Kierkegaard: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions Book 58) by Patrick Gardiner:
Is SK’s problem real? Have we forgotten what it means to be a “person”? Has our own forgetfulness got us to this point in history?
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.SK & Possibility
The great risk in possibility is also the risk in faith.
“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.”Soren Kierkegaard
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.
Anyway, what would I know!
From Sickness unto death: