Posts Tagged ‘Kierkegaard’

 

(Excerpt from “Divine Doorkeepers”)

The writers and orators in this essay were chosen because of their tireless efforts in the furtherance of God’s kingdom, with particular emphasis on revival and reform.  All of them address people with truthful compassion and concern for their souls, and none of them conform to the status quo religion of the day or are crowd-pleasers. While these authors seldom mention each other, they all are concerned with the common purpose of advancing the Kingdom of God, many of them at the expense of their own comforts and livelihoods.

At times their messages and styles bear striking resemblances to each other. Fox and Claiborne are iconoclasts, seeking to tear down the “graven images” of empty religion and draw believers to a deeper personal spirituality. Spurgeon and Moody both have a gentle chiding style in their writings and sermons. Kierkegaard and Lewis tend to personify God to establish our kinship with him, and they have a more argumentative and logical style which is well-suited for dealing with more scholarly audiences. Like Miller, they are also fond of humor and satire to illustrate their teachings.  Lewis, Fox and Kierkegaard enjoy using fantasy-like style to create fables and allegorical tales. The sense of a hero on a spiritual journey can be found in the writings of several of the mentioned authors, including Fox, Lewis, Miller, and Claiborne, who write their memoirs in a way that the reader can travel with them on their path as they seek answers to life’s questions.

Through artful literary devices, these spiritual authors coax unbelievers to contemplate the divine. Savant states that through metaphor we can open the doorway to the supernatural realm: “Precisely because metaphor suggests meaning or sensibilities beyond quantification–beyond plain-speaking and common sense–it serves as a tool, however imperfect, with which we can open up the mysterious in human life and destiny” (18). While earlier writers used farming and weather images to address people who lived on farms and dealt with seasons, seed times, and harvests, modern authors have evolved and become more scientific, industrial, and sociological. Though the metaphors of spiritual writers change to suit their audience, they continue to recognize that stories and illustrations are a powerful tool to make God and the Spirit realm more tangible.

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(Excerpt from “Divine Doorkeepers”)

Søren Kierkegaard was a renowned Danish philosopher, theologian and religious author. He was born to an affluent family in Copenhagen, and his mother was employed as a maid in the household before marrying his father.

Kierkegaard was greatly influenced by Socrates and the Socratic method of thinking. His theological writings primarily focus on the flaws in the church institution and the crowd-driven mentality of believers. He was strongly opposed to the way that theology and organized religion had tarnished the Gospel message, and he believed that seminaries taught Christians to think and talk about God rather than to take any kind of action. His writings beg for soul-searching and an active response from the reader.

Dr. George Pattison writes of the author’s style in his introduction to Kierkegaard’s Spiritual Writings: “The discourses are not plodding expositions of ready-made dogmas, but have an almost conversational feel, sometimes serious, sometimes playful, but always seeking to open a dialogue with the reader, whose own response is anticipated and responded to” (57).

Kierkegaard tells stories about God humanizing Himself willingly out of His great love for people.  He depicts Christians as thieves and cheaters who twist the gospel to suit their own agenda. Here he portrays the struggle between worldly religion and true spirituality:  “…The Bible is very easy to understand.  But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers.  We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly…Yes, it is even dreadful to be alone with the New Testament” (Provocations 201). His representation of religious folks as “scheming swindlers” is a piercing metaphor that suggests deception and misuse of something valuable.

In one of his letters, Kierkegaard presents God as being a creator who fashioned humans in His own image, and loved them so deeply that He placed Himself into their lives. He asserts that the Incarnated God taught people about service to others by His own example.  In this passage he uses an analogy pertaining to artists and their productions to illustrate how even God lowered Himself out of compassion for humans:

If a poet or an artist puts himself into his Productions he is criticized. But that is exactly what God does, he does so in Christ. And precisely that is Christianity. The creation was really only completed when God included himself in it. Before the coming of Christ, God was certainly in the creation, but as an invisible sign, like the watermark in paper. But the creation was completed by the Incarnation because God thereby included himself in it. (Journals 324)

This statement bears resemblance to one of the parables of Jesus, in which God finally arrives on the scene Himself when his workers have rebelled against Him in the vineyard where he hired them to work (Mark 12:1-10, NKJV). These stories have power because they present the idea that God is one of our kind and that He loved us enough to get involved in our drama of sorrow and suffering and even our mortality.  Kierkegaard’s comparison to the creation without Christ as being as a watermark on paper adds a touch of mystery, because it portrays the idea that we don’t see everything that exists.

In the chapter from Provocations entitled “Behold the Birds of the Air,” Kierkegaard spins a fable about wood doves.  Using an opening like his fellow Danish author, Hans Christian Andersen, he writes of one wild dove that refuses to live in a dovecote under the care of a kind farmer: “Once upon a time there was a wood dove. It had its nest in the fearsome forest, where wonder and apprehension dwelt together, among the erect, lonely trees. But nearby, where the smoke rises up from the farmer’s house, lived some tame doves” (148). The wild dove is a metaphor for a person who chooses to live without divine authority.  The “fearsome forest” where “wonder and apprehension” live together is an aesthetic way of portraying the world and the conflicts that beset us each day.  The reader is hereby summoned into a sense of inner tension which Kierkegaard evokes to show the awful state of man without God. Through interactions between the wild dove and the tame ones, the writer portrays the inner friction between faith and the natural mind:

From now on, the wood dove began to worry. His feathers lost their glint of color, his flight lost buoyancy. He was no longer joyful; indeed, he was almost envious of the rich, tame doves… In worrying about his needs he had trapped himself in a snare in which no birdcatcher could have trapped him, trapped as only a free creature can trap himself. (Provocations 148)

The “tame doves” depict the faithful who don’t live unto themselves and need not worry about their livelihood or their future. Kierkegaard uses artful paradoxes and images to represent the anxiety that began to trouble the “free” dove, describing the loss of luster in his feathers and how he felt weighted down when he attempted to fly. The glossy feathers and lightness are symbols for joy and peace, and the lack of them implies strain and encumbrances.  The wild dove that “has trapped himself…as only a free creature can trap himself” is an apt representation for a man who cannot extricate himself from his ways because his ego is at stake. The author creates irony in that the tame birds are free and the wild bird is in bondage.

Kierkegaard was accomplished in the art of addressing controversial subjects with satire and paradox and allegorical tales, and by using graceful metaphors to illustrate his views in an evocative manner.

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(Essays)

Now and then, I just need to speak my peace about something, and I hope you don’t mind if I detour from my stories every once in awhile. 

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There is a woman that I see occasionally at McDonald’s and we have some pretty lively discussions about religion in America.  Sometimes she will laughingly remark that she hopes I brought my boxing gloves, because we disagree on many issues.

Once she told me she had been looking for a good church.  She visited one that had several thousand members, and she remarked, “They must have something right, because they wouldn’t have so many members, true?” She loves to see what I’ll say.

“Not necessarily,” I said.  “Truth isn’t found in the crowds, unless Jesus is there. Kierkegaard said that the crowd will always lead you in the wrong direction, that the crowd is the opposite of truth.”  Then I went on about how any great speaker or musician can draw a crowd, and that they need not be spiritual-minded at all.  I told her that this is why we must have spiritual discernment, and listen carefully to what leaders are saying, so we will know if it goes against the teachings of Christ.

This same woman told me one day that she visited a church on a Wednesday night, and a fantastic charismatic speaker came, and talked about giving being the key to our blessings.  He raised more than fifty thousand dollars that night in a small church by persuading each person to give at least a thousand dollars in order to be prospered by God.  After counting the money, he said he wanted to come back on Sunday so more people could be blessed. The woman told me how wonderful she felt, and that she wished more people had been there to get their blessing. She often says that she thinks people are poor because they aren’t doing the right things.

I said that it made me angry that no one in leadership seems to be accountable for what they do with God’s money. She said that it didn’t matter to her as long as she was being obedient. I said, in that case, the next time she wanted a blessing she could just give me enough money to buy a new car. She looked at me in a strange way, as I said that people with money love to give to organizations, but they don’t enjoy giving to people.

I told her that it was no coincidence that the first four words Jesus spoke to the crowds were “Blessed are the poor.” I told her that the only one who got a blessing at that church she visited was the speaker, who twisted the gospel for his own personal gain. Corruption and greed is what I called it, and robbing the poor. I was livid because these silk-tongued con artists are making the poor even poorer. And then they dare to raise the question of who is robbing God!

I met another woman who told me that some people from her church often went out dancing at the local bar, and they persuaded her to come along.  When she objected to it, they told her that Jesus wanted us to have fun. She decided to go dancing with them, and that is where she met a man who became an abusive force in her life for many years. It didn’t sound like the kind of fun Jesus would have wanted her to have. She still regrets having listened to the crowd instead of following what she felt in her spirit.

That man set her house on fire before he left her, and it burned halfway to the ground. She has no money to repair it, and insurance won’t pay because it was arson. Her church rakes in a fortune and has never offered to help her repair her home which is freezing cold in the winter because of the damaged wiring. When she gets sick, no one calls or comes to visit her. She says once she saw her pastor open his wallet, and she was stunned by the sight of it, bulging with hundred dollar bills.

I am sorry if any of you are offended by what I’m saying, but I needed to speak my peace. I have learned not to be afraid to walk alone for what is true. If you party, the world will party with you, but if you pray, you will pray alone.

OLIVE TWIST ©2012

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I wanted to share the titles of some of my favorite books and other writings with you, many of which I read during my graduate studies.

Please let me know if you have any recommendations to share with me. 

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Augustine, Saint. The Confessions of St. Augustine. New York, NY: Barnes and  Noble, 1999. Print.

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. The Cost of Discipleship. Trans. Chr. Kaiser Verlag Munchen by R.H. Fuller. New York: Simon & Schuster (Touchstone), 1959. Print.

Buxbaum, Yitzhak. Jewish Tales of Holy Women. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2002. Print.

Claiborne, Shane, and Chris Haw. Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals. Grand Rapids, MI: The Simple Way, 2008. 150. Print.

Claiborne, Shane. The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2006. Print.

Dubus, Andre.  Broken Vessels:  Essays by Andre Dubus.   Boston, MA:  David R. Godine Publisher, Inc, 1991. Print.

Edwards, Jonathan. The Works of Jonathan Edwards. Vol. 4. New Haven, CT: Yale UP, 1972. Print.

Elliot, Elisabeth. The Path of Loneliness. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1988. Print.

Finney, Charles G. The Autobiography of Charles G. Finney. Condensed and Edited by Helen Wessel. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1977. Print.

Fox, George. The Journal of George Fox.  Edited by Rufus Jones. Richmond, IN: Friends UP, 1976. Print.

—.”Selected Epistles of George Fox.” Renascence Editions. U of Oregon, 1998.Web. 4 Nov 2010. <http://www.luminarium.org/renascence-editions/foxep.htm&gt;.

Graves, Michael P. “Functions of Key Metaphors in Early Quaker Sermons, 1671-1700.” The Quarterly Journal of Speech 69.4 (1983): 364-378. MLA International Bibliography. EBSCO. Web. 24 Nov. 2010.

Hosek, Dr. Pavel. “How Does C.S. Lewis do apologetics?.” (2003): n. pag. European Leadership Forum Research Center. Web. 20 Dec 2010. <http://www.euroleadershipresources.org/resource.php?ID=76&gt;.

