Kierkegaard’s gospel?

I have stumbled across this article a couple of times and I feel I may have mentioned it already. So I am linking to it again and just going to quote a paragraph:

There is a scandalous dimension to the intrusion of God upon goodness. Many atheists today claim that Christianity is “offensive” in some way or another. Kierkegaard would say this is quite in order – Christianity is offensive and must be so in order to remain what it is. The offensive aspect of the difference God makes to goodness is one that Kierkegaard thought Socrates missed, as he believed anyone without the benefit of revelation would have done, no matter how wise they were in other respects.

The gospel according to Kierkegaard: Sin, guilt and the offense of forgiveness

Christianity is offensive because there is something offensive about Jesus. When an individual is confronted by the reality of the Word Incarnate, the God-man, offence is one of the responses – the other being a leap into faith, into the uncertainty of a relationship. The same as when the individual is confronted by the reality of sin in their own life. Modern Christianity has turned Jesus into one product amongst many and has made Him acceptable to the market. But do I miss the real depth of the Gospel when I refuse the offence of Jesus?

Another paragraph:

To forgive sins is a radical, wild, gratuitous folly. Really to forgive is to do something grossly offensive: it is to move beyond the categories of moral good and evil, to declare that, yes, an evil has been done against you, but that the evil is dispelled, it is of no account. Forgiving sin however means that the forgiver is still exposed to the possibility that the offender could hurt them again. This is part of what makes forgiveness so reckless: it offers no protection against future injury. For someone really to forgive, they have to reconcile themselves to the offenses of the past and remain vulnerable to injury in the future. Most of us are too self-protective, too shrewd, too timid really to forgive. But without forgiveness we are stuck in a cycle of self-loathing and despair.

I really like that paragraph. There is something very offensive about forgiveness. Because there is a risk of future injury. Forgiveness is a willingness to remain in a relationship even if the future is full of risk. All because of the other person, because of love. Anyway, I like the above article and it is Australian so another bonus.

single individual

The paradox of faith then is this, that the single individual is higher than the universal, that the single individual, to recall a now rather rare theological distinction, determines his relation to the universal by his relation to the absolute, not his relation to the absolute

Kierkegaard: Fear and Trembling (Cambridge Texts in the History of Philosophy), 61.

I find this a very interesting part of Fear and Trembling. I think this is what Kierkegaard means by “faith” – the distinction between the single individual and the universal, and the relationship between the single individual and the absolute. And I think people’s misunderstanding of him, and his thought, comes from a misunderstanding of this distinction and relationship.

First to make it clear: I do not think that Kierkegaard is anti-community. Kierkegaard writes for the single individual and not for a theological school or ecclesial tradition. In some ways, his writing is closer to spirituality than theology or philosophy. He is speaking of the relationship between the individual and God, not between two or more individuals. Community is part of God’s good creation but it is not the goal of the individual’s life. The goal is a relationship with the “absolute” – to transcend the here and now. And it is this transcending relationship that must proceed any other relationship.

Belonging to a Christian community is very different to belonging to Jesus. Or, as I once read Kierkegaard saying, “being in the parish register is not the same as being in the Book of Life”. Yes, I need other people! And I have really learned what that means in the last three months. But I need Jesus more. And my relationship with Jesus gives context to my relationship with others, and not vice versa.

Anyway, I like the above quote!

via negationis

I wanted to share this series of post as I think they are really interesting: Existentialism and Christianity (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3). One little quote from The Totalitarianism of “Reason” (Part 3):

Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard was a dissenter from the new totalitarianism of “reason” and the gnosticism of Enlightenment philosophy. For him, as for the ancient Christian mystics, God was grasped intuitively, by a love that is beyond mere reason, since caritas is greater than even the greatest human knowledge. Such a view is redolent of the “cloud of unknowing” or the via negationis – the doctrine of divine simplicity espoused by the medieval theologian, Thomas Aquinas. According to this “eliminative method” one can define God by what he is not, since it is so difficult for us to truly appreciate what he is.

One of the things I have learned from existentialism (read: Kierkegaard) is that every person carries their story into everything they do and say. We each have an individual view of everything but it is always nice when one story meets another. The author is maybe a Roman Catholic and hence the return to Aquinas.

I like the opening: Kierkegaard stands solidly within the mystical tradition of Christianity. Maybe even the neo-Platonism of Augustine and Anselm! But, as with all modern philosophers of note, he takes it one step further – he speaks to a modern context. And to make the point: Kierkegaard is not an existentialist as he both predates it and is solidly a writer within the Christian tradition. Kierkegaard is not part of any school of thought and that is why he is so interesting – he is the “single individual” of philosophy.

But I have gotten off-topic. David R. Law has written a number of books on Kierkegaard as a negative theologian and kenotic Christology. Law’s article on the Chirstology of Practice in Christianity is a very interesting read. I think Kierkegaard’s Christology, “who is Jesus for Søren?”, would be a very interesting topic to explore especially in light of his later writings, that is, the Communion Discourses. Also how pietism played a role in Kierkegaard’s thought.

