--Jurgen Moltmann, The Power of the Powerless
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
"I should not like there to be any misunderstanding on this point. It may be necessary, indeed unavoidable, to carry on the struggle against the marching feet by means of marching feet, and to break the rods of the slave-drivers with our own rods, provided that there is no doubt about the right to resistance. This right exists when laws are broken, constitutions destroyed, or fundamental human rights are persistently infringed. But even so, these struggles are still struggles in the night. They are not as yet the light of the final liberation. They are caught up in the vicious cycle of force and retaliation. They do not bring lasting peace, or unswerving justice. The oppression of the poor is not a state of affairs with which one can rest content. The punishment of the oppressor is not a liberation over which one can rejoice."
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
"Pray and watch--that is only possible if we don't pray mystically with closed eyes, but pray messianically, with eyes open for God's future in the world. Christian faith is not blind faith. It is the wakeful expectation of God which touched all our senses. The early Christians prayed standing, looking up, with outstretched arms and wide-open eyes, ready to walk or leap forward. We can see this from the pictures in the catacombs in Rome. Their posture reflects a tense expectation, not quiet heart-searching. We don't watch just because of the dangers that threaten us. We are expecting the salvation of the world. We are watching in God's Advent. With tense attention, we open all our senses for the coming of God into our lives."
Friday, November 09, 2007
Here are few links that I personally find useful for Spiritual Formation:
- Pray-As-You-Go--this is a podcast (or mp3 download) that functions as a daily (Mon-Fri) prayer exercise. It is produced by a group of Jesuits and is based on the Liturgical calendar. I am from a protestant, not-liturgical tradition, but have honestly found this simple, 10-minute daily podcast to be profoundly helpful. (If you are from a similar background, and the idea of liturgical prayer is foreign or distasteful to you, I'd highly recommend the book, Praying with the Church: Following Jesus Daily, Hourly, Today by Scot McKnight)
- ESV Bible RSS Feeds--Choose your (free) plan and subscribe. Everything from a "verse of the day" to a "Daily Office" Lectionary reading from the Book of Common Prayer. Subscribe and add to your Google homepage or preferred RSS reader.
- The Voice--I love this project. I simply can't recommend it enough. Download some samples then go pick up the books. Amazing.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
"A Christian's being is in becoming. His becoming is a continual repentence, a continual new start in a new direction. It is a new start from sin to righteousness, from slavery to freedom, from doubt to faith, and from past to future. That is why the Christian's being is still hidden in the womb of the divine future. 'It does not yet appear what we shall be' (I John 3.2)...Because it is still hidden, and because being a Christian has a future quality about it, it is usually easier to say what a Christian is not, rather than what he is. In this passing and transitory world the true Christian is a [person] without a name, an extraneous element, a mysterious exception, a lonely harbinger of God's future."
--Jurgen Moltmann, Experiences of God
Friday, November 02, 2007
A Leap of FaithSo, for Kierkegaard, faith consists of a decision…a choice to radically commit oneself to Christianity. This decision is not obvious, nor is it simply the inevitable conclusion of reason. Indeed, in some ways it is antithetical to reason. It is a decision to trust in paradox. This trust is no mere mental assent. It is the commitment of one’s life and resources to something that makes no sense when viewed objectively. It is a determined choice to engage this God subjectively and thereby a decision to view the world subjectively through this lens and engage it accordingly. Kierkegaard illustrates this beautifully in the voice of Johannes de Silentio in his work Fear and Trembling. In describing the “leap” of the “knight of faith,” he explains:
“And yet, the whole earthly figure he presents is a new creation by virtue of the absurd. He resigned everything infinitely, and then he grasped everything again by virtue of the absurd”
Even so, Kierkegaard knew that such a choice was a dangerous and intimidating prospect. He understood that if faith is a subjective decision, as opposed to the obvious result of using objective reason, the possibility exists that such a commitment might require one to violate not only the societal norms of reason, but also the norms of ethics and morality. This is not to say that Kierkegaard is totally comfortable with this conclusion. He finds it deeply troubling and continually highlights the difficulty and seriousness of such a commitment. In Fear and Trembling, he pseudonymously ponders his discomfort, using the Story of Abraham:
“Therefore, though Abraham arouses my admiration, he at the same time appalls me. He who denies himself and sacrifices himself for duty gives up the finite in order to grasp the infinity, and that man is secure enough. The tragic hero gives up the certain for the still more certain, and the eye of the beholder rests upon him confidently. But, he who gives up the universal in order to grasp something still higher which is not the universal—what is he doing? Is it possible that this can be anything else but a temptation? And if it be possible, but the individual was mistaken—what can save him? He suffers all the pain of the tragic hero, he brings to naught his joy in the world, he renounces everything—and perhaps at the same instant debars himself from the sublime joy which to him was so precious that he would purchase it at any price. Him the beholder cannot understand nor let his eye rest confidently upon him…”
Kierkegaard further realizes that when one makes this subjective choice of faith, one runs the risk of making and committing to the wrong choice. Since the choice is relational, and not simply the natural result of reason, there is nothing concrete to guard against this.
