Present Moment 1855

What I really need is to get clear about what I must do, not what I must know. Kierkegaard’s Journal 1A 75 1835

“Now that I am to work in the present moment I must, alas! say farewell to thee, beloved remoteness, where there was no necessity to hurry, but always plenty of time, where I could wait for hours and days and weeks for the proper expression to occur to me; whereas now I must break with all such regards of tender love.” (Soren Kierkegaard, The Present Moment (April 20, 1855)- From The Attack Upon Christendom

Soren Kierkegaard was willing to work. He made it a habit to walk the streets of Copenhagen and was willing to talk to anyone he met. It didn’t matter if the individual was a professor, priest, maidservant, or butcher. He spoke to them all. When not out walking he was at home writing.

His main concern was about becoming a Christian. He put it this way in his Conlcuding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments (1846)

“While everyone is busy with learnedly defining and speculatively understanding Christianity, one never sees the question “What is Christianity?” presented in such a way that one discovers that the person asking about is asking in terms of existing and in the interest of existing. And why does no one do that? Ah, naturally because we are all Christians as a matter of course.” (373 – Hong tr)

Kierkegaard was dead set against the idea of being born into Christianity. He wanted to make “it difficult to become a Christian, so difficult that the number of Christians among the cultured in Christendom will perhaps not even be very great-” He says “The task is to become a Christian or to continue to be a Christian, and the most dangerous illusion of all is to become so sure of being one that all Christendom must be defended against the Turk-instead of defending the faith within oneself against the illusion of the Turk.” (587, 608 Postscript)

He liked to compare the material and spiritual worlds and did so well in his 1843 book Fear and Trembling. He based the book on God’s command to Abraham to sacrifice Isaac and “work out your salvation with fear and trembling”. Genesis 22:2, Philippians 2:12

“From the external and visible world comes the old adage: “Only one who works gets bread.” Oddly enough, the adage does not fit the world in which it is most at home, for imperfection is the fundamental law of the external world, and here it happens again and again that he who does not work does get bread, and he who sleeps gets more abundantly than he who works. In the external world, everything belongs to the possessor. It is subject to the law of indifference, and the spirit of the ring obeys the one who has the ring, whether he is an Aladdin or a Noureddin, and he who has the wealth of the world has it regardless of how he got it.

It is different in the world of the spirit. Here an external divine order prevails. Here it does not rain on both the just and the unjust; here the sun does not shine of both good and evil. Here it holds true that only the one who works gets bread, that only the one who was in anxiety finds rest, the only the one who descends into the lower world rescues the beloved, that only the one who draws the knife gets Isaac. He who will not work does not get bread but is deceived just as the gods deceived Orpheus with an ethereal phantom instead of the beloved, deceived him because he was soft, not boldly brave, deceived him because he was a zither player and not a man. Here it does not help to have Abraham as father or to have seventeen ancestors. The one who will not work fits what is written about the virgins of Israel: he gives birth to wind-but the one who will work gives birth to his own father.” (p. 27-28 Hong tr)

“Why, then, do I wish to work in the present moment? Because I should forever repent of not having done so, and forever repent of having been discouraged by the consideration that the generation now living would find a representation of the essential truths of Christianity interesting and curious reading, at most; having accomplished which they will calmly remain where they are; that is, in the illusion that they are Christians and that the clergy’s toying with Christianity really is Christianity.” The Present Moment

He’s against getting the faith too easily. Are Christians born as Christians or do they become Christians in the fullness of time?

“What those ancient Greeks, who after all did know a little about philosophy, assumed to be a task for a whole lifetime, because proficiency in doubting is not acquired in days and weeks, what the old veteran disputant attained, he who had maintained the equilibrium of doubt throughout all the specious arguments, who had intrepidly denied the certainty of the senses and the certainty of thought, who, uncompromising, had defied the anxiety of self-love and the insinuations of fellow feeling-with that everyone begins in our age.

Even if someone were able to transpose the whole content of faith into conceptual form, it does not follow that he has comprehended faith, comprehended how he entered into it or how it entered into him. In our age, everyone is unwilling to stop with faith, but goes further. It was different in those ancient days. Faith was then a task for a whole lifetime.” (Fear and Trembling p. 6-7)

If I am not a Christian, and the decision is to become a Christian, then Christianity helps me to become aware of the decision, and the distance between us helps just as the running start helps the jumper. Concluding Postscript p. 366

He may have been meaning for his writings to be read by the clergy. Perhaps by Hans Martensen.

“If the pastor’s activity in the church is merely a once-a-week attempt to tow the congregation’s cargo ship a little closer to eternity, the whole thing comes to nothing, the whole thing comes to nothing, because a human life, unlike a cargo ship, cannot lie in the same place until the next Sunday. Therefore, the church is the very place where the difficulty must be presented, and it is better to go from the church discouraged and to find the task easier than one thought that to go from church overly confident and to become discouraged in the living room.” Postscript p. 465

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