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.
No, an illusion can never be destroyed directly, and only by indirect means can it be radically removed. If it is an illusion that all are Christians — and if there is anything to be done about it, it must be done indirectly, not by one who vociferously proclaims himself an extraordinary Christian, but by one who, better instructed, is ready to declare that he is not a Christian at all.
Spiritual guidance affirms the basic quest for meaning. It calls for the creation of space in which the validity of the questions does not depend on the availability of answers but on the questions’ capacity to open us to new perspectives and horizons. We must allow all the daily experiences of life—joy, loneliness, fear, anxiety, insecurity, doubt, ignorance, the need for affection, support, understanding, and the long cry for love—to be recognized as an essential part of the spiritual quest.
Nouwen, Spiritual Direction
I have been listening to Henry Nouwen’s book on spiritual direction. I have not read much by him so I am super impressed with this book. Especially as an audiobook that I can listen to while doing other things.
So I thought I would share the above. Questioning is important and very much part of the journey into Jesus.
From the very beginning, I have stressed and repeated unchanged that I was ‘without authority.’ I regard myself rather as a reader of the books, not as the author. ‘Before God,’ religiously, I call my whole work as an author (when I speak with myself) my own upbringing and development, but not in the sense as if I were now complete or completely finished with respect to needing upbringing and development.
On My Work as an Author (1851)
The problem with authority is that you always are speaking on someone else’e behalf. I think SK understood that in the religious sense. I have come to appreciate that I am completely without authority.
Once in a while a pastor causes a little hubbub from the pulpit, about their being something wrong somewhere with all these numerous Christians – but all those to whom he is speaking are Christians, and those he speaks about are not present.
The Point Of View For My Work As An Author (1848)
Sermons are sometimes more about validating the audience than challenging their unbelief.
I just wanted to share two quotes that really struck me:
When Christian conceptions or propositions become the object of the Christian faith (for example, in the form of Christian doctrine), ‘Christianity’ becomes a plaything for intellectual pursuits, cultural sensibilities and political agendas. This is not, of course, to deny that Christian concepts and propositions serve a purpose. Their primary purpose, however, is to serve as a witness to God: to provide us with teaching that helps us to talk about, understand and know both who God is and who we are before God. But, for Kierkegaard, they are not to take centre stage.
The Freedom to Become a Christian, 4.
I was struck by the idea that doctrine etc are witnesses. And that these provide a framework for us to speak about God.
The conclusion that this work seeks to draw is that, for Kierkegaard, Christian belief and understanding are subordinate to a person’s relationship with God. They do not constitute the relationship itself. They are nothing more than a witness to and expression of the fact that God actively relates to us in history.
This is the main aim of the book. And I think this is a really important point to remember: it is all about a relationship. As the author further explains it is about a choice for the Christian life, it is not about conclusions but rather a resolution. (The last part is me!)
I wonder if Søren felt like I sometimes do – that while my public Christian self can lead Bible studies and discuss theology, I am oddly hesitant to speak about my raw, honest connection with God – unlike the many forthright people who open their faithful hearts to anyone who will listen. I resonate with Søren as he reflects on his personal spiritual life: “My inwardness is too true for me to be able to talk about it.”
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.
Kierkegaard: Concluding Unscientific Postscript (Cambridge Texts in the History of Philosophy), pp. 171-172.
“Without rish, no faith”, and “If I can grasp God objectively, then I do not have faith”. This is a great quote from CUP!