Edifying Discourses

Soren Kierkegaard paired Either/Or with his first book with his own name on it, Two Upbuilding Discourses May 16, 1843.

If you had loved people then the earnestness of life might have taught you not to be strident but to become silent, and when you were in distress at sea and did not see land, then at least not to involve others in it; it might have taught you to smile at least as long as you believed anyone sought in your face an explanation, a witness. We do not judge you for doubting, because doubt is a crafty passion, and it can certainly be difficult to tear oneself out of its snares. What we require of the doubter that he be silent. What doubt did not make him happy-why then confide to others what will make them just as unhappy. Doubt is a deep and crafty passion.

But he whose soul is not gripped by it so inwardly that he becomes speechless is only shamming this passion, therefore what he says is not only false in itself but above all on his lips. The expectancy of faith, then, is victory. The doubt that comes from the outside does not disturb it, since it disgraces itself by speaking. Yet doubt is guileful, on secret paths it sneaks around a person, and when faith is expecting victory, doubt whispers that this expectancy is a deception. An expectancy that without a specified time and place is nothing but a deception. In that way one may always go on waiting; such an expectancy is a circle into which the soul is bewitched and from which it does not escape. In the expectancy of faith, the soul is indeed prevented from falling out of itself, as it were, into multiplicity; it remains in itself, but it would be the worst evil that could befall a person if it escaped from this cycle.

  • Søren Kierkegaard, Two Upbuilding Discourses, May 16, 1843

His first discourse was The Expectancy of Faith.

  • Galatians, 3: 23 to the end.

Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law. You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. The Bible – NIV

The second was Every Good and Every Perfect Gift is From Above.

  • James 1:17-22 The text for this Discourse.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. The Bible – NIV

“Did you say to yourself, “I do understand the apostolic words, all right, but I also understand that I am too cowardly, or too proud, or too lazy to want to understand them properly”? Did you admonish yourself? Even if this seems to be a hard saying, did you consider that also the timid person has a faithless heart and is no honest lover?

Did you bear in mind that there is a judgment also upon the disheartened. But the humble heart does not come to judgment? Did you bear in mind that also the mournful person does not love God with his whole heart, but the person who is joyous in God has overcome the world? Did you at least keep watch over yourself? Did you keep the apostolic words holy?

Did you treasure them in a pure and beautiful heart and refuse to be ransomed for any price or any wily bribe on the part of prudence, from the deep pain of having to confess again and again that you never loved as you were loved? That you were faithless when God was faithful; that you were lukewarm when he was ardent; that he sent good gifts that you perverted to your own detriment; that he inquired about you but that you would not answer; that he called to you but you would not listen; that he spoke cordially to you but you ignored it; that he spoke earnestly to you but you misunderstood it; that he fulfilled your wish and for thanks you brought new wishes; that he fulfilled your wish but you had made the wrong wish and were quick to anger?

Have you really felt how sad it is that you need so many words to describe your relation to God? Have you in this way at least been honest toward yourself and toward your God in your relation to him? Have you not postponed the accounting; have you not preferred to be ashamed of yourself in your solitude? Have you been prompt in enduring the pain of the accounting; have you borne in mind that he loved you first? Have you been quick to judge for yourself that he should not continue to love you while you were slow to love in return?

If you have done this, then probably you will now and then win the courage to give thanks even when what happens is strange in your eyes, the courage to understand that every good and every perfect gift is from above, the courage to explain it in love, the faith to receive this courage, since it, too, is a good and perfect gift.”
Soren Kierkegaard, Two Upbuilding Discourses (Every Good and Every Perfect Gift is From Above) from Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses Hong translation p. 44

Soren Kierkegaard liked to ask questions and hoped his reader would consider them as directed to him or her own self instead of applying them to others. And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man. 2 Samuel 12:7

Kierkegaard came to “hope that no one would retain their sins even though they have been forgiven. And by the same token that no one who truly believed in the forgiveness of sin would live their own life as an objection against the existence of forgiveness.”

     Soren Kierkegaard Works of Love, Hong p. 380 (1847) Concluding Unscientific Postscript, Hong p. 226ff, Sickness Unto Death, Hannay p. 154ff (1849)

Kierkegaard looked for the single individual who would be willing to read his books.

