Christianity is an Existence Communication

Kierkegaard did not consider himself to be a theologian but only 'a singular kind of poet and thinker' who wrote 'without authority' (WA 165). Like Luther, he did not claim to teach anything new but sought 'once again to read through, if possible in a more inward way, the original text of individual human existence-relationships, the old familiar text handed down from the fathers'(165; cf. CUP i. 629-30).1 While basically affirming and reflecting orthodox Lutheran theology in his authorship, Kierkegaard placed his stamp of original interpretation on a number of Christian doctrines and concepts. In his many works, composed in the short span of little more than a decade, he also mounted a devastating theological critique of the prevailing philosophical, theological, ecclesiastical, cultural, and sociopolitical ideologies and structures of his time, which in his view had severely compromised, confused, changed, and virtually abolished true Christianity. Seeking to reintroduce Christianity into Christendom, a term that encompasses all of these aspects of the Christian religion as a historical phenomenon, Kierkegaard maintained that Christianity is not a doctrine but an 'existence-communication' (JP i. 187, 484, 517, 676, 1060; iii. 3748; vi. 6528). By this he meant that what Christianity seeks to communicate to individuals is not knowledge about Christianity, although some preliminary information must first be imparted, but an inward capability for existing authentically through a relation to God or the eternal in time in the form of an individual human being, Jesus Christ (JP i. 650-3, 657).

At first blush, this conception of Christianity would seem to throw the whole enterprise of theology into question, for if Christianity is essentially a matter of inwardness or subjectivity, how do we legitimately go about thinking Christianly, or thinking theologically in a Christian manner, without misunderstanding and misrepresenting Christianity? Kierkegaard's answer is: by becoming subjective thinkers rather than objective theologians; by thinking dialectically in the self-referential form of'double reflection' or inward appropriation of one's thought; by engaging in theological reflection with an eye towards its meaning for one's own existence; by reflecting on the 'what' of Christianity in the interest of 'how' to become a

Christian. This is the way Kierkegaard himself went about thinking Chris-tianly and sought to communicate the content of his theological reflection to others. If we are to engage his thought in an appropriate manner, then, we must likewise orient our thinking in the existential mode or subjective context within which Kierkegaard understood Christianity. This involves not only taking cognizance of the subjective nature of Christianity but also thinking theologically along with him in the inward, dialectical, self-referential manner indicated above. As Hegel, in a surprisingly Kierkegaar-dian manner, puts it, we must 'go into the water'.2 To do otherwise is to miss the whole point of Kierkegaard's existential mode of thinking Christianly.

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