Preparation for a Christian Life 1850

“Come Here, All You Who Labor And Are Burdened, And I Will Give You Rest.” (Matthew 11, 28.) Practice in Christianity No. 1 p. 3-67 Hong tr. published by Anti-Climacus September 25, 1850 Johannes Climac denies he’s a Christian while Anti-Climacus says he’s an extraordinary Christian.

Photo by Adrien Olichon on

Anti-Climacus, Kierekgaards pseudonymous author, used the well known verse And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all to myself. John 12.32 in the previous post and now resorts to this popular Biblical verse in this section of his Practice in Christianity. He began the book using this verse and wrote about the meaning of the invitation over and over again.

Christ removes all distinctions with this invitation and leaves it up to the individual how he or she will understand the invitation.

He stands at the crossroads where death distinguished death from life, where the road of sin veers away from the hedge row of innocence and he grants a hiding place within himself, and hidden in him he will hide your sins. p. 17-20

He, the only one who is able to help and help with the one thing needful, who is able to rescue from the only, in the truest sense, life-threatening illness, he does not wait for anyone to come to him; he comes on his own initiative, uncalled — for he is indeed the one who calls to them; he offers help-and such help! p. 12

This “friend of sinners” is looking those who labor and are heavy burdened. That’s the uniqueness of the invitation. He invites everyone but at the same time he lets the individual decide if he, the single individual, does labor and is heavy burdened.

Anti-Climacus asks several questions in these essays. p. 25, 26, 31

Can one come to know something about Christ from History?
Can it be demonstrated from history that Christ was God?
Is the result of Christ’s life more important than his life?

He had asked similar questions in his 1844 book Philosophical Fragments published by Johannes Climacus. p. 7, 33, 47, 48 and in his second book Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments 1846.

How far does the Truth admit of being learned?
Johannes says, Reason has brought the God as near as possible, and yet he is as far away as ever. When the Reason is set aside he receives the condition from the Teacher himself. God gave to the disciple the condition that enables him to see him, opening for him the eyes of Faith.

Can a historical point of departure be given for an eternal consciousness; how can such a point of departure be of more than historical interest; can an eternal happiness be built on historical knowledge? p. 15 Postscript Hong tr

One generation after the other has died; new difficulties have arisen. As an inheritance from generation to generation, the illusion has persisted that the method is the correct one, but the learned research scholars have not yet succeeded. All seem to feel comfortable; they all become more and more objective. The subject’s personal, infinite, impassioned interestedness (which is the possibility of faith and then faith, the form of eternal happiness and then eternal happiness) fades away more and more because the decision is postponed as a direct result of the results of the learned research scholar. That is to say, the issue does not arise at all. Postscript p. 27

Those great historians were very busy during the centuries preceding Kierkegaard’s education (1830-1840) and the reading public was busy gaining all the knowledge that would make the period the age of reason. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel passed away in 1831 after coming up with the plan of replacing religion with philosophy which had become a higher expression of religion. He implied that the absolute consists in the identity of being and knowing, how man becomes God through cognition, or, what is the same thing, how the God in man thereby attains self- consciousness. Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pue Reason (1781) destroyed the arguments for the existence of God that had been believed since Anselm of Canterbury 1100. Edward Gibbon (1737-1794) published The History of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire from 1776-1789 in six volumes. The “learned research scholars” were adding layer after layer of new knowledge until, so it seemed to Johannes Climacus, because of much knowledge people have entirely forgotten what it means to exist and what inwardness is. Postscript p. 242

J. Climacus says, If the speculative thinker explains the paradox (that God became man) in such a way that he cancels it and now consciously knows that it is canceled, that consequently the paradox is not the essential relation of eternal essential truth to an existing person in the extremities of existence, but only an accidental relative relation to limited minds-then there is an essential difference between the speculative thinker and the simple person, whereby all existence is fundamentally confused. God is insulted by obtaining a group of hangers-on, a support staff of good minds, and humankind is vexed because there is not an equal relationship with God for all human beings.