Anyway, just wanted to share the quote.

no cure for life

After writing the last post I was thinking about life and this quote from The Sopranos came to mind. Tony is maybe not the greatest moral example. Yet the series does show a person trying to be “real” in an extraordinary context. And it is seriously funny in parts! Yes, there is no cure for life.

All of that reminded me of another quote that is often ascribed to Kierkegaard but more likely to be a slightly reworded version of a quote by Jacobus Johannes Leeuw:

Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.

To live in the moment with Jesus – that is as much as I can hope for now. Maybe that sounds a little defeatist? Allow life to unfold, allow God to love, and simply to experience that reality. Allow myself to experience Jesus in the present. Surrender control, surrender myself, and “abide” in Jesus.

SK vs the internet

I just wanted to share an article I read online: Inhuman communication: Søren Kierkegaard versus the internet by Patrick Stokes.

Just the last paragraph:

Equally, the fact that we are human beings dealing with other human beings is essential for maintaining the integrity of communication if we’re going to use this disproportionate talking tube. Indeed, a great deal of the abuse we encounter online ― though by no means all or even a majority of it ― seems to be a function of just this sort of abstraction from interpersonal communication, losing sight of the face behind the avatar, so to speak. Kierkegaard knew what it was to be attacked from all sides. But he also knew how to take responsibility, and how to engage with his neighbour even amidst the tumult.

All of this is another example of levelling. And the internet is very much the abstraction that kills the individual. But Stokes points out that the internet can become very impersonal – forgetting that there are people behind the keyboard. Impersonal communication is not only reserved for the internet. I think we live in a world of impersonal communication and religious communities are not immune. A “personal relationship” cannot be separate from personal interaction – some large communities can become extremely impersonal.

I think the article has many things to ponder. I do not think we need to abandon the internet (and technology) and live in the woods like Ted Kaczynski. (Yes, I have watched the Unabomber series on Netflix’s.) I think the internet can be redeemed by me being me and by me allowing people to be people and not seeing them as another product. The internet can be extremely impersonal, yes, and it can make individuals just another object. But in the end, Kierkegaard challenges me in my behaviour – to not allow abstractions to rule people, not to make individuals into objects, into hits or downloads. Kierkegaard encourages me to see people as people: people with stories, with experiences, with feelings. And for me to be a person online and reflect on the way I interact with others.

I really like …

… this statue of Kierkegaard! It is one of 14 that surrounds the Marble Church. I like that he looks small and childlike – not a physical presence like some of the other statues. It shows that his impact is more subversive, that he stood against “the System” and for the Single Individual.

From The Moment

It is a tradesman. His principle is: Everyone is a thief in his trade. “It is impossible,” he says, “to be able to get through this world if one is not just like the other tradesmen, all of whom hold to the principle: Everyone is a thief in his trade.”

As far as religion is concerned-well, his religion is actually this: Everyone is a thief in his trade. He also has a religion in other respects, and in his opinion every tradesman ought to have one. “A tradesman,” says he, “should, even if he has no religion, never allow it to be noticed, because this can easily become harmful by possibly throwing suspicion on his honesty; and a tradesman should preferably have the prevailing religion in the land.” As for the latter, he accounts for that by the fact that the Jews always have a reputation for cheating more than the Christians, which he claims is by no means the case. He claims that the Christians cheat just as much as the Jews, but what harms the Jews is that they do not have the religion that prevails in the land. As for the former, the advantage that having a religion provides with regard to favoring one in cheating, he refers to what one learns from the clergy. He claims that what helps the clergy to be able to cheat more than any other social class is simply that they are so close to religion; if such a thing could be done, he would gladly pay a handsome sum to obtain ordination, because it would pay for itself splendidly.

Two or four times a year this man dresses up in his best clothes and goes to Communion. There a pastor makes his appearance, a pastor who (like those figures that jump out of a snuflbox when the spring is touched) jumps as soon as he sees “a blue banknote.” And then the holy ceremony is celebrated, from which the tradesman, or rather both of the tradesmen (both the pastor and the citizen) return home to their ordinary way of life, except that one of them (the pastor) cannot be said to return home to his ordinary way of life – after all, he had not left it, has been much more engaged as a tradesman!

And one dares to offer this to God in the name of the Sacrament of the Altar, the Communion of Christ’s body and blood! The Sacrament of the Altar! It was at the Communion table that Christ, himself consecrated from eternity to be the sacrifice, for the last time before his death was together with his disciples and consecrated them also to death, or to the possibility of death if they truly followed him. Therefore, in all its solemnity, what is said about his body and blood is so dreadfully true, this blood-covenant that has united the sacrifice with his few faithful blood- witnesses, which they surely would become.

And now the solemnity is this: to live before and after in a completely worldly way – and then a ceremony. Yet to instruct people about what the New Testament understands by the Lord’s Supper and its commitment – for good reasons the pastors guard against that. That others have been sacrificed, to live on this is the basis of their whole livelihood; their Christianity is to receive the sacrifice. To suggest to them that they themselves be sacrificed would be regarded by them as eine sonderbare und hochst unchristliche Zumuthung [a strange and highly unchristian presumption], totally in conflict with the New Testament’s sound doctrine, which they presumably would demonstrate with such colossal learning that no individual’s lifetime would suffice to study this thoroughly.

The Moment No 7, Hong 231