chasmic difference

There is, namely, an infinite chasmic difference between God and man, and therefore it became clear in the situation of contemporaneity that to become a Christian (to be transformed into likeness with God) is, humanly speaking, an even greater torment and misery and pain than the greatest human torment, and in addition a crime in the eyes of one’s contemporaries. And so it will always prove to be if becoming a Christian truly comes to mean becoming contemporary with Christ. And if becoming a Christian does not come to mean this, then all this talk about becoming a Christian is futility and fancy and vanity…

Practice in Christianity

I have always liked the above quote from Practice in Christianity. Yes, SK is very Lutheran/Augustinian in it but I think it says something about God: God’s transcendence in being and his imminence in action (in Jesus). It is about the King and the Servant, and love, and surrender.

the moment

I have been thinking for this coming Sunday’s gospel, Luke 13:1-9. Yes, repentance and fruit. But is there something deeper happening? Is it about the eternal now of faith – the moment of choice? That reminded me of one of my favourite SK quotes:

God is present in the moment of choice, not in order to watch but in order to be chosen. Therefore, each person must choose. Terrible is the battle, in a person’s innermost being, between God and the world. The crowning risk involved lies in the pos­session of choice.

Kierkegaard

A number of great themes in the one quote: moment, choice, freedom, risk. All relate to faith. The moment of choice is that overwhelming point where the past is gone and the future is not yet. That moment between penitence and reward. It is the moment, the now, that is completely God’s and in which I must meet Jesus.

I like the image of God’s presence in the moment. Maybe that is contemporality – Jesus present in the moment of choice, ready to be chosen? But the point is: that moment is always the eternal now.

thomas, yes, thomas!

The conclusion of belief is no conclusion but a resolution, and thus doubt is excluded.

Philosophical Fragments

I woke in the night and the above quote came to mind. A little on the weird side, I agree, but it all came together.

I have been reading a book about Thomas a Kempis. In this book, there is a discussion on the origins of the Brethren of the Common Life and, especially, the founder, Geert Groote. Groote wrote “Resolutions and Intentions” which was like a Rule of Life but without any vows. And it was common practice in the Brethren for individuals to write such a document and not take religious vows in the traditional way.

The above now makes even more sense to me. Live life without vows or a Rule but live with a clear resolution. Allow life to be shaped by this resolution but make no show of it or put yourself under vows.

So, in the history of the church, there is a way to live a converted (religious) life as a layperson without entering a monastery.

And, as an aside, I really like SK’s side-step on doubt in the above quote!

where to from here?

Therefore Christ also first and foremost wants to help every human being to become a self, requires this of [them] first and foremost, requires that [they], by repenting, become a self, in order then to draw [them] to himself. He wants to draw the human being to himself, but in order truly to draw [them] to himself he wants to draw [them] only as a free being to himself, that is, through a choice.

Practice in Christianity

I woke in the middle of the night and that quote came to mind. Besides the fact that I dream of Kierkegaard quotes, and talk to him in English in a coffee shop, which is super-weird, I think the above has something very important to say.

What is Jesus all about? Or, to put it another way, what is “salvation”? As I wrote yesterday, it is not about the past or the future. It is a right-now thing. So what is Jesus’ deepest desire for me right now?

Ok, I cannot work out what my deepest desire right now is so I doubt I can of another person. And I would not dare to say what Jesus desires. But if we take Kierkegaard’s quote seriously, and I think we should, it is about becoming a self – it is about becoming me. Yes, I cannot be a self without him! And that is the central proclamation of the community we call the Church. But becoming a self in Jesus involves my freedom and choices.

I am having issues with “me” at the moment. The above gives shape to come of my issues. And it points me back to Jesus. Jesus now for becoming “me”.

now?

In relation to the absolute, there is only one time, the present; for the person who is not contemporary with the absolute, it does not exist at all. And since Christ is the absolute it is easy to see that in relation to him there is only one situation, the situation of contemporaneity; the three, the seven, the fifteen, the seventeen, the eighteen hundred years make no difference at all; they do not change him, but neither do they reveal who he was, for who he is is revealed only to faith.

Practice in Christianity

I have been thinking about some of the monastic rules I have been reading. There is often a strong note of pentitence. And sometimes some talk of reward. The asceticism described in these rules is often in terms of “soul good, body evil” dualism. Or “suffering good because it wins forgiveness”.

Of course, all that is an oversimplification. But I have wondered how to live a rule of life in a monastic way without falling into those traps. Penitence (the past) or reward (the future) are nice but it is about living for Jesus now. The present moment! So it is about balance in the now to be fully open to Jesus.

experience?

To be honest I only know very little about a very small circle. One of the people I have heard about but never read is Karl Barth. The book I have been reading looks at Barth’s thoughts on monasticism. I will admit that reading it makes me glad to be an Anglican! But I was struck by this:

In Barth’s understanding, Tersteegen’s faith grew “not from confession to experience, but from experience to confession,” which is “the way of self-denial”.

Gerhard Terteegen was a pietist who influenced both Barth and Kierkegaard. So the above quote speaks even more to me.

