The Second Authorship Kierkegaards Authorship from 1846 to 1855

With the publication of Concluding Unscientific Postscript and Two Ages, Kierkegaard brought to a close a five-year period of remarkable literary productivity. He now intended to wind up his writing and seek ordination. Troubled, however, about doubts concerning his fitness for the ministry and increasingly concerned at the "unchristian" nature of contemporary Christianity, he abandoned this plan and returned to writing.

From 1846 onward, however, his writing takes on a different quality. He moves increasingly away from the indirect communication of the earlier works and makes less frequent use of pseudonyms. His writing becomes more overtly Christian and more direct in its address to the reader. The task is no longer that of subtly educating the reader toward Christian existence, but of confronting the reader with the fact that what he or she takes to be Christianity is a parody of the Gospel. Kierkegaard's second authorship is a call to radical Christian discipleship.

The first work in his new period of authorship was The Book on Adler, which Kierkegaard completed in 1847, but which was not published until after his death. The book deals with the case of Adolph Peter Adler (1817-1869), a pastor who claimed to have received a revelation from Christ and who Bishop Mynster subsequently dismissed from his post in 1845. In The Book on Adler, Kierkegaard discusses the concept of revelation and considers what form revelation would take if it were to take place in the present age. Kierkegaard was particularly concerned with the question of the nature of the "extraordinary," the exceptional individual authorized to communicate divine revelation, and the dreadful responsibility such an individual must bear concerning whether he or she had understood aright the divine message or was guilty of having misheard it. Such an exceptional individual must also expect to suffer opposition from the world and be prepared to pay the ultimate price for his or her communication of the divine revelation he or she has received. This theme of suffering is picked up in Christian Discourses (1848) and Two Ethical-Religious Treatises "by H. H." (1849), the latter being one of the few pseudonymous works of this period of Kierkegaard's authorship. Christian Discourses is noteworthy also for its critique of pseudo-Christianity, a critique which would increase in ferocity in the coming years.

In 1847 Kierkegaard published Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits and Works of Love. Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits comprises three discourses, namely, "An Occasional Discourse" on "Purity of Heart Is to Will One Thing," "What We Learn from the Lilies in the Field and from the Birds of the Air," and the "The Gospel of Sufferings," all of which are concerned with what it means to be a human being in the presence of God, namely, willing the good, not being anxious, and suffering for one's faith. Works of Love is a meditation on the biblical commandment to "love your neighbor as yourself," and is concerned with the social and communal dimension of Christian existence. The self-choice by which the human being becomes an authentic self entails becoming a social self, a self that sustains a relationship of love to others. Indeed, it is only the individual who has chosen him or herself that is capable of sustaining a genuine relationship of love with other human beings which does not succumb to the "levelling" effects of mass society in which the individuality and distinctiveness of human beings are ignored. Through choosing ourselves as selves before God we discover true leveling, namely, the equality that exists between ourselves and our fellow human beings, equality that is not achieved by reducing them to the lowest common denominator, but which honors and respects them both in their human distinc-tiveness and in their equality before God. This is true love of neighbor.

Kierkegaard's last pseudonymous works were Sickness unto Death (1849) and Practice in Christianity (1850), both written under the pseudonym Anti-Climacus but published with Kierkegaard's own name appended as "editor" on the title page. Both works constitute a radical demonstration of the Christian ideal.

In Sickness unto Death Anti-Climacus describes the self as "a relation that relates itself to itself or is the relation's relation relating itself to itself in the relation." This self-relating relation that constitutes the self is posited only when the self relates itself to that which has established it as such a relation.44 Two points are expressed in this terse and highly abstract definition of selfhood. Firstly, becoming a self is a task. Our selves are not simply "given," but are something for which we must take responsibility. Secondly, selfhood is posited only when, as Anti-Climacus puts it, "in relating itself to itself and in willing to be itself, the self rests transparently in the power that established it,"45 namely, God. The failure of the self to relate itself to God is described by Anti-Climacus as despair, a disease of the self that is the psychological expression of sin. Much of Sickness unto Death is concerned with the pathological conditions that arise when the self fails to sustain an adequate self-relating relationship to God. The antidote to the disease of the self is faith. Only in faith is the self adequately posited, and despair overcome.

This faith is made possible by the gracious coming of God to humanity in the person of his son, Jesus Christ. It is the nature of this faith that is the central theme of Anti-Climacus' other work, namely, Practice in Christianity. In this work Anti-Climacus takes up and radicalizes many of the themes treated by Johannes Climacus in Philosophical Fragments and Concluding Unscientific Postscript. Thus, the theme of contemporaneity is taken up again but is now sharpened in a number of ways. First, the contemporaneity that is faith is described more prominently in terms of the choice between faith and offense. Second, Christ is understood as the "pattern" or "prototype" (in Danish, Forbilledet), that is, as the paradigm according to which every Christian must strive to model his or her life. This, as both Anti-Climacus and Kierkegaard himself in For Self-Examination and Judge for Yourself (1851-1852) make clear, entails participating in Christ's suffering. Christian discipleship is not triumphalist but means taking upon oneself the cross of Christ and sharing in his suffering at the hands of the world. Only then is the individual a "witness to the truth."

From 1850 to 1855 Kierkegaard published only minor works. Between 1852 and 1853 he did not produce anything at all, although his journal entries increased prodigiously. His last publications, articles in The Fatherland and The Moment, and two discourses on "What Christ's Judgement Is about Official Christianity" and "God's Unchangeableness," constitute a call to radical Christian discipleship and, consistent with this, continue in the sharpest and most provocative terms his attack on the allegedly fraudulent Christianity of the state church.

Of all of Kierkegaard's authorship, these final works are perhaps the most problematic. In many respects they are a continuation of Kierkegaard's longstanding aim of confronting his contemporaries with the challenge of the Gospel and compelling them to take Christianity seriously. His aim of shaking his fellow Danes out of their religious complacency, however, was accompanied by a portrayal of Christianity that involved not merely dying to the world but also becoming openly hostile to it. In so far as his contemporaries desired the consolations of Christianity without its obligations, Kierkegaard's critique has some justification. His attack can be regarded as an early critique of culture Protestantism, an unholy alliance between Church and State, in which Christianity is reduced to the role of sanctifier of the norms of bourgeois society. In the process of making this attack, however, the life-affirming dimension of Christianity is in danger of being overlooked. The theme of grace, prominent in earlier works, retreats increasingly into the background, and a picture of Christianity emerges in which Christ's yoke is far from easy and light, but instead threatens to crush the individual who takes Kierkegaard's exposition of Christianity seriously. Kierkegaard himself was aware of the one-sidedness of his portrayal of Christianity, but saw this one-sidedness as essential to his role as a "corrective" to established Christianity.46 Only by ignoring the positive but shedding as much light as possible on what was wrong in contemporary society could a revival of Christianity be brought about. As Kierkegaard put it on embarking on the second phase of his authorship, "Henceforth I will write in such wise as to irritate people into facing the issues. I can compel no man to agree with my opinions, but at least I can compel him to have an opinion."47

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment