Kierkegaard_provocations.doc - Provocations Spiritual...

  • No School
  • AA 1
  • uful1vff477
  • 210

This preview shows page 1 out of 210 pages.

You've reached the end of your free preview.

Want to read all 210 pages?

Unformatted text preview: Provocations: Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard Søren Kierkegaard ============================================================ Acclaim For Provocations Richard Mouw, Fuller Theological Seminary Kierkegaard’s writings seem to get more “contemporary” every year. This well-selected collection of writings should be read and re-read by everyone who is attempting to minister to our present generation. William Willimon, Duke University Chapel Moore has done us a great service in sifting through Kierkegaard and giving us his essential writings. Here is a book to be savored, enjoyed, and yes, provoked by. Donald Bloesch, author, The Crisis of Piety An important and helpful guide to Kierkegaard’s spirituality. Gregory A. Clark, North Park University Since Kierkegaard scholarship has become a cottage industry, it is has become possible to exchange Kierkegaard’s passion for a passion for Kierkegaard’s works. Moore’s introduction and collection retrieve the passion that animates Kierkegaard himself. That passion, with all its force, still addresses the reflective reader. Vernon Grounds, Chancellor, Denver Seminary The editor needs to be congratulated on discerning in the overwhelming task of choosing the best when everything is of the highest quality. This book is an outstanding addition to Kierkegaard publications. It will influence readers to become enthusiastic students of his Christcentered thought. Daniel Taylor, author, The Myth of Certainty I discover in Kierkegaard an honesty, passion, and insight into the human condition and the life of faith that speaks to my deepest needs. Kierkegaard is one of a small handful of thinkers with whom every reflective Christian must come to terms. Clark H. Pinnock, author, Flame of Love Provocations brings Søren Kierkegaard, a fountain of deep wisdom and radical faith, to readers who might otherwise have difficulty understanding him. Here one finds many solid and well-chosen excerpts from across the entire literary corpus of this most paradoxical prophet and insightful philosopher. Arthur F. Holmes, author, Fact, Value, and God …Provides a helpful overview of Kierkegaard’s thinking that cannot be gained from reading just one or two of his books. Provocations captures his spirit and core concerns without neglecting lesser themes, while preserving his style and readying the reader for his major works. Diogenes Allen, author, Spiritual Theology A comprehensive selection from Kierkegaard’s massive output, arranged so as to give the reader an appreciation of the main themes and preoccupations of Kierkegaard’s thought. Colin Brown, Fuller Theological Seminary Moore has provided enough introductory material to enable the reader to understand Kierkegaard’s thought in the context of his life and times. Otherwise, his judicious selection lets the texts speak for themselves. Here is a book for meditation, for quiet reading, for faith and for understanding. Kelly James Clark, author, When Faith Is Not Enough With its excellent introduction and astute selections of texts, this book unleashes the ferociously important Kierkegaard. This work admirably clarifies Kierkegaard’s often opaque but passionate thoughts on faith, freedom, and the meaning of life. provocations Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard Compiled and Edited by Charles E. Moore Please share this e-book with your friends. Feel free to e-mail it or print it in its entirety or in part, but please do not alter it in any way. If you wish to make multiple copies for wider distribution, or to reprint portions in a newsletter or periodical, please observe the following restrictions: 1) You may not reproduce any material from for commercial gain. 2) You must include this credit line: “Reprinted from . Copyright 2002 by The Bruderhof Foundation, Inc. Used with permission.” This e-book is a publication of The Bruderhof Foundation, Inc., Farmington, PA 15437 USA and the Bruderhof Communities in the UK, Robertsbridge, East Sussex, TN32 5DR, UK Copyright 2002 by The Bruderhof Foundation. Inc., Farmington, PA 15437 USA. All Rights Reserved Table of Contents Introduction ix i to will one thing 1 1 Dare to Decide 2 Either/Or 3 Under the Spell of Good Intentions 4 The Greatest Danger 5 The Task 6 Against the Crowd 7 Suspending the Ethical 8 To Need God Is Perfection 9 Purity of Heart 10 Emissaries from Eternity 11 God Has No Cause 12 An Eternity in Which to Repent ii truth and the passion of inwardness 49 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 Truth Is the Way The Road Is How Two Ways of Reflection The Weight of Inwardness Christ Has No Doctrine Faith: The Matchless Lack of Logic Passion and Paradox The Folly of Proving God’s Existence Answering Doubt Alone With God’s Word Followers not Admirers Fear and Trembling iii the works of love 91 