In Philosophical Fragments, he illustrates this dilemma by telling a parable of an unaffiliated knight who is offered a place in the army on both sides of a battle. The knight makes his choice and his chosen army loses the battle. When he is captured, he attempts to accept the place in the ranks of the victorious army that he was originally offered. He is unambiguously informed that the previous offer is no longer on the table.
CONCLUSIONIn looking at Kierkegaard’s concept of subjective truth, particularly in relation to Theology, one might raise the objection that it runs the risk of creating God in our own image and/or remaking religion to suit us. Certainly fragments of his work could be appropriated this way, but one would have to ignore the bulk of his writing to do so In the view of Kierkegaard, the historical witness of those who subjectively engaged God was characterized by suffering, and was in no way self-serving. Still the accusation can be made that Kierkegaard’s thought is to focused on the individual, or at least that it neglects the communal aspect of faith. This, I think is a fair criticism, though one must take into account the Enlightenment context he is speaking into. Kierkegaard’s critique (though largely ignored in his own day), acts as a powerful corrective against the influence of the Enlightenment on Theology. In discussing Kierkegaard’s concept of subjectivity as truth, Jurgen Moltmann explains,
“Protestant subjectivism has led religiously and culturally to all possible kinds of individualism, pluralism, and egoism. But it has also brought into modern culture the dignity of every human person, and individual human rights, so that these can never again be forgotten.”
References1. Caputo, John D. On Religion. Routledge, 2001.
2. “Comedy Central: Shows - The Colbert Report.” http://www.comedycentral.com/shows/the_colbert_report/index.jhtml (accessed October 1, 2007).
3. Kierkegaard, and Bretall. Kierkegaard Anthology. Modern Library, n.d.
4. Kierkegaard, Soren. Parables of Kierkegaard. Princeton University, 1989.
5. ———. The Essential Kierkegaard. Princeton University Press, 2000.
6. Kierkegaard, Søren. Attack Upon Christendom. Princeton University, 1944.
7. Moltmann, Jurgen. God for a Secular Society: The Public Relevance of Theology. Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 1999.
8. Strathern, Paul. Kierkegaard in 90 Minutes. Ivan R. Dee, Publisher, 2001.
9. “Wayne's World.” July 10, 2001.
Thursday, November 01, 2007
ProofsSince in Kierkegaard’s view, it is decision/choice that matters and not simply conforming to rational/logical conclusions, he has little use for modern apologetics or “proofs” for Christianity. In the pseudonymous voice of Climacus in his Unscientific Postscript, Kierkegaard explains,
“It is subjectivity that Christianity is concerned with, and it is only in subjectivity that its truth exists, if it exists at all; objectively, Christianity has absolutely no existence. If truth happens to be only in a single subject, it exists in him alone, and there is greater Christian joy in heaven over this one individual that over universal history and the System, which as objective entities are incommensurable with that which is Christian.”
Kierkegaard here asserts that if one is attempting to “prove” Christianity objectively, they have embarked upon a doomed quest. He asserts that faith is inherently relational. A few paragraphs later, in making an analogy between faith and romantic love, he rightly points out that “Love is a determination of subjectivity”. He then furthers his analogy by insisting that “faith is the highest passion in the sphere of human subjectivity.” This, however, presents a quandary for Kierkegaard, especially when he looks at the clergy of his day. On the one hand, faith is proven to him in his own experience of it. Further, he contends that the fact that others have given themselves to Christianity and have been willing to suffer for it is one of the highest proofs that can be offered for our faith. Even so, in an issue of his publication, The Instant, Kierkegaard admits that this subjective proof can be its own undoing,
“Here then is the proof and disproof at the same time! The proof of the truth of Christianity from the fact that one has ventured everything for it, is disproved, or rendered suspect, by the fact that the priest who advances this proof does exactly the opposite. By seeing the glorious ones, the witnesses to the truth, venture everything for Christianity, one is led to the conclusion: Christianity must be truth. By considering the priest one is led to the conclusion: Christianity is hardly the truth, but profit is the truth.”
I should note that I don’t agree with all of how Kierkegaard unpacks this idea in the remainder of the article, which calls for priests (professional ministers) to stop taking pay or having families as these somehow contradict their position. That being said, his larger point resonates strongly with me. While the faith and suffering of others in the name of Christ certainly does bolster my faith, televangelist who flaunt their opulent lifestyles while peddling their “health and wealth” gospel blow a gigantic hole in Christianity’s credibility. The American church’s consumeristic fixation on their own comfort and insulation from a suffering world discredits the entire thing in the eyes of many.