Friday, March 21, 2008


I have just discovered Kierkegaarde, having previously thought he was only for theologians and philosophers.

I really like what I read. Here is a bit that made me laugh out loud:

In the magnificent cathedral the honorable and Right Reverend Geheime-General-Ober-Hof-Pradikant, the elect favorite of the fashionable world, appears before an elect company and preaches with emotion upon the text he himself elected: “God has chosen the base things of this world, and the things that are despised” – and nobody laughs.

And how true is this?

As a career man and job holder the pastor proclaims Christianity. He says: My job is to proclaim Christianity – I am hired simply to preach. And so it is with the pastor’s proclamation. The congregation on the other hand excuses itself from doing what the sermon says by declaring: We have so many other things to take care of; such a stringent Christianity can be re-quired only of the pastor, the man of God. And thus we arrive at the result: Christianity – but no Christians.

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Blogger Karin said...

Did you hear Kirkegaard discussed on 'In our time' Thursday morning (R4)? He did sound interesting and I agreed with him, but only up to a point and I think the second quote illustrates why.

Yes, there are any number of preachers who don't practise what they preach and plenty of churchgoers who make excuses for not putting Jesus' teachings into practise. The parable of the sower talks about people who let the cares of the world make them forget what they have heard, so Jesus knew that would happen.

However, there is a danger in being overly dismissive of ordinary people trying to be good, trying to love their neighbour, while holding down a dead end job and still not being sure how they will pay the bills and wondering what to have for dinner and where to find the time and energy for the cleaning that needss doing etc.

Jesus did teach that we should love our neighbour, but he also taught that we need to love ourselves first if we are to be able to do that. Jesus taught that our neighbour is also the person we think most unlikely: our 'enemy', the marginalised etc; but he also taught that we should not neglect our families. Charity (love) begins at home, it just shouldn't end there or be over-concentrated there.

Living out the gospel is about balance and about the messiness of our everyday lives, not always getting the balance right, but being cheered by God just for trying - remember. Wooohooo, Joe! ;-)

I'm not sure Kirgegaard and Mike Yaconelli would have agreed with each other too much.

8:02 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

I'm not sure, I think Yac and Kierkegaarde would have found a lot in common - they both had a strong sense of humour.

There is a clear problem with professional Christians - vicars, ministers, pastors the lot. Unfortunately on the whole, people think that Christianity is a role for the professionals. Too often these professions think that their role only extends to preaching, leading the music or whatever. I can't see that there is anything to argue with there.

The truth is that Christianity is costly. The Way of Christ is the way that leads to sacrifice and death.

And I square that very well with Yac - who was saying that there is an expectation put upon young people from above. A young person sold out to Christ, yet achieving very little is praised in heaven, because it is not the achievement that matters but the sold-outness. You cannot be a bit sold-out. You either pick up your cross or you don't.

I did hear the Radio 4 programme but turned it off because it sounded boring. I later thought I ought to investigate more and found a 450 ebook explaining more about Kierkegaardes ideas. I'm finding it very stimulating.

1:51 PM  
Blogger Karin said...

I fear it is easy to be judgemental. I believe in God our understanding and loving Father, who calls all his children to learn to walk his Way, and who alone knows who are trying to do so, albeit with faltering toddler steps and those who are making no effort. I think it is hard for us to tell the difference and I am acutely aware of how difficut I find it. I think most of us are toddlers compared to Jesus and the church is where we can encourage each other patiently to take the next step.

3:06 PM  
Blogger Joe said...

Unfortunately Christ was judgemental, Karin.

7:13 AM  
Blogger Karin said...

I don't agree, Joe. That is the difference between you and me, I think. We see Jesus in a different way. I did see him that way once, but I don't any more. I couldn't remain a Christian if I still did.

9:13 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

Well for a start, I'm not telling you anything, Karin. I am simply recording my personal struggle.

Second, I once was a Baptist and then renounced. Like an onion, I have since shed several other skins including Anglican, Charismatic, Evangelical, Protestant and now I am ready to renounce any claim to being a Christian.

