The Goal Of Christian Reflection

The existence of the Christian subjective thinker in relation to the Christian paradox is thus placed both ethically and cognitively in contradiction. These dialectical contradictions must be deeply reflected upon in an existential manner by the Christian subjective thinker. One must exercise the 'passion of thought' to grasp the dialectical difficulties, but also 'concentrated passion' for the task of existing in what one has understood (CUP i. 386). For Climacus, then, the goal of Christian reflection or theology is not to acquire a higher intellectual understanding of the Christian paradox but to understand that one cannot understand it. This every person can do, whether one has little or much intellectual ability. There is no advantage on the side of intellect; in fact, in his view greater difficulty exists for those who are clever than for those who are not, for the temptation to rely on the understanding and to be reluctant to give it up is stronger in the intellectually gifted (181-2). The primary difficulty for every individual consists not in possessing or acquiring the intellectual ability to engage in dialectical thought but in gaining and exercising concentrated passion for

23 See Burgess (1994), who points out that Kierkegaard does not distinguish between understanding and reason like Kant and Hegel but generally uses them synonymously to refer to what David Swenson has described as 'the reflectively organized common sense of mankind' (117).

24 On the relation of the absolute paradox to nonsense see Lippitt (2000) and Rudd (2000) versus Weston (1999); Conant (1993); Mulhall (1994: 37-52).

existing as a Christian. For the dialectical difficulties posed by Christianity are not abstract-intellectual in character but existential contradictions that cut across the grain of ordinary reason or common sense. Moreover, it is not by reflection but only after reflection that one becomes a Christian. There is no direct transition to faith or Christian subjectivity either pathetically or reflectively. If the transition occurs, it transpires by way of a leap, through a resolution or decision of the will that brings reflection to an end. Climacus thus perceives the development of Christian subjectivity to be both pathos-filled and dialectical, requiring passion and reflection. At the conclusion of the Postscript he states: 'Since the highest is to become and to continue to be a Christian, the task cannot be to reflect on Christianity but can only be to intensify by means of reflection the pathos with which one continues to be a Christian. That is what this whole book has been about' (CUP i. 607).

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