The State Church As A Toxic Junk Heap

Indeed, Kierkegaard holds the state responsible for providing materially for those with whom it has contracted in the event of a church-state separation, which he now regards as necessary: 'The question about what Christianity is, including in turn the question about the state Church, the people's Church, which they now want to call it, the amalgamation or alliance of Church and state, must be brought to the most extreme decision. It cannot and must not go on as it did year after year under the old bishop' (TM 53, 75, 164). Whereas earlier Kierkegaard had sought to defend the established order, or more accurately, to urge it to defend itself by confessing its distance from the Christian requirements and thus resorting to grace, he now finds the established order to be utterly indefensible: 'I have completely made up my mind on two things: both that the established order is Christianly indefensible, that every day it lasts it is Christianly a crime; and that in this way one does not have the right to draw on grace' (70). Graphically describing the state church as a toxic 'junk heap' in which 'the religious life is sick or has expired', he concludes that it must be got rid of, along with the royally authorized 'quacks' who pose as physicians of the soul (158).

The fundamental problem with a state church, as Kierkegaard had perceived all along, is that it confuses royal authority with divine authority. He admits that 'a Christian is to be, if possible, His Majesty's best subject. But, Christianly, the king is not the authority; he is not and cannot and shall not and will not be the authority in relation to a kingdom that at no price wants to be of this world' (TM 113). The problem becomes particularly acute with respect to ordination, through which the clergy receives divine authority from a kingdom that is not of this world, leading Kierkegaard to ask: 'can one be a royally authorized teacher of Christianity, can Christianity (the Christianity of the New Testament) be proclaimed by royally authorized teachers, can the sacraments be administered by them, or does this involve a self-contradiction' (57, cf. 147, 150)? The implied answer, of course, is that it does involve a self-contradiction, which can be resolved only by removing the enormous illusion that Christianity and the state are fused together. In Kierkegaard's view, however, that must be done by the state, which alone has the power to remove it, since pastors serve the state and are not in a position to tell the congregation what Christianity really is without resigning their state offices. The state should therefore release the clergy from one or the other of their oaths swearing loyalty to the New Testament and loyalty to the state as royal officeholders. Kierkegaard's preference was for the state to eliminate the 1,000 royal livelihoods and let the proclamation of Christianity become strictly a matter of private practice, which in his view is 'the only true Christian requirement' as well as 'the only reasonable one' (151, 153). However, since the state had 'enticed' and 'seductively beckoned' young and inexperienced theological graduates to become royal officeholders, tempting them with the promise ofa comfortable life, it had the responsibility to provide for them financially in the event that they resigned from office or the 1,000 livelihoods were eliminated (164).

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