My life simply has no resemblance to the first disciples of Jesus. Christianity for me is a list of things I believe or don't believe. Yet the New Testament is quite clear that it is not about that.

Jesus calls me to a life of sacrifice, a life of losing my life in order to gain it, a call on my life that I cannot ignore - that I cannot claim to love God unless I love my neighbour, and that in fact loving my neighbour is loving God.

I am not ready to take on the hardships that the first disciples took on - in an environment where the resurrection was the death sentence to all the disciples that remained. I am not ready to take on the mantle that Christianity means to people that I have met around the world - to people in India, shunned and ignored by their community, to people in Egypt, watched and harassed by armed soldiers, even to Christians in Palestine, forced to watch life disintegrate in the land that once we called holy.

My life simply does not compare to these, yet I play at pretending to myself that the commitment I have made is somehow equal to theirs. Until it does, I have no right to claim that I have anything to do with Christ beyond a non-committal mental acceptance.

So this is where it comes down on a knife edge - either I am prepared to accept the Way of the Cross, denying my wants and stopping making excuses about why I am too imperfect to follow direct instructions from Christ, or I should stop pretending to be a Christian at all.

11:01 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

Karin, I've deleted your comment by accident.

I disagree, according to the New Testament, Jesus makes great claims on our lives.

It is not as simple as saying that he is not going to ask us to do this stuff because it is clearly beyond our ability - because God contantly asks people to do more than they think they can do.

6:22 AM  
Blogger Karin said...

Yes, Jesus does ask us to do what we think we can't do, and encourages and enables us to do it, if we work with him. He doesn't ask us to do what we can't do and he doesn't expect us before we are ready to.

There is always a danger for any of us to make Jesus in our own image, whether the despondent person or the impatient person. We each of us need to listen carefully to whether we are being told to take care of our needs, move cautiously, or get a move on and stop dithering. The message for one person at a given time will be different, just as the message for different people will not be the same.

You have to do what seems to be the right thing for you at the time, but remember it might not be the right thing or the right time for someone else. And as it's hard to be sure what a Christian, or even a follower of Jesus, actually looks like, there could be more of them about than we realise.

10:28 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

OK, look I believe in the Jesus of the gospels. If I am to say that I am a follower of Jesus of Nazareth, I have no sensible option other than to take his words seriously. Things like:

Anyone who does not carry his cross cannot be my disciple - Luke 14:27

Anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me- Matt 10:38

If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me - Luke 9:23

To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices. Mark 12:23

It seems to me that Jesus had a very clear understanding of what being a follower of his meant - involving denial of self, service of others and sacrifice of will.

Now it may well be the case that your situation is caused by your self sacrificial daily attitude to God, Karin. It may well be that may other Christians have the same attitude.

But I do not have that attitude, and it seems very likely that there are a large proportion of people in church who are exactly like me - we sit in church and mouth words, yet we have not sacrificed ourselves in service of others. The choice for me (and I believe a good number of other Christians) is either to commit ourselves wholeheartedly to this man from Galilee, and accept the life of sacrifice in whatever way it comes, or to stop pretending that I have anything to do with him.

What others do is of no concern to me. If they have personal needs that require God's healing, all well and good. They need to take that up with God.

I am not prepared to say that I am leading the life of Christ whilst at the same time feathering my own nest, building my own intellectual fortress and pandering to my own overblown ego.

4:44 AM  
Blogger Michael Cline said...

Kierkegaard would love your honesty. Numerous time in his writings, (For Self-Examination and Attack Upon Christendom for starters)he simply asks his audience to admit that they really aren't Christians. This is the only way they can begin to build anything close to resembling Christianity back into "Christendom", that evil bastard child of New Testament Christianity.

But I also don't think Kierkegaard ever stopped there. He didn't just want people to admit where they were and come to a halt. He wished that by being honest, the Spirit would begin to open eyes to deeper truths. Once we stand "before God" as our true selves, that same God can begin to mold us anew. So it's not enough to just admit that we aren't ready for Christianity, we must ask God to make us ready.

5:38 AM  

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