Christ As Redeemer

For all Kierkegaard's emphasis upon Christ as the absolute paradox and sign of contradiction, the dual roles of Christ as the redeemer and prototype of human beings are equally if not more important in his understanding of Christ. Although the role of Christ as prototype is stressed in Kierkegaard's later works and journals, it always stands in a complementary dialectical relation to his role as redeemer. Thus each role must be viewed in tandem with the other. For the purpose of analysis, however, I shall begin with the role of Christ as redeemer, who makes his first appearance, it may be recalled, in Philosophical Fragments under the guise of the unnamed teacher who brings the truth as well as the condition for understanding it to human beings, who are so immersed in sin that they are unaware of lacking the truth. The first thing Christ does, then, is to help individuals to recollect that they exist in a state of untruth. But this much, Climacus points out, even a Socratic teacher can do: 'To this act of consciousness, the Socratic principle applies: the teacher is only an occasion, whoever he may be, even if he is a god, because I can discover my own untruth only by myself, because only when I discover it is it discovered, not before, even though the whole world knew it' (PF 14). Since the whole point of Climacus's thought-project is to conceive, if possible, a situation that is different from the Socratic immanent way to the truth, he is quick to point out that this is the 'one and only analogy to the Socratic' in this alternative scenario (14). Where the unnamed teacher and the Socratic teacher truly differ is that the former actually brings the truth and the condition (faith) for understanding it to human beings, whereas the Socratic teacher is only a midwife who assists persons in recollecting the truth themselves. The unnamed teacher is thus far more than a teacher, because in order to bring the truth to human beings he must first transform them, which only the god is capable of doing. The unnamed teacher, then, is the god, but he is also a saviour, deliverer, and reconciler (17). With these epithets, Climacus clearly alludes to the work of Christ in his role as redeemer, but it is primarily in Kierkegaard's later devotional writings that the redeeming work of Christ through his suffering, death, and atonement for sin is spelt out.

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