Soren Kierkegaard was born in Denmark in 1813 and was a baptized member of the Lutheran State Church of Denmark. He died in 1855 as the State was considering loosening some of the restrictions imposed on citizens. All were required to be baptized in the early 1800’s later people were given the choice to decide for themselves and their children. They were also allowed to attend the church of their choice, however, all had to pay the State church tax. What if individuals were given a choice? Do individuals know “how” to make a choice?
“Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
Joshua 24:14-15 The Bible
If order is to be maintained in existence — and that after all is what God wills, for He is not a God of confusion — first and foremost it must be remembered that every man is an individual man, is himself conscious of being an individual man. If once men are permitted to coalesce into what Aristotle calls “the multitude,” a characteristic of beasts, this abstraction (instead of being regarded as less than nothing, as in fact it is, less than the lowliest individual man) will be regarded as something, and no long time will elapse before this abstraction becomes God.
Soren Kierkegaard, The Sickness Unto Death 1849, p. 151 Hannay
When around one everything has become silent, solemn as a clear, starlit night, when the soul comes to be alone in the whole world, then before one there appears, not an extraordinary human being, but the eternal power itself, then the heavens open, and the I chooses itself or, more correctly, receives itself. Then the personality receives the accolade of knighthood that ennobles it for an eternity.
His self is, so to speak, outside him, and it has to be acquired, and repentance is his love for it, because he chooses it absolutely from the hand of God. What I have expressed here is not academic wisdom; it is something every person can express if he wants to, something every person can will if he so wills.
Soren Kierkegaard, Either/Or II 1843 p. 177, 217 Hong
Lucian of Samosata was a Syrian who lived from 125-200 AD according some accounts. He wrote about a dream he had in his youth when his parents had chosen a career for him in statuary. Two women, one a working woman and the other beautiful and neat, were holding his hands, each trying to break him free from the other. The first identified herself as Statuary who promised a settled life where he would never be in want. The other told him he would see the wonders of the world and read the works of ancient authors. All will pay attention to him because he has gone with culture rather than statuary. Lucian made a decision and decided not to follow the family busisness. He went with Culture and traveled abroad sowing seeds but unable to tell what kind of seeds they was sowing.
Lucian of Samosota – Works Vol 1
There is a contrast of primary significance between Augustine and Pelagius. The former crushes everything in order to rebuild it again. The other addresses himself to man as he is.
The first system, therefore, in respect to Christianity, falls into three stages: creation – the fall and a consequent condition of death and impotence; a new creation – whereby man is placed in a position where he can choose; and then, if he chooses – Christianity.
The other system addresses itself to man as he is (Christianity fits into the world). From this is seen the significance of the theory of inspiration for the first system; from this also is seen the relationship between the synergistic and the semipelagian conflict. It is the same question, only that the syngeristic struggle has its presupposition in the new creation of the Augustinian system.
Soren Kierkegaard’s Journals and Papers, Volume 1 Hong translation 1967 p. 14-15 1 A 101 January 14, 1837
Each individual has to choose and decide what it is he or she wants to do, wills to believe, wills to act upon, and according to the philosopher Immanuel Kant there is an imperative in the will to act.
He says: “The notion of duty stands in immediate relation to a law (even though I abstract from every end which is the matter of the law); as is shown by the formal principle of duty in the categorical imperative:
“Act so that the maxims of thy action might become a universal law.”
But in ethics this is conceived as the law of thy own will, not of will in general, which might be that of others; for in the latter case it would give rise to a judicial duty which does not belong to the domain of ethics. In ethics, maxims are regarded as those subjective laws which merely have the specific character of universal legislation, which is only a negative principle (not to contradict a law in general). How, then, can there be further a law for the maxims of actions?
The Metaphysical Elements of Ethics by Immanuel Kant 1724-1804
And what is this Good? It is a clear and flawless mind, which rivals that of God, raised far above mortal concerns, and counting nothing of its own to be outside itself. You are a reasoning animal. What Good, then, lies within you? Perfect reason.
Moral letters to Lucilius/Letter 124 by Lucius Annaeus Seneca 4-65BC
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel saw Napoleon and noted that something new was happening. He expressed it this way in one of his books.
“Mind defining itself in itself, as an independent subject—the object treated by Psychology. In the Soul is the awaking of Consciousness: Consciousness sets itself up as Reason, awaking at one bound to the sense of its rationality: and this Reason by its activity emancipates itself to objectivity and the consciousness of its intelligent unity. …. truth is the fully and really existent universality and objectivity of self-consciousness,—which is Reason. …. that Reason is in history—will be partly at least a plausible faith, partly it is a cognition of philosophy. …. Kant has on the whole adopted the most correct, when he treats belief in God as proceeding from the practical Reason.”
Philosophy of Mind 1807 by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel 1770-1831
Alexander the Great was great because he cut the Gordian Knot of peace established by Gordias the Phytrgian. Alexander unraveled it and became Master of Asia. Aristotle was his teacher.
The deification of the established order is the secularization of everything. With regard to secular matters, the established order may be entirely right: one should join the established order, be satisfied with that relativity, etc. But ultimately the relationship with God is also secularized; we want it to coincide with a certain relativity, do not want it to be something essentially different from our positions in life – rather than that it shall be the absolute for every individual human being and this, the individual person’s God-relationship, shall be precisely what keeps every established order in suspense, and that God, at any moment he chooses, if he merely presses upon an individual in his relationship with God, promptly has a witness, an informer, a spy, or whatever you want to call it, one who in unconditional obedience and with unconditional obedience, by being persecuted, by suffering, by dying, keeps the established order in suspense.
