Asking questions

One of the moral diseases we communicate to one another in so­ciety comes from huddling together in the pale light of an insufficient answer to a question we are afraid to ask.

Thomas Merton, No Man is an Island.

The pastor at the church that we attend likes to use examples from modern movies to illustrate his point. He does not actually listen to the questions being asked (by the movie) but rather is looking for validation of his point. They are not the question that the particular movie is asking but rather a “this person agrees with me” type of thing.

I think Merton is right – we are afraid to ask the difficult questions because asking it may reveal something about us. We like, rather, to gather around easy answers to difficult questions. Or, we like to escape the question by simply gathering round cliches. Or maybe we hide behind an “authority” and simply call for “blind faith”. 

Anyway …

Inside vs outside?

“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!

existentialism defined?

“Existentialism”, therefore, may be defined as the philosophical theory which holds that a further set of categories, governed by the norm of authenticity, is necessary to grasp human existence. To approach existentialism in this categorial way may seem to conceal what is often taken to be its “heart” (Kaufmann 1968: 12), namely, its character as a gesture of protest against academic philosophy, its anti-system sensibility, its flight from the “iron cage” of reason. But while it is true that the major existential philosophers wrote with a passion and urgency rather uncommon in our own time, and while the idea that philosophy cannot be practiced in the disinterested manner of an objective science is indeed central to existentialism, it is equally true that all the themes popularly associated with existentialism—dread, boredom, alienation, the absurd, freedom, commitment, nothingness, and so on—find their philosophical significance in the context of the search for a new categorial framework, together with its governing norm.

Existentialism (Standford)  

I do not believe in Christianity

Recently I have been confronted by statements that people “believe in Christianity”. I must say that upon reflection I do not believe in Christianity – I believe in Jesus.

SO here is a Kierkegaard quote:

The conflict about Christianity will no longer be doctrinal conflict (this is the conflict between orthodoxy and heterodoxy). The conflict (occasioned also by the social and communistic movements) will be about Christianity as an existence. The problem will become that of loving the ‘neighbour’; attention will be directed to Christ’s life, and Christianity will also become essentially accentuated in the direction of conformity to his life. The world has gradually consumed those masses of illusions and insulating walls with which we have protected ourselves so that the question remained simply one of Christianity as doctrine. The rebellion in the world shouts: We want to see action! (Soren Kierkegaard, Journals and Papers 4185)

To the above very-well phrased quote from Kierkegaard let me add: Christianity is not a doctrine, and not action alone, but a person! That is the paradox, the mystery, of the Single Individual – I am called to surrender myself to another person, I am called to a radical relationship to the Absolute – Jesus.