I seem to have spent forever getting through Training in Christianity by Kierkegaard but I think it’s worthwhile. Definitely one of the toughest books I’ve read, though actually a little more readable than Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship. Why can’t all my favourite thinkers write in English?
One of the things I’ve been enjoying about Kierkegaard is the way he describes the process of becoming a Christian. The opening chapters of his book describe how Christ calls all men to turn to him, how Christ pursues them, beckoning them to return at every point.
Come hither, all ye–and thou, and thou…and thou, too, most solitary of all fugitives!
And so Kierkegaard tells us that Christ calls people to repent, but also he speaks of an individual’s sense of being drawn. Reflecting on the prayer “Lord, draw me entirely to Thee,” S.K says the one who makes this prayer must “already feel himself drawn”. Indeed he actually makes this statement before the congregation, as it comes from a manuscript of a sermon he gave before a Communion service (I found it amusing that he referred to his own sermon as short., due to the Lord’s Supper being shared that day. He really went on for a long time. I wonder how long sermons normally were at his home church?). He makes his statement to the church, that those who were there must have been there because they had been drawn by Christ.
For he will not entice all to Himself, He will draw all to himself
A person does not partake of the bread and the cup, and one has no fellowship with Christ and his Church, because he sees therein something worthwhile. That is, there is nothing which looks appealing to a person about the prospect of knowing Jesus or living in union with him. In Kierkegaard’s time (first half of the 19th century) was an age of scientific development, enlightenment and ideological optimism. There were fewer and fewer reasons to believe in God, because more compelling answers to the great questions of nature and life had been discovered. At this time Humanism was still seen as a development of Christianity, in that God was deconstructed to represent the greatest aspirations of the human being.
Philosophically, morally and sociologically there were fewer and fewer reasons to be a Christian, to be part of the Church and to be religious.
There was nothing to entice a person towards the faith. And of course the ‘seeker friendly’ movement had not yet been born thus no gimmicks to entice people either. No, nothing to that would cause a person to desire the things of Christ, for who would desire to suffer? To be persecuted on account of truth?
It is this which will cause a person to be offended. Though a person is drawn, they might yet turn their face away from Jesus because they cannot accept that the truth should be so mocked and derided, that glory should look so humble.
Christ in the highest glory of heaven draws all to himself, yet in our eyes we see only the cruelty of the crucifixion. S.K gives the analogy that the stars in heaven look to be below the earth when we look out onto the sea.
He will draw all to Himself–draw them to Himself, for He would entice no one. To draw to Himself truly, means in one sense to repel men.
Anyone can love the glorified and resurrected Christ. Anyone can love this hero, who triumphs over death. Nobody loves the failed revolutionary who hangs on the cross. Yet Christian faith is at once Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday.
For Kierkegaard–and I think he’s spot on–there is nothing in Christianity to make a person desire it. Yet people find themselves drawn to it. There is no gain for us, only the promise of gain. And even that gain is Christ, not money, status or success.
S.K. gives far more reasons not to be a Christian than reasons to believe. Yet he believed. And I believe.
It is a mystery that Christ draws all, yet some see him and are offended and some see him and have faith.
Even Kierkegaard doesn’t answer this question.
I think within this sense of being drawn is a clue to the existence of God. For, what is this thing which draws people to do that which is not only unnatural but also illogical and painful?