Maybe a more Kierkegaardian way of putting that is to speak about “resolution preceding conclusions”. Theology is a systematic way of looking at the experience of faith – in Scripture and Tradition – and trying to see themes. But it is the experience that establishes the relationship.

All of that made me wonder: can a heretic be saved? Can a Christian who has experienced the love of God in Jesus be a heretic? Or, to put it a completely different way, can “doctrine save”?

So the answer to the question, that was not asked, is I need to read more!

reading

I have had more time to read. I am a little of a shatter-brain reader – when something takes me I like to simply sit and think. (Or pretend to think!) So sometimes I read a huge amount and sometimes only a sentence.

I have been reading Emerging Prophet: Kierkegaard and the Postmodern People of God. I have not read much about the emerging church movement so the book has been a nice introduction. I am more of a new monasticism type person.

I am struck, again, how Kierkegaard is way ahead of his day. He is one of a kind, a single individual, far apart from the crowd. Maybe he is the original new monastic religious? I would like to read more about the emerging church movement! And I want to read more about and by Kierkegaard.

As an aside (completely off-topic): I wonder what Kierkegaard would make of me? (How egotistic!) Would he sit with me in a cafe and drink coffee (and smoke cigars)? Or would he walk past me in the street?

So what are you reading?

… and followed him

This Sunday’s gospel reading, Luke 5:1-11, is about two topics: risk and discipleship. The reading moves from a crowd listening to an individual responding. It takes us from the risk of faith to the call of Jesus to follow Him. So two Kierkegaard quotes:

Without risk, no faith. Faith is just this, the contradiction between the infinite passion of inwardness and objective uncertainty. If I can grasp God objectively, then I do not have faith, but just because I cannot do this, I must have faith. If I wish to stay in my faith, I must take constant care to keep hold of the objective uncertainty, to be ‘on the 70,000 fathoms deep’ but still have faith.

And …

The difference between an admirer and a follower still remains, no matter where you are. The admirer never makes any true sacrifices. [They] always plays it safe. Though in words, phrases, songs, [they are] inexhaustible about how highly [they] prizes Christ, [they] renounce nothing, give up nothing, will not reconstruct [their] life, will not be what [they] admire, and will not let [their] life express what it is [they] supposedly admire.

Regina or the cell?

So perhaps truth could be found by withdrawing from the world. Kierkegaard thought about seeking the silence of the monastery; Copenhagen’s Franciscan friary was dissolved by reformers in 1530, but he could at least try to renounce the idle chatter of the university, which seemed to him just another strain of gossip from the marketplace, only more deluded in its lofty aspirations.

Carlisle, Clare. Philosopher of the Heart

I read the above as I was waiting for my tattoo. I have never heard any suggestion that Kierkegaard wanted to enter religious life. I have often wondered, however, how a 19th century Lutheran had so much information on monasticism and felt the need to write about it.

I like the way Kierkegaard writes! I like what he writes about! I like his conclusions! And, I think, I really like him as a person. His struggles are human. In some ways, I feel the same about Merton’s “love affair”. Rather than making him look like an apostate monk, it affirms him as a human being.

So being human is about living in the paradox of choice. The choice for Kierkegaard – the paradox of choice – was either a life with Regina or withdrawing into the silence of religion. He choose the middle ground – the single life in the world dedicated wholly to Jesus. But he remains in love with Regina. Maybe what Kierkegaard did was “create” a new form of monasticism? One in which Jesus is the only reason and only motivation? A secret monasticism, without show or display, an undercover monk, by simply being completely human.

the crowd is untruth

So Kierkegaard repeatedly writes, in The Point of View, “The crowd is untruth”. I have been puzzling over that statement in the last couple of days. Is SK just advocating a form of individualism where others are irrelevant?

I think, as with most of Kierkegaard’s writings, it comes back to his understanding of faith. So let me put it in the way that I have come to see it: faith is living with paradox. The Christian faith (which is a gift of grace) is living with the paradox that the eternal has entered time, that the DIvine has become human, that in Jesus God reveals his love and mercy through suffering. In short, the Christian faith is a living relationship with the Absolute Paradox. Many people live with faith – living with the many paradoxes of life – but they do not live with the Absolute Paradox of Jesus.

So “The crowd is untruth” is another paradox that we live with. I am called to be a “single individual” before God – only I can answer for my life and my choices – but I live within a community that forms me and shapes me. I cannot abdicate my responsibility to someone else but I also cannot overlook that “someone else” has shaped me. I need others but I answer for myself.

In one of the Communion Discoures, SK puts it this way:

At the altar, however, no matter how many are gathered there, yes even if everyone is gathered at the altar, there is no crowd at the altar.

Kierkegaard, Søren. Discourses at the Communion on Fridays

Within the community (the “crowd”) every individual is alone with Jesus when they receive Holy Communion. I think that expresses the paradox that the Christian faith calls us to live.

Why all this? (And thank you for getting this far in a rambling post!) I am getting another tattoo. I wanted it to represent SK’s call to be the single individual. A reminder to me! So I have a design that includes the above quote. All as a reminder to me what Jesus calls me to.