The religious formula set forth above for the difference between the simple person’s knowledge and the simple wise person’s knowledge of the simple, that the difference is a meaningless trifle , that the wise person knows that he knows or knows that he does not know what the simple person knows-speculation does not respect the formula at all. Nor does it respect the equality implicit in the difference between the wise person and the simple person-that they know the same thing. Postscript p. 227

He’s wary of all this acquired knowledge and the use that was being made of it in the Age of Reason. Yet Christ’s invitation was still calling to all those who labor and are heavy burdened. Anti-Climacus says Christ did not allow himself to be born so that he can be examined by history rather he is making the examination of each individual from generation to generation. And he invites the simple person on the same basis as he invites the wise person. p. 34 Practice in Christianity

Now we have a variety of learned opinion, some excellent reasons in favor of Christ’s claim of being God and excellent reasons in opposition to the same proposition. Logic has entered the kingdom of God. Faith seems to have been set aside for the higher criticisms of the German schools. The quest for the historical Jesus was begun by Herman Reimarus (1694–1768) with An apology for, or some words in defense of, reasoning worshipers of God which was published as Fragments by an Anonymous Writer from 1774-1778 by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Reimarus’ friend. Reimarus was dead when the book was published so he was safe from reprisals. Anyway, the Christ of history was the hot topic of the day and has remained so to the present time.

Both Johannes Climacus (author of Philosophical Fragments 1844 and Concluding Postscript to Philosophical Fragments 1846) and Anti-Climacus (author of The Sickness Unto Death 1849 and Practice in Christianity) are dead set against the quest for the historical Jesus becoming the basis for a reasonable Christianity in Christendom. History,” says faith, “has nothing at all to do with Jesus Christ; with regard to him we have only sacred history (which is qualitatively different from history in general), which relates the story of abasement, also that he claimed to be God. Jesus is the paradox that history can never digest or convert into an ordinary syllogism. Practice in Christianity p. 30 Although an outsider, I have at least understood this much, that the only unforgivable high treason against Christianity is the single individual’s taking his relation to it for granted. I must therefore most respectfully refuse all theocentric helpers and the assistance of helper’s helpers to help me into Christianity in that way. Postscript p. 16 Let the scientific researcher labor with restless zeal, let him even shorten his life in the enthusiastic service of science and scholarship; let the speculative thinker spare neither time nor effort-they are nevertheless not infinitely, personally, impassioned interest. On the contrary, they do not want to be. Their observations will be objective, disinterested. With regard to the subject’s relation to known truth, it is assumed that if only the objective truth has been obtained, appropriation is an easy matter; it is automatically included as part of the bargain, and in the end the individual is a matter of indifference. Precisely this is the basis of the scholar’s elevated calm and the parroter’s comical thoughtlessness. 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. Postscript p. 21-22, 215

Kierkegaard, as Climacus 1 and 2, is only interested in the Inviter and the invitation.

Indeed, it is almost a kind of cunning to come in the guise of compassion in order to talk about sin. Yes, it certainly is cunning if you yourself are not fully aware that you are a sinner. If it is merely a toothache you have, or it is your house that has burned down, but it has escaped you that you are a sinner, then it is cunning. It is cunning of the inviter to say: I heal all sicknesses, and then when one comes says: I acknowledge only that there is one sickness-sin-of that and from that I heal all of those “who labor and are burdened,” all of those who labor to work themselves out of the power of sin, labor to resist evil, to overcome their weakness, but only manage to be burdened. Of this sickness he heals “all”; even if there were but one single person who turned to him on account of his sickness-he heals all. To come to him, however, on account of some other sickness, simply and solely because of it, is the same as breaking one’s leg and going to the physician who specializes in diseases of the eyes. Practice in Christianity p. 61-62 We left the religious person in the crisis of sickness; but this sickness is not unto death. Postscript p. 488

