“People understand me so little that they do not even understand when I complain of being misunderstood.”—Søren Kierkegaard, JOURNALS FEB. 1836″
My love for Soren Kierkegaard goes deep as a philosopher and as a foundational thinker within the history of Christian thought. I believe he is misunderstood in many ways, either because those who have read him did not take the time and energy to really understand what he was truly advocating, or those who have been told by others and have done no further investigation into who he was and what he was up against. Mind you, I do not fully endorse all of the thoughts and ideas of the theologians and philosophers I read, Kierkegaard included. Proper understanding and critique of opposing views should always be our goal. Never dismiss and ignore what we do not understand or agree with.
My wife recently purchased me a book (Kierkegaard and Theology by Murray Rae) for my birthday, and it is because she knows me so well, it is a tremendous blessing to finally read some justified understanding of Kierkegaard’s thoughts and words on what it means to be a Christian and how we can live authentically Christian. The book has eight chapters, and within those chapters are detailed in sub sections on Kierkegaard’s thoughts and beliefs on individual subjects such as; grace, atonement, consciousness of the self and many more. The third chapter is called “What it means to Become a Christian” where a few statements hit hard and challenged me to critique my own way of thinking about the faith that I hold.
One of the main reasons I hold such reverence for Kierkegaard is his ability to call out my own inauthentic beliefs. More specifically in recent years, I have become far more rationalistic in my approach to faith and the things of God.
Johannes Climacus was one of the pseudonym’s Kierkegaard wrote under, and he poses the question;
“How can I, Johannes Climacus, share in the happiness Christianity promises?”(1)
We cannot be a Christian by just following the crowd, Christianity is foremost concerned with the individual and their heart. We can look to the the question Jesus posed to the rich young man in Luke 18:18-25. “And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” To which Jesus offered no universal formula, but a challenge addressed to the young man’s point of greatest resistance (2): “Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Murray Rae cohesively sums up Climacus’s (Kierkegaard’s) attack upon the methodology of Modernity upon Christianity:
“The first problem, he is well on the way to dealing with; it is the problem of Christendom, that cultural landscape in which it is supposed that everyone is Christian without having to do anything at all. Climacus, however, has discovered that Christianity requires something more of him. But what? Here the second obstacle proves much more difficult to overcome. It is the obstacle posed by the supposition of Modernity that everything must be reasonable, that we cannot commit ourselves to anything about which there is the least bit of reasonable doubt. The difficulty is, in Modernity, that setting aside one’s reason is every bit as scandalous as selling one’s possessions and distributing the money to the poor.” (3)
Following Jesus is what it means to be a Christian. Not to just believe in a set of objective propositions, but to set all of our reason to follow Christ wherever He calls us. Christianity is at war with our whole being, because we are about the “self”. We want to depend on our “autonomous reasoning” and nothing else. To believe with all certainty and no doubt. This is not the call of Christ. Trust Him, when all seems uncertain.
(1) Kierkegaard and Theology, Murray Rae
(2) Kierkegaard and Theology, Murray Rae
(3) Kierkegaard and Theology, Murray Rae