Whether help or torment

Whether help or torment, I will one thing only, I will belong to Christ, I will be a Christian!

– Kierkegaard

Whether help or torment.

There is no doubt that in coming to Christ, one is helped. Jesus said himself, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink!” (John 7:37). It is a wonderful thing, that Christ would fulfil the longings of our hearts by the very presence of God living within human hearts. What a blessing! What a fulfilment! This miracle that we could be restored to all that we were meant to be!

And yet, this living water is tainted by the stain of suffering. In coming to Christ in our thirst we expose ourselves to mockery and derision. We came to Christ for help, for healing and then the opposite occurs: We suffer. What was the point? Why did we come? “The help appears to be an affliction, and relief a burden”. It is madness.

It is not even as though this suffering grants us access to the living water. Jesus offers it without condition! Anyone may come! So the suffering is pointless, it earns us nothing. We suffer on account of the one who gives the water.

Why would anyone be a Christian? What is the point?

This is one of the questions Kierkegaard frames in his writing. It is a good question, for man’s natural inclination is to weigh up the pros and cons of a decision and act in such a way that he can perceive the greatest return for his labour.

For the Christian, in this life, there is no return for the labour. There is toil. “To relegate a whole life to suffering, to immolation, is for the understanding mere madness.” So to take Jesus up on his offer is insane.

Why drink the water if there is nothing but suffering on it’s account?

It is illogical, irrational.

Yet there must be something for which a person will endure? It is not a thing of this world, a thing of understanding, otherwise everyone would be a Christian. It is a thing outside of the experiential. A thing which will cause a person to will one thing. Something more desirable than the things of this world, than the fruits of labour or enjoyable things in this place.

What is it?

Wherefore would one be a Christian?

There is no wherefore. “Then it is madness,” says the understanding. There is no wherefore, because there is an infinite wherefore.

And here ends the rational. There is no reason to believe in the infinite and therefore no reason to be a Christian. Yet one can believe the infinite and believing the infinite, will to belong to Christ. Will to be a Christian. Will, therefore, to endure derision and persecution on account of Christ.

One meets Christ and is helped, yet on his account is tormented. For me it is evidence of rebirth that a person can desire the infinite in spite of this. There can be no other reason to believe.


Add yours →

  1. Have you read Paul. As far as I am concerned – I count it only joy to be persecuted for Christ – how wonderful and glorious to share in his suffering.

    There can be no other reason to believe???? what about how much I am loved, what about how glorious eternity with God which starts now is.

    What is a mere seventy years of suffering compared to an eternity of joy?


    • However faith defies the understanding: There is no logical reason to believe in the eternal, which Christians are promises. We must have faith that such a thing exists. The Christian life makes no sense to those who don’t have faith. That was Kierkegaard’s point.

      70 years of suffering is a very long time if you don’t believe in the infinite reward.


      • Haven’t you heard, Ian? For our generation they estimate 80 will be, on average, the new 70 – yippee!

        I defy the notion that if one doesn’t believe in an eternal reward the default state of being is suffering (if that’s what you meant). From my position, the only thing to wish for in life is to have more of it (read: ‘life’ as the type we have at the moment, not any afterlife).

        Still, I certainly agree with Kierkegaard’s characterisation of there being no logical reason to believe in the eternal, and that faith is the only way to rationalise yourself to the position of believing in it.

        Yay for the ongoing Kierkegaard posts!


      • Kierkegaard doesn’t seem to advocate that without belief in the Eternal, there is only suffering. Quite the opposite. The unbeliever will be quite happy in this life whilst it is the Christian who exposes himself to misery, with faith in an ‘infinite wherefore’. He is stating that Christianity is no pragmatic philosophy.


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