Imitation Versus Admiration Of Christ

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In the present age, especially in Protestantism, Kierkegaard contends that the prototype has become so far removed from the single individual that 'it has become merely an idea of the race', with the result that 'it never occurs to him in the remotest way to want to strive toward likeness' (JP ii. 1873; cf. 1904). Imitation or following after Christ thus has been done away with and replaced with aesthetic admiration of him, as in Kant's view (JP ii. 1895). The person specifically indicted for bringing about a 'fundamental change' in established Christendom in Denmark, particularly with regard to the proclamation of Christian truth in preaching, is Bishop Myn-ster, whose sermons or 'observations' are interpreted by Anti-Climacus as encouraging the listener to become an admirer rather than an imitator of Christ (PC 233-57). The difference between these two ways of relating to Christ, as Anti-Climacus sees it, is this: 'An imitator is or strives to be what he admires', whereas 'an admirer keeps himself personally detached, consciously or unconsciously does not discover that what is admired involves a claim upon him, to be or at least to strive to be what is admired' (241). While there are many things that properly may be admired, such as beauty wealth, talent, great achievements, masterpieces of art, and good fortune, and that involve no obligation of imitation on our part, Anti-Climacus contends that admiration is 'totally inappropriate' in relation to the ethical, which requires self-reflection and reduplication of the universally human

69 Barrett (2002: 105) identifies the imitation of Christ in Kierkegaard's theology as 'the functional equivalent of the third use of the law' in Lutheran doctrine in that it serves as 'a stimulus and guide for the good works that are the fruit of faith'. Contra this interpretation, see Hall (2002: 16-22). See also The Book of Concord (2000: 502-3).

in one's existence (242). The admiration of Christ in Christendom is even more strongly denounced by Anti-Climacus as a lie, deceit, sin, and paganism, especially as it is expressed in Christian art, which promotes artistic indifference in the artist and viewers and turns the suffering of Christ into money and admiration for the artist (243, 254-6). Although Anti-Climacus does not want to be judgemental towards art, even admitting that the abolition of Christianity in Christendom will soon have gone so far that 'people must make use of art in the most various ways to help get Christendom to show at least some sympathy with Christianity', he is convinced that the most art can do is to elicit admiration of Christ, whereas 'only the imitator is the true Christian' (254-6). To speak of imitation, however, is already to anticipate the subject of the next chapter—Kierkegaard's view of the Christian life—to which I shall now turn.

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