Admittance is only through the consciousness of sin; to want to enter by any other road is high treason against Christianity. The simple soul who humbly acknowledges himself to be a sinner, himself personally (the single individual), has no need at all to learn about all the difficulties that come when one’s neither simple nor humble. …. He walked the infinitely long way from being God to becoming man; he walked that way in order to seek sinners! Practice in Christianity p. 67-68, 19

Whatever a person’s transgression may be, if his guilt was so terrible that not merely he himself but humanity despaired of the possibility of its being forgiven-and yet blessed is the one who is not offended but believes that he said to the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven.” Blessed is the one who is not offended but believes-blessed victory-because faith conquers the world by conquering at every moment the enemy within one’s own inner being, the possibility of offense. Practice in Christianity p. 75

The Climacus brothers say to the single individual that it doesn’t matter how many demonstrations you can come with for the proof of the existence of God or the divinity of Christ. Blessed is he who believes that Jesus Christ lived here on earth and that he was the one he said he was, the lowly human being, yet God, the only begotten of the Father-blessed is he who knows of no one else to go to but in everything knows how to go to him.
Practice in Christianity p. 75 The immorality of our age could easily become a fantastical-ethical debilitation, the disintegration of a sensual, soft despair, in which individuals grope as in a dream for a concept of God without feeling any terror in so doing. God in the indefinite. … Let us sin, sin outright, seduce girls, murder men, rob on the highway-that at least can be repented, and God can at least catch hold of such a criminal. Let us mock God outright, this is always preferable to the debilitating importance with which one wants to demonstrate the existence of God. One demonstrates the existence of God by worship-not by demonstrations. Postscript p. 543-545

Kierkegaard complained that the theologians and the philosophers wanted to sit in Plato’s Academy and speculate about Christianity or about God or god and that was to be true religion.

The Incomprehensible By Isaac Watts  (1674–1748)

  FAR in the Heavens my God retires:        
    My God, the mark of my desires,      
And hides his lovely face;  
When he descends within my view,   
He charms my reason to pursue,    
But leaves it tir’d and fainting in th’ unequal chase.            

     Or if I reach unusual height     
Till near his presence brought,
There floods of glory check my flight,    
Cramp the bold pinions of my wit,    
And all untune my thought;    
Plunged in a sea of light I roll,   
Where wisdom, justice, mercy, shines;  
Infinite rays in crossing lines      
Beat thick confusion on my sight, and overwhelm my soul.

Great God! behold my reason lies     
Adoring: yet my love would rise
On pinions not her own:        
Faith shall direct her humble flight,  
Through all the trackless seas of light,  
To Thee, th’ Eternal Fair, the infinite Unknown.

“Come Here, All You Who Labor And Are Burdened, And I Will Give You Rest.” (Matthew 11, 28.) Are you laboring and burdened with sin? Great!

theology and philosophy

When I Am Lifted Up

Practice in Christianity by Anti-Climacus No. III
Christian Expositions p. 145ff Hong tr.

Soren Kierkegaard published this work under his pseudonym Anti-Climacus so he has Anti-Climacus ask permission to use it. This discourse was delivered by Magister Kierkegaard in Frue Church on Friday, September 1, 1848. Since it actually has given me the idea for the title, I have, with his consent, printed it. He had already told the reading public that he had published all the pseudonymous books before 1846 in his 1846 book, Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments published by Johannes Climacus – his alter-ego. It seems he kept up his pretense through the publication of this book in 1850.

I enjoyed reading this book because of the nice prayers it contains, particularly in this third section. Here are a few examples of what I’m talking about.