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 God’s Triumphant Love Neighbor Love The Greater Love Love the Person You See Love’s Hidden Need Love Builds Up Love’s Like-for-Like Love Abides – Forever! When Love Is Secure iv anxiety and the gospel of suffering 125 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 Nebuchadnezzar The War Within Sickness Unto Death The Dynamics of Despair Consider the Lilies Behold the Birds of the Air The Royal Coachman The Invitation When the Burden Is Light A Dangerous Schooling To Suffer Christianly v christian collisions 169 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 The Offense What Says the Fire Chief? Christianity Does Not Exist What Madness The Echo Answers The Tax Collector Gospel for the Poor How God Relates Inversely Undercover Clergy “First the Kingdom of God” Childish Orthodoxy Kill the Commentators! Church Militant vi thoughts that radically cure: excerpts and aphorisms 209 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 Anxiety and Despair Becoming Christian The Bible Christ Christendom and Counterfeit Christianity The Cross The Crowd Decisiveness Doctrine and Theology Doubt and Skepticism The Eternal Existence and the Existential Faith and Reason Following Jesus Forgiveness Freedom God God’s Love Grace The Human Condition The Individual Inwardness and Subjectivity Love Obedience Passion Politics and the State Prayer Preaching and Proclamation Purity Repentance Sacrifice and Self-Denial Silence and Solitude Sin Spiritual Trial Suffering Tribulation and Persecution Truth Venturing and Risk Witness Works Worship Index of Parables and Stories 417 Sources 419 Annotated Bibliography 427 Introduction Søren Kierkegaard has been accused of being one of the most frustrating authors to read. He has also been praised as one of the most rewarding. Frustrating, because his style is so dense, his thought so complex, and his words so harsh. Rewarding, because embedded within his writings and journals are metaphors and truths so deep and vivid that they can overwhelm you with an almost blinding clarity. Kierkegaard is not one to be read lightly, lest you get burned. The purpose of this collection is twofold. The first is to make Kierkegaard accessible. Even for the brightest, Kierkegaard is tough going. Walter Lowrie, Kierkegaard’s most devoted biographer, writes: “Kierkegaard exacts of his reader a very great effort. He declines to make things easy for him by presenting a ‘conclusion,’ and he obliges him, therefore, to approach the goal by the same difficult path he himself has trod.” Even Kierkegaard’s fellow Danes found him difficult. This is unfortunate. Contained within his writings are some of the richest, most illuminating passages on faith and commitment ever penned. To help unearth some of these treasures, I have taken the liberty to abridge lengthy pieces, paraphrase complex passages, and tighten and simplify convoluted constructions. Secondly, this collection is meant to present in as concise a way as possible the “heart” of Kierkegaard. By heart I mean first those pieces that are concerned with the core themes of his prolific output, second, those that exemplify the essence of his thought, and last but not least, his passion. Kierkegaard’s Central Passion Kierkegaard wrote industriously and rapidly, and under a variety of pen-names, presenting various esthetic, ethical, and religious viewpoints on life. His writings display such a wide range of genre and style, and his thought covers such a variety of subjects that even he himself felt compelled to write a book to explain his agenda. Despite this, Kierkegaard was single mindedly driven. He writes in his Journal: “The category for my undertaking is: to make people aware of what is essentially Christian.” Two things are noteworthy. First, Kierkegaard aims to make us aware. “I have worked for a restlessness oriented toward inward deepening.” “My whole life is an epigram calculated to make people aware.” In short, Kierkegaard’s task was not the introduction of new ideas, a theology or philosophy of life. Rather, he said “My task is in the service of truth; and its essential form is obedience.” Kierkegaard was fundamentally existential: “to keep people awake, in order that religion may not again become an indolent habit…” His aim was to provoke the individual so as to become an individual in the truth. The last thing Kierkegaard wanted to do was to leave his reader the same – intellectually enlightened yet inwardly unchanged. Early in his life, Kierkegaard made the discovery that one must “find a truth which is true for me – the idea for which I can live and die.” Part of the human predicament was that we are all interested in far too many things and thus are not decidedly committed to any one thing. As he writes in his Journal: What I really lack is to be clear in my mind what I am to do, not what I am to know, except in so far as a certain understanding must precede every action. The thing is to understand myself, to see what God really wishes me to do…What good would it do me if the