Becoming A Christian In Christendom

Although Kierkegaard's attack on Christendom came to a head and reached its highest pitch in the final writings of his authorship, it began much earlier, arguably even from the very beginning, in the implied or indirect critiques of modern culture, philosophy, theology, and society in his early aesthetic writings. The work that brought this attack to the fore, however, was Concluding Unscientific Postscript, which explicitly poses the fundamental issue of the whole authorship: how to become a Christian in the situation of modern Christendom, where everyone is presumably already a Christian by virtue of being born a Dane yet lives in entirely different categories (PV 41, 55, 63, 88). It is also in this work that Kierkegaard's fundamental thesis that Christianity is an existence-communication is introduced; in fact, apart from his journals it is the only work in his authorship in which this claim is explicitly made.3 Published under the pseudonym Johannes Climacus (John the Climber),4 with Kierkegaard's name as 'editor', the Postscript is a large sequel to a much smaller work, Philosophical Fragments, by the same 'author', who does not claim to be a Christian but is interested in how to become one. As the 'editor' rather than author of this work, Kierkegaard cannot be said to endorse everything in it, but on the whole the views set forth by Climacus are compatible with his own views as expressed in his journals and other works published in his own name. However, respecting Kierkegaard's request to attribute the views set forth by his pseudonyms only to them, I shall allow Johannes Climacus to speak for himself in the Postscript and refer to the editor's views only by way of comparison.

4 A Syrian monk (c.525-606) who wrote a book titled Ladder of Paradise outlining thirty steps on the ladder to perfection.

The theological issue of particular concern to Climacus is not the objective issue of the truth of Christianity but the subjective issue of the individual's relation to Christianity, that is, how one can come to share in the eternal happiness or blessedness promised by Christianity (CUP i. 17). Climacus had already addressed this issue in Philosophical Fragments in a poetic, hypothetical fashion without explicitly mentioning Christianity by name until the very end, where he promises a sequel that will 'clothe the issue in its historical costume' (PF 109). The intensely personal yet universally human significance of this issue for Climacus is apparent in his comment that it 'pertains to me alone, partly because, if properly presented, it will pertain to everyone in the same way' (CUP i. 17). Climacus also feels alone in raising this issue and even admits to 'a kind of lunacy' in bringing it up because presumably everyone in his age already has faith as 'something given' that is a mere 'trifle' of little or no value unless it can be objectively demonstrated (17). What interests them, then, is the objective issue of establishing the truth of Christianity as a rational support for faith, not their personal relations to Christianity.

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