Thursday, February 3, 2011

Excerpt from Kierkegaards "Works of Love"

A friend and I have embarked on a literary adventure this semester.  Together we are hoping to read a book a week and an author a month.  January was Augustine, we read the Confessions, On Free Choice of the Will, and On Christian Doctrine.  February is Kierkegaard and we are currently tackling his book "Works of Love."  I am beyond fascinated and convicted by his writings; and although difficult I would highly recommend this particular text.  He truly derives what it means to love God, and it lies in stark contrast to the socially constructed definition of love.  I am going to try and post excerpts of the books I am reading, highlighting some of points that stick out most to me. 

          "Woe to the men by whom the temptation comes we confidently say: woe to him who first thought of preaching Christianity without the possibility of offence. Woe to the person who ingratiatingly, flirtatiously, commendingly, convincingly preached to mankind some effeminate something which was supposed to be Christianity.Woe to the person who betrayed and broke the mystery of faith, distorted it into public wisdom, because he took away the possibility of offence! Woe to the person who could comprehend the mystery of atonement without detecting anything of the possibility of offence; woe again to him because he thought thereby to make God and Christianity something for study and cultivation. Woe to all those unfaithful stewards who sat down and wrote false proofs, winning friends for themselves and Christianity by writing off the possibility of offence in Christianity and inserting foolishness by the hundreds!
          "O, the learning and acumen tragically wasted, O, the time tragically wasted in this enormous work of defending Christianity! Truly, when Christianity simply rises up again, powerful in the possibility of offence, so that this terror can again arouse men: then Christianity will need no defence.  On the other hand, the more learned, the more excellent the defence, the more Christianity is disfigured, abolished, exhausted like an emasculated man, for the defence simply out of kindness will take the possibility of offence away.  But Christianity ought not be defended, it is men who should see whether they can justify themselves and justify for themselves what they choose when Christianity terrifyingly, as it once did, poses for them the choice and terrifyingly constrains them to choose; either to be offended or to accept Christianity.  Therefore take away from Christianity the possibility of offence or take away from the forgiveness of sin the battle of an anguished conscience (to which, nevertheless, according to Luther's excellent explanation, this whole doctrine leads),  and then lock the churches, the sooner the better, or turn them into places of amusement which stand open all day long! 
      But although by taking away the possibility of offence men have gotten the whole world Christianised, the curious thing always occurs--the world is offended by the real Christian. Here comes the offence, the possibility of which is after all inseparable from Christianity.  Only the confusion is more distressing than ever, for at one time the world was offended by Christianity--That was the intention; but now the world imagines that it is Christian, that it has made Christianity its own without detecting anything of the possibility of offence--and then it is offended by the real Christian. Truly it is difficult to break out of such an illusion. Woe to the flowing pens and the busy tongues, woe to this whole busyness which, because it knows neither the one nor the other, can so very easily reconcile both the one and the other."