PRAYER Lord Jesus, there is so much to draw us back: empty achievements, meaningless pleasures, unworthy concerns. There is so much to scare us back: a pride that is too cowardly to let itself be helped, a cowardly timidity that shirks to its own ruin, an anxiety of sin that shuns the purity of holiness as illness shuns remedy. But you are still the strongest-so draw us, and even more strongly, to yourself. We call you our Savior and Redeemer, and you came to earth in order to free us from the chains in which we were bound or in which we had bound ourselves and in order to rescue the redeemed. This was your task, which you have completed and which you will complete until the end of time, for just as you yourself have said it, so will you do it: lifted up from the earth, you will draw all to yourself.  p. 151

Lord Jesus Christ, our foolish minds are weak; they are more than willing to be drawn-and there is so much that wants to draw us to itself. There is pleasure with its seductive power, the multiplicity with its bewildering distractions, the moment with its infatuating importance and the conceited laboriousness of busyness and the careless time-wasting of light-mindedness and the gloomy brooding of heavy-mindedness-all this will draw us away from ourselves to itself in order to deceive us.  But you, who are the truth, only you, Savior and Redeemer, can truly draw a person to yourself, which you have promised to do-that you will draw all to yourself.  Then may God grant that by repenting we may come to ourselves, so that you, according to your Word, can draw us to yourself-from on high, but through lowliness and abasement. P. 157

He has a good list of things that can keep us from Christ, things we can be lifted up from as we are drawn to Christ.

What keeps you from being drawn to Christ? Anti-Climacus would like to know.

Kierkegaard makes the point that this statement was made by Christ while he was still on earth in his lowliness and abasement and finds it ironic that Christ made this statement. How dare he tell this to all future generations while in such a state. Abasement belongs to Christ in the same way loftiness belongs to Him is Kierkegaard’s point. He isn’t different but the same under both conditions. There is no shadow of change in Him.

In his abasement he drew only twelve, and one of these twelve betrayed him and the others denied him. But all these thousands and millions he draws to himself from on high-they hold fast to him. Suppose that he once again attired himself in lowliness-what would the result probably be? p. 160 (Maybe a Grand Inquisitor would come :~)

Peter’s Denial

Christ said he would draw all to himself. Kierkegaard asks his characteristic question. What is a self? p. 159

He wrote much about the self in his 1849 book The Sickness Unto Death, published under the same pseudonym, Anti-Climacus.

The self relates itself to its own self in a synthesis of the infinite and the finite in a negative unity which relates itself to the relation as soul and body. Man becomes a soul. But it can also be related to a positive third term when it is “grounded transparently in the Power which posited it.” The Sickness Unto Death 1849 p. 43 Alastair Hannay tr. 1989

Kierkegaard says the magnet draws the iron to itself but the magnet is no self because a self can draw another to itself only through a choice. For a choice to come into being each human being must become a self so she or he can be drawn to the one choice, Christ, a composite and yet one and the same, the abased one and the lofty one who knew himelf to be the lofty one even when he was in his abasement. Practice in Christianity p. 160

Lord Jesus Christ! How various are the many things to which a person can feel drawn, but there is one thing to which no one ever felt naturally drawn, and that is to suffering and abasement. We human beings think that we ought to flee from that as long as possible and in ant case must be forced into it. But you, our Savior and Redeemer, you the abased one, who will not force anyone, and least of all into what must be a person’s high honor: to dare to want to be like you-would that the image of you in your abasement might stand before us so vividly, so awakening and persuasive, that we will feel ourselves drawn to you in lowliness, drawn to want to be like you in lowliness, you who from on high will draw all to yourself.  Practice in Christianity P. 167

I like Anti-Climacus’ idea of Christ as both the abased one and the lofty one who call all to himself who will allow themselves to be called and chosen.

And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all to myself. He said this to show by what death he was to die. John 12.32

That’s what the Bible says about Christ’s statement but Kierkegaard wants to understand it for the power it has for everyone just as he wanted to look into work out your faith in fear and trembling in his 1843 book Fear and Trembling published by the pseudonym Johannes de Silentio. I think he does a good job explicating one particular verse that may have become too easy for everyone to understand after two thousand and twenty years.

What do you think?

He continued to write about this statement for another hundred pages if you’d like to read them.

From The Sickness Unto Death

Preparation For A Christian Life Hollander translation 1923

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