truth stood before me, cold and naked, not caring whether I recognized her or not, and producing in me a shudder of fear rather than a trusting devotion? Must not the truth be taken up into my life? That is what I now recognize as the most important thing. Kierkegaard’s central task as an author, therefore, was to help the reader make the truth his own. He deliberately and carefully plotted his entire authorship to show his readers what it means to exist, and what inwardness and subjectivity signify. His strategy was to help them take a decisive stand: “I wish to make people aware so that they do not squander and dissipate their lives.” Secondly, Kierkegaard is concerned with what is essentially Christian: “Through my writings I hope to achieve the following: to leave behind me so accurate a characterization of Christianity and its relationships in the world that an enthusiastic, noble-minded young person will be able to find in it a map of relationships as accurate as any topographical map from the most famous institutes.” Of what does this map consist? In Practice of Christianity, Kierkegaard writes: “If anything is to be done, one must try to introduce Christianity into Christendom.” The backdrop to his entire authorship was a Danish Lutheranism that had degenerated into a nominal state-religion. Three things, in particular, marred the church of his day: (1) Intellectualism – the “direct mental assent to a sum of doctrines”; (2) Formalism – “battalions upon battalions” of unbelieving believers; and (3) Pharisaism – a herd of hypocritical clergy that ignore the Christianity they were hired to preach. It was in this climate that Kierkegaard felt compelled to reintroduce Christianity. He sought to provide a kind of map that would, for the sake of Christian truth, steer people away from Christendom. “An apostle’s task is to spread Christianity, to win people to Christianity. My task is to disabuse people of the illusion that they are Christians – yet I am serving Christianity.” By Christianity Kierkegaard did not mean a system of correct doctrine or a set of behaviors: “The struggle is not between orthodoxy and heterodoxy. My struggle, much more inward, is about the how of the doctrine. I say that someone can accept the whole doctrine, but in presenting it he destroys it.” Kierkegaard’s contention was that despite sound doctrine, or the what of faith, “the lives people live demonstrate that there is really no Christianity – or very little.” Genuine Christianity, according to Kierkegaard, is anything but doctrine. It is a way of being in the truth before God by following Jesus in self-denial, sacrifice, suffering, and by seeking a primitive relationship with God. Unfortunately, doctrine is what people want. And the reason for this is “because doctrine is the indolence of aping and mimicking for the learner, and doctrine is the way to power for the teacher, and doctrine collects people.” Kierkegaard’s thinking originated in a violent revulsion for the spurious spirituality of his day. His difficulty was to find a way out of the confusion that consistently undermined anything truly Christian. How in the world are we to get out of the mess of Christendom, he wondered, when millions, due to the accident of geography, are Christians? How are we to get Christendom to drop its whole mass of nominal members when “it is the interest of the clergyman’s trade that there be as many Christians as possible?” How, exactly, are we to become Christian, especially when “one is a Christian of a sort?” Kierkegaard’s strategy was to act as a corrective. He explains: “The person who is to provide the corrective must study the weak sides of the established order scrupulously and penetratingly and then one-sidedly present the opposite – with expert one-sidedness.” This revelation is important to keep in mind while reading Kierkegaard. All the same he said, “a corrective made into the norm is by that very fact confusing.” Therefore, one should not lift his thought up and turn it into a norm. He felt his situation to be desperate, so he sounded the alarm accordingly. Yet he did not do this as some self-proclaimed prophet. He wrote as one who was without authority and who himself needed reforming: “What I have said to myself about myself is true – I am a kind of secret agent in the highest service. The police use secret agents, too…But the police do not think of reforming their secret agents. God does.” Kierkegaard was adamant about his own Christian deficiency: “For my part I do not call myself a ‘Christian’ (thus keeping the ideal free), but I am able to make it evident that the others are still less than I.” This is not meant as a judgment. Kierkegaard’s hope was to arouse, to expose the deception he, as well as everyone else, was under. He never felt worthy of doing this. But he was compelled to strike out. “I want to make the crowd aware of their own ruin. Understand me – or do not misunderstand me. I do not intend to strike them (alas, one cannot strike the crowd) – no, I will constrain them to strike me.” Kierkegaard in