A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Soren Kierkegaard: Postmodern Prophet #3

3. The Purpose of SK's Attack Upon Christendom

What was it the Soren wanted to achieve in his scathing attack upon the Danish Lutheran Church?

First, he wanted the church to face the truth about itself. When there is a weakness in the life of the church, then the church must confess it. Honesty over against false motives was essential.

Second, SK wanted the DLC to face the truth of the Gospel. Two quotes will suffice:

We are assembled in a magnificent cathedral. His lordship, the right reverend count preacher, adorned with may titles, the chosen favorite of the highest circles of society, steps forward to preach. Standing before a chosen circle of the elite, he preaches under stress of deep feeling upon a text he himself has selected: 'God had chosen the base things that are of the world and the things that are despised.' And nobody laughs.

In short, for SK, the church does not practice what it preaches:

The story is told of a Swedish clergyman, that, upset by seeing the emotional effect of his sermon upon his auditors, who were flooded with tears, he said to quiet them: 'Do not weep my children, it might all be a lie.' Why does the preacher omit to say this nowadays? It is not necessary; we all know it, for we are all preachers. We do indeed weep; and both the tears of the preacher and our own may be quite sincere and heart-felt, in no way hypocritical-- precisely as in the theatre!'

Perhaps the main substance of SK's attack is epitomized in the Journals in a story called "The Domestic Goose: A Moral Tale." In the tale Soren talks about a flock of geese who went to church to worship every Sunday. Essentially the sermon was the same every week. The goose minister would talk about geese and the glorious destiny that was in store for them. The Creator had made them to fly and this was indeed quite a noble thing. Every time the Maker's name was mentioned, the geese curtsied and the ganders bowed their heads. They were to fly to distant pastures because while on this earth they were merely sojournors.

Of course, all this talk of flying was not taken seriously. In fact, the geese were so well fed that they lost the ability to fly a long time ago. They were too fat to fly. Ironically, the geese believed the reason their plumpness was God's blessing upon them. There were some geese among them who indeed attempted to fly. This was not easy for them; and they were looked upon the majority as strange and fanatical.

So next Sunday all the geese went to church againt to hear the same glorious sermon about the glorious and noble destiny they had as those who could fly. And after the sermon, as after all the sermons, the geese said, "Amen!" Then they all waddled home. "And the same is true," says, SK, "of divine worship in Christianity."

So how does Soren's attack upon Christendom speak to us today? We will discuss that, but first we must critique his attack in the next post.


Anonymous said...


I wonder what kind of doctrine of eccesiology Kierkegaard may have had. I'm assuming, though, that his concern was not that, but with reference to his perception of the gospel of Jesus and the church missing that(?)>

Seems like the DLC held to the form of godliness while denying its power (like the good ole "justification by faith"- some of those who think adherence to a doctrine like that is enough, may be among the very hardest to reach with the truth in Jesus). And deceived in thinking they were in. I wonder how nominal the church in his day was. Must have been pretty much so if the clergy themselves were not really following Christ(?).


Allan R. Bevere said...


You are right. It seems to me that two things are important here. First, SK was dealing with a church that had lost its counter-cultural element. Second, as I will indicate in my next post, his attack, at times is somewhat unfair and too harsh.

Anonymous said...

I [too] Leap for Kierkegaard.