Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Some words from Kierkegaard

From the Journals and Papers:
The more the phenomenon, the appearance, expresses that here God cannot possibly be present, the closer he is. This is the case with Christ. The very moment the appearance expressed that this man could not possibly be the God-man—no, when the appearance expressed that, men even refused to recognize him as a man (See, what a man!), then God was the closest to actuality he had ever been.

The law for God's remoteness (and the history of this is the history of Christendom) is as follows: Everything that strengthens the appearance distances God. At the time when there were no churches and the few Christians gathered together in catacombs as refugees and persecutees, God was closer to actuality. Then came churches, so many churches, such great, splended churches—to the same degree God was distanced. For God's nearness is inversely related to phenomenon, and this ascending scale (churches, many churches, splendid churches) is an increase in the sphere of appearance. When Christianity was not doctrine, when it was one or two affirmations expressed in one's life, God was closer to actuality than when Christianity became doctrine. And with every increase and embellishment of doctrine etc., to the same degree God was distanced. For doctrine and its dissemination is an increase in appearance, and God relates himself inversely. —When there were no clergy but the Christians were all brothers, God was closer to actuality than when there came to be clergymen, maybe clergymen, a powerful ecclesiastical order. For clergymen are an increase in appearance, and God relates inversely to phenomenon.

And this is how it happened that Christendom has step by step become just about the farthest distance possible from God, all under the claim that Christianity is perfectible, that it progresses. Christendom's history is one of alienation from God through the strengthening of appearance, or (as in certain situations we speak of removing someone tactfully and politely) Christendom's history is one of progressively removing God tactfully and politely by building churchs and monumental buildings, by a monstrous doctrinal system with an incalculable host of preachers.

Thus Christendom is just about the greatest distance possible from God.
This is probably too strong, and Kierkegaard says as much elsewhere in more measured moments. It is not that these external circumstances could suffice to automatically cut the individual believer off from God (nothing has that power). But as the edifice of Christendom is raised higher and higher, it becomes less and less likely that the average person will ever face the genuine question of becoming a Christian.

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