Context In reading Kierkegaard it would be a mistake to ignore the inner anguish of his own personal life. The currents of his thought spring forth from within, as much as they do from his broader cultural setting. Although a complete biography of Kierkegaard is beyond the scope of this introduction, it is important for our purposes to understand the four significant crisis relationships in his life. These relationships constitute Kierkegaard the man, and grasping them is paramount in understanding him as a writer. The Earthquake Kierkegaard’s father, Michael Pedersen Kierkegaard, was 57, his mother, Ane Sørensdatter Kierkegaard, 45, when he was born in 1813. Outwardly his childhood was happy and calm. Morally and intellectually he was formed by his father, and he could afterwards say that “everything was done to develop his mind as richly as possible.” Because he was his father’s youngest child and his favorite, the intimacy between them was great. But Kierkegaard describes his upbringing as “an insane upbringing.” His father was a pietistic, gloomy spirit, an old man whose melancholy sat like a weight on his children. Kierkegaard’s family was plagued by both physical and psychological instability. Only two of the children lived past age thirty-four. Three of his sisters, then two of his brothers, then his mother, had died in rapid succession. Kierkegaard’s father was convinced that he would outlive all of his children, a conviction his son apparently shared. Kierkegaard’s brother Peter was forced to resign his position as bishop because of emotional difficulties. Inwardly, Kierkegaard felt a gnawing sense of “silent despair.” From childhood on he always felt under the power of “a monstrously brooding temperament.” In an 1846 journal entry he reflects: An old man who himself was extremely melancholy gets a son in his old age who inherits all this melancholy – but who also has a mental-spiritual elasticity enabling him to hide his melancholy. Furthermore, because he is essentially and eminently healthy of mind and spirit, his melancholy cannot dominate him, but neither is he able to throw it off; at best he manages to endure it. Early on Kierkegaard realized that there was a strange inconsistency between his father’s piety and his inner unrest. In another journal entry he writes: The greatest danger for a child, where religion is concerned, is not that his father or teacher should be an unbeliever, not even his being a hypocrite. No, the danger lies in their being pious and Godfearing, and in the child being convinced thereof, but that he should nevertheless notice that deep within there lies hidden a terrible unrest. The danger is that the child is provoked to draw a conclusion about God, that God is not infinite love. Eventually, a break occurred between Kierkegaard and his father (1835). It was no doubt related to his father’s confession of his childhood cursing of God and of his sexual impropriety. (Kierkegaard’s mother, his father’s second wife, had been one of the family’s maids. Kierkegaard’s father had seduced her, discovered she was pregnant, and felt compelled to marry her.) On discovering the reality of his father’s weaknesses – Kierkegaard had always admired his strict piety – he was shattered. As he described it later, the revelation was “a great earthquake, a terrible upheaval that suddenly forced on me a new and infallible interpretation of all phenomena.” At first, the discovery disturbed Kierkegaard’s entire moral outlook, throwing him into a period of dissipation and despair during which he completely neglected his theological studies at the University. Eventually, however, Kierkegaard began to suspect that his life was to be spent for some extraordinary purpose. Prior to the death of Kierkegaard’s father (1838), the two managed to reconcile. Kierkegaard realized that his father had left an indelible mark on his life. His call to a life of religious service, his intellectual gifts, his sense of absolute obedience, and even his melancholy were all part of an inheritance for which he came to be grateful. He saw that he had been mistaken concerning his family’s curse and now felt under obligation to redeem his promise to his father and complete his university studies, which he did over the next two years. Broken Engagement At this time Kierkegaard became engaged to sixteen-year-old Regine Olsen, whom he had felt attracted to for little over a year. Next to his father, no aspect of Kierkegaard’s life is as important as was his relationship to Regine. The day after his engagement, however, Kierkegaard felt he had made a mistake: He saw that he could never conquer his melancholy and felt unable to confide in Regine as to the causes of it. “I would have to keep too much from her, base the whole marriage on a lie.” To break off an engagement was in those days a serious matter, and socially speaking, placed the woman in an unfavorable light. To save Regine, therefore, Kierkegaard resolved to take all the blame on ...
View Full Document

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture