Thursday, November 01, 2007

Truth as Subjectivity in the Theology of Kierkegaard: Part 3

Since 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.

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