Although this little book (which is called “discourses,” not sermons, because its author does not have authority to preach, “upbuilding discourses,” not discourses for upbuilding, because the speaker by no means claims to be a teacher) wishes to be only what it is, a superfluity, and desires only to remain in hiding, just as it came into existence in concealment, I nevertheless have not bidden it farewell without an almost fantastic hope.

Inasmuch as in being published it is in a figurative sense starting a journey, I let my eyes follow it for a little while. I saw how it wended its way down solitary paths or walked solitary on public roads. After a few little mistakes, through being deceived by a fleeting resemblance, it finally met that single individual whom I with joy and gratitude call my reader, that single individual it is seeking, to whom, so to speak, it stretches out it’s arms, that single individual who is favorably enough disposed to allow himself to be found, favorably enough disposed to receive it, whether at the time of the encounter it finds him cheerful and confident or “weary and pensive,”

–On the other hand, inasmuch as in being published it actually remains quiet without moving from the spot, I let my eyes rest on it for a little while. It stood there like a humble little flower under the cover of the great forest, sought neither for its splendor nor its fragrance nor its food value. But I also saw, or thought I saw, how the bird I call my reader suddenly noticed it, flew down to it, picked it, and took it home, and when I had seen this, I saw no more. Copenhagen, May 5, 1843 Preface p. 5
  Soren Kierkegaard, Two Upbuilding Discourses 1843.

Some think this “reader” is Regine Olsen, who was his fiance, but I doubt that. Read Journals & Papers of Søren Kierkegaard IIA 11 August 1838 as well as Journals & Papers of Søren Kierkegaard IIIA 166

Soren and Regine 2
Soren Kierkegaard and Regine Olsen

Soren Kierkegaard

Baron Montesquieu wrote about the inner and outer knowledge of truths in his Persian Letters.


Our modern life, broken up into particles by the search after pleasure, and destitute of any great, active aims to unite mind and matter, is enough, without further cause, to make every one live within himself, and forget the universe until some shock to his nerves of feeling painfully reminds him of his existence. If any men of the present age are of a poetical nature, life quickly becomes a desert to them, in whose undulating air, as in that of other deserts, objects appear both wavering and gigantic. If they are of a philosophical disposition, they fancy the ideal garden-ladder against which they lean to be a fruit-tree, its dead steps living branches, and mounting them to be gathering fruit. Hence self-destruction soon follows the philosophical destruction of the world. Hence there are more lunatics and fewer poets than formerly: the philosopher and the madmen ceaselessly point with the left-hand index finger to the right hand, and cry out “Object, – Subject!”

Levana; or, The doctrine of education p. 368 by Jean Paul, 1763-1825

Jean Paul Richter

Take, for instance, Henrik Ibsen’s tragedy, “Ghosts.” This earnest and profound play was at first almost unanimously denounced as an immoral publication. Ibsen’s next work, “An Enemy of the People,” describes, as is well known, the ill-treatment received by a doctor in a little seaside town when he points out the fact that the baths for which the town is noted are contaminated. The town does not want such a report spread; it is not willing to incur the necessary expensive reparation, but elects instead to abuse the doctor, treating him as if he and not the water were the contaminating element. The play was an answer to the reception given to “Ghosts,” and when we perceive this fact we read it in a new light. We ought, then, preferably to read so as to comprehend the connection between an author’s books.

We ought to read, too, so as to grasp the connection between an author’s own books and those of other writers who have influenced him, or on whom he himself exerts an influence. Pause a moment over “An Enemy of the People,” and recollect the stress laid in that play upon the majority who as a majority are almost always in the wrong, against the emancipated individual, in the right; recollect the concluding reply about the strength that comes from standing alone.

If the reader, struck by the force and singularity of these thoughts, were to trace whether they had previously been enunciated in Scandinavian books, he would find them expressed with quite fundamental energy through-out the writings of Sören Kierkegaard, and he would discern a connection between Norwegian and Danish literature, and observe how an influence from one country was asserting itself in the other. Thus, by careful reading, we reach through a book to the man behind it, to the great intellectual cohesion in which he stands, and to the influence which he in his turn exerts.

Of course this mode of reading is not for everyone. As a matter of fact only those who are critically inclined pursue it. On the other hand, everyone can read in such a manner as to deduce the moral lesson contained in what he reads.
On Reading; An Essay by Georg Brandes 1906

SK ibsen and brandes

everlasting gospel

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