Jarman, Mark. “To Make the Final Unity: Metaphor’s Matter and Spirit.” 301-318. Southern Review, 2007. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 24 Nov. 2010.

Kierkegaard, Søren. Kierkegaard Spiritual Writings: A New Translation and Selection by George Pattison. New York: Harper Collins, 2010. 57. eBook.

. Provocations: Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard. Ed. Charles E. Moore.  Farmington, PA:  Plough, 2002. Print.

—.  The Present Age. Trans. Alexander Dru. New York: Harper Row (Torchbook), 1962. Print.

—. The Journals of Kierkegaard (edited by Alexander Dru. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1959), 324.

Lewis, C. S. The Complete C. S. Lewis Signature Classics. New York: Harper One, 2002. Print.

—. The Four Loves. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1960. Print.

Maharaj, Rabindranath, and Dave Hunt. Death of a Guru: A Remarkable True Story of One Man’s Search for Truth. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House, 1977. eBook.

McKeever, Dr. Joe. “Why We Need Parables.” (2009): n. pag. Web. 20 Dec 2010. <http://www.biblestudytools.com/pastor-resources/11610729.html&gt;.

Merton, Thomas. The Seven Storey Mountain. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1948. Print.

Miller, Donald. Searching for God Knows What. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2004. Print.

Miller, Donald, and John Macmurray. To Own a Dragon: Reflections on Growing Up Without a Father. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2006. Print.

Moody, Dwight L. The Best of Dwight L. Moody. 6th Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1971. Print.

Mouw, Richard J. Uncommon Decency: Christian Civility in an Uncivil World. Downer’s Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2010. Print.

Neihardt, John.  Black Elk Speaks: as told through John Neihardt by Nicholas Black Elk.  Lincoln, NE:  U of Nebraska P, 2000. Print.

Nouwen, Henri J. M.  The Inner Voice of Love:  A Journey Through Anguish to Freedom. New York, NY: Image Doubleday, 1996. Print.

—. The Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society. New York, NY: Image Doubleday, 1972. Print.

Norris, Kathleen. The Cloister Walk. New York: Berkley Publishing, 1996. Print.

Savant, John. “Follow that Metaphor.” Commonweal 132.20 (2005): 17-19. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 24 Nov. 2010.

Sempangi, F. Kefa. A Distant Grief. Glendale, CA: Regal Books, 1979. Print.

Spurgeon, Charles H. Finding Peace in Life’s Storms. New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House, 1997. Print.

—. “Songs in the Night.” Spurgeon Collection on Bible Bulletin Board.  Tony Capoccia, 2004. Web. 4 Nov 2010. <http://www.biblebb.com/files/spurgeon/2558.htm&gt;.

Ten Boom, Corrie, and C.C. Carlson. In My Father’s House. Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell, 1976. Print.

Vaswani, Neela. You Have Given Me A Country. Louisville, Ky: Sarabande Books, 2010. Print.

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~♥~

Introduction

My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves. (Matthew 21:13)

Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher, once wrote that we live in “The Age of Judas,” when people admire Jesus and His teachings, but they politely excuse themselves from following Him, because it doesn’t suit their worldly agenda.

This unfinished manuscript is a critique of western Christianity and the spirit of betrayal.  The primary focus is the attempt of many religious leaders to blend capitalism with the gospel, for their own personal gain.

It is written as a series of essays which I will post here as time permits.

 

Prologue

He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because Jesus said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee.  (John 21:17)

Several years ago, I was asked by a church representative to write a piece for their newsletter.  It was on or near New Year’s Day, and I had been praying for renewed commitment to Christ and total obedience to His leadings in the New Year. I told Him that I would stand up for Him no matter what the cost.

As I sat down to type the piece that the lady requested, I found myself writing a different kind of piece than I had written previously. My words were going in a completely different direction than usual.  My previous writings had been pleasant cooperative pieces that made people feel good and comfortable.  But this one was a rebuke directed at church leaders. It was entitled “The Judas Spirit.”