When an individual appeals to his relationship with God over against the established order that has deified itself, it does indeed seem as if he were making himself more than human. But he is not doing that at all, for he admits, after all, that every human being, unconditionally every person, has and is to have for his part the same relationship with God.
Just as little as someone who says that he is in love thereby denies that someone else is in love, so even less does such an individual deny that the others, but as individuals, have a relationship with God. But the established order will not put up with consisting of something as loose as a collection of millions of individuals, each of whom has his relationship with God.
Soren Kierkegaard, Practice in Christianity (1850) p. 91 Hong
I Johannes Climacus, now thirty years old, born in Copenhagen, a plain, ordinary human being like most people have heard it said that there is a highest good in store that is called an eternal happiness, and that Christianity conditions this upon a person’s relation to it.
Climacus says, “Suppose that Christianity does not at all want to be understood; suppose that, in order to express this and to prevent anyone, misguided, from taking the road of objectivity, it has proclaimed itself to be the paradox. Suppose that it wants to be only for existing persons and essentially for persons existing in inwardness, in the inwardness of faith, which cannot be expressed more definitely than this: it is the absurd, adhered to firmly with the passion of the infinite. Suppose that Christianity does not want to be understood and that the maximum of any eventual understanding is to understand that it cannot be understood. Suppose that it so decisively accentuates existing that the single individual becomes a sinner, Christianity the paradox, and existence the time of decision. Suppose that speculating is a temptation, the most precarious of all. Objective faith-it is indeed as if Christianity has also been proclaimed as a little system of sorts, although presumably not as good as the Hegelian system. It is as if Christ-it is not my fault that I say it-as if Christ had been a professor and as if the apostles had formed a little professional society of scholars.”
(Johannes Climacus, Concluding Unscientific Postscript, Edited by Soren Kierkegaard 1846, Hong 1992, P. 214-215, 617)
It is true that in the confessional it is the pastor who preaches; but the true preacher is still the secret-sharer in your inner being. The pastor can preach only in vague generalities; the preacher in your inner being is just the opposite; he speaks simply and solely about you, to you, and within you.
Two Discourses at the Communion on Fridays by Soren Kierkegaard August 7, 1851 Hong translation 1997 (From Without Authority) P. 183
But what is it, then, that I choose-is it this or that? No, for I choose absolutely and I choose absolutely precisely by having chosen not to choose this or that. I choose the absolute, and what is the absolute? It is myself in my eternal validity. If what I chose did not exist but came into existence absolutely through the choice, then I did not choose-then I created. But I do not create myself-I choose myself.
The Either/Or I erected between living esthetically and living ethically is not an unqualified dilemma, because it actually is a matter of only one choice. Through this choice, I actually choose between good and evil, but I choose the good, I choose eo ipso the choice between good and evil. The original choice is forever present in every succeeding choice.
Soren Kierkegaard, Either/Or Vol 2 p. 214-216, 219
When the bustler wastes his time and powers in the service of the futile, inconsequential pursuits, is that not because he has not learned rightly to love himself? When the light-minded person throws himself almost like a nonentity into the folly of the moment and makes nothing of it, is this not because he does not know how to love himself rightly?
When the depressed person desires to be rid of life, indeed of himself, is this not because he is unwilling to learn earnestly and rigorously to love himself? When someone surrenders to despair because the world or another person has faithlessly left him betrayed, what then is his fault (his innocent suffering is not referred to here) except not loving himself in the right way? When someone self-tormentingly thinks to do God a service by torturing himself, what is his sin except not willing to love himself in the right way?
And if, alas, a person presumptuously lays violent hands upon himself, is not his sin precisely this, that he does not rightly love himself in the sense in which a person ought to love himself? Oh, there is a lot of talk in the world about treachery, and faithlessness, and, God help us, it is unfortunately all too true, but still let us never because of this forget that the most dangerous traitor of all is the one every person has within himself.
This treachery whether it consists in selfishly loving oneself or consists in selfishly not willing to love oneself in the right way – this treachery is admittedly a secret. No cry is raised as it usually is in the case of treachery and faithlessness. But is it not therefore all the more important that Christianity’s doctrine should be brought to mind again and again, that a person shall love his neighbor as himself, that is, as he ought to love himself? … You shall love – this, then is the word of the royal Law.
Soren Kierkegaard, Works of Love 1847 p. 22-24
My dear reader, if you do not have the time and opportunity to take a dozen years of your life to travel around the world to see everything a world traveler is acquainted with, if you do not have the capability and qualifications from years of practice in a foreign language to penetrate to the differences in national characteristics as these become apparent to the research scholar, if you are not bent upon discovering a new astronomical system that will displace both the Copernican and the Ptolemaic-then marry; and if you have time for the first, the capability for the second, the idea for the last, then marry also. Even if you did not manage to see the whole globe or to speak in many tongues or to know all about the heavens, you will not regret it, for marriage is and remains the most important voyage of discovery a human being undertakes; compared with a married man’s knowledge of life, any other knowledge of it is superficial, for he and he alone has properly immersed himself in life.
— Søren Kierkegaard, Judge Vilhelm, Stages on Life’s Way, Hong p. 89