Søren Kierkegaard was a Danish philosopher in the early to mid-19th century. What’s interesting to me is that he predicted the cultural Christian problem we have even to this day and talked about how to reintroduce genuine Christianity back into the culture.
I’ve included a short video clip about Kierkegaard’s thoughts on this that I believe would be a good follow-up to my last post. Kierkegaard was basically saying the same thing over 150 years ago (only more brilliantly) that I was trying to say in my post, where I was contrasting Christendom with following Christ.
As I said last time, there’s more than one way to define “Christendom.” In the following short video clip, Dr. Steven Blackhouse says the following about how Kierkegaard used the term and his thoughts on reintroducing Christianity into Christendom:
“For Kierkegaard, Christendom didn’t mean some legal relationship between state and church, it meant the habitual assumption you could be born into a Christian culture and that is what made you a Christian…. And, for Kierkegaard, he said again and again, that is precisely what destroyed Christianity…and what I [Kierkegaard] want to do is awaken and shock and even offend people who think they are Christians who are living in Christendom into a relationship with true Christianity.”
That pretty much sums up what I’m saying and believe needs to happen today. Cultural Christians in the West need to be awakened, shocked, and offended so we can clear up the confusion over what it means to be a Christian. This doesn’t mean that only those who follow Christ perfectly are true believers. We’re all imperfect and need grace. I’m also not talking about being a legalistic religious prude, which would be more Stoic or Pharisaical than Christlike. But it does mean our allegiances must change when we follow Christ which, according to Kierkegaard, will make us more authentically human. Dr. Blackhouse explains this later in the video:
“Kierkegaard also pointed out about humans that their glory is that they feel anxious. How could that be? Because he said, animals don’t feel anxious, they just do what they do instinctively. The human stands on the precipice and knows they can make a decision. There’s God standing in front of you saying, “Come to Me, all who are weary and I will give you rest,” and we now have a choice. What are we going to do? Are we going to step toward this God or are we going to step away fearfully. And it’s at that point, to Søren…where you have anxiety, because you are sure if you take that step towards God you’re going to lose large parts of what you think are core elements of your identity. You’re going to be asked to step away from your family, your church, your nation, your group, your institution, and you’re going to be asked to step towards this Person.”
“So, it’s with Kierkegaard that we have a lot of tools, I think, in the modern age for learning to live like authentic human beings in a culture that so values being part of a mob, being part of a crowd, being a good citizen, or being a good patriot, or a good member of your church. Kierkegaard comes along and he throws a brick into all of that and suggests that maybe being a Christian might make you a less reliable citizen, maybe being a follower of Christ will make you a less obviously common sensical member of your society. Maybe it will mean that you’re going to be taking steps toward something which unsettles and upsets the people around you. BUT, says Søren, because the Incarnation is the most important event in the history of events happening, because this is God who says this is what it looks like to be human. When you step away from the less authentic parts of your identity and you’re stepping toward the Incarnation, you start to find something that is truly human and truly authentic.”
Kierkegaard sounds a bit like Morpheus explaining the Matrix to Neo here. But Jesus and the New Testament seems to concur with Kierkegaard’s assessment:
Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. (Rom.12:2 MSG)
3:18 The days of window-shopping are over! In him every face is unveiled. In gazing with wonder at the blueprint likeness of God displayed in human form, we suddenly realize that we are looking at ourselves! Every feature of his image is mirrored in us! This is the most radical transformation engineered by the Spirit of the Lord; we are led from an inferior mind-set to the revealed endorsement of our authentic identity. You are his glory!” (2 Cor.3:18 MIRROR)
It may take 100 years to make this transition, maybe more, but Kierkegaard has a point. Now would be a good time to start reintroducing authentic Christianity to a culture that’s been dominated by cultural “Christianity” for many centuries.
Here’s the clip.