When I finished it, I looked over it uncomfortably, and wondered if it was a good idea to give this one to the church.  It seemed as if the Spirit began to press me in my thoughts, asking me “Do you love Me?  How much do you love Me? “

After much apprehension, I finally turned in the piece to the lady and watched as her eyes scanned the pages suspiciously, and she didn’t give me the usual affirmative response about printing it.

A few days later, I visited that church and all of the leaders seemed immensely uncomfortable about my presence.  After the services, I approached some of them, and they behaved in a very cold demeanor towards me, as if they wanted nothing to do with me. The way they acted was as if I had made personal attacks directed at each one of them in my essay, when no names were even mentioned in the piece.  Was the topic of money really such a delicate subject?

I was quite startled by this, and I did a great deal of soul-searching about the matter.  I decided to pay a visit to a very dear pastor and his wife, whom I view as spiritual mentors in my life. The two of them were on their way into church for prayer services, but they came out without any hesitation and sat with me in the parsonage next door to talk.

Being very unsure of myself, I told them, “I trust the two of you like my parents, and I know that you will be honest with me if I have done something wrong.”  I described the entire incident to them, and told them that the piece was about Judas and how his love for money destroyed his love for Jesus, and how I applied it to the present day and people selling out their faith for money.  After I was done talking about it, I implored them to be truthful to me about whether they felt that I had shown improper disrespect to leaders or anything that I should be sorry for.

The pastor leaned forward on his chair and said firmly, “Sister Olive, sometimes when we stand upon the Word of God, we have to stand alone.  But no matter what happens, you must stand and don’t let anything move you.”  He and his wife both encouraged me not to be ashamed of speaking the truth and standing for Christ.  After that, the three of us walked next door to the church for prayer services.  I had been very distraught that day, and was so happy to be among friends.

That night, it just so happens that a man was visiting the church from another state, and he rose during the service to say a few words.  He said,  “The Spirit has told me that somebody here is hurting tonight, and I’m talking about some church hurt.”  Tears began streaming down his face, as he continued about the evil that is taking place inside the church, and how it is wounding people, and how we must stand firm and be encouraged. I had never seen the man in my life, and neither had anyone at church that night.

I knew then that the Lord had indeed led me to write this essay about Judas, and that there is much more going in churches than meets the eye.  As I was sitting down to write again and began my manuscript entitled “The Twisted Cross,”  I heard the voice of the Spirit saying “It’s much worse than you even know yet.”

So I have set out to seek and tell the truth to the best of my ability.

 

The Judas Spirit

Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases.  And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick.  (Luke 9:1)

Judas was called to be a disciple, and he left everything to follow Jesus, just like the other eleven did.  He received the blessing of Jesus at the Sermon on the Mount, and followed Him throughout the region as He ministered to the poor and the rejected. He witnessed the miracle of the loaves and fishes, the healings, the raising of Lazarus from the dead.  He loved Jesus earnestly, and wanted to be faithful to Him.  He would not have followed if he had not loved Him.

But something began to corrupt the mind of Judas.  The scriptures say that he was in charge of the money bag.  People donated money to Jesus and the disciples, so that they would be able to buy food and things that they needed in their travels.  That money began to really sparkle in the eyes of Judas.

He began to ask a lot of questions.  Why did that woman with the alabaster box of ointment pour out that expensive perfume upon the feet of Jesus?  Why did Jesus let her do that?  Judas told Jesus that they could have sold that perfume to give the money to the poor, but Jesus knew what was in his heart, and what his real issues were.

Judas used a noble explanation to cover the fact that greed had begun to take over his heart and mind (John 12:4-6). The scriptures say that Satan entered into Judas Iscariot.  The ground work had been laid for him to possess Judas.  Judas had developed a deadly case of the love of money.  He sold Jesus for thirty pieces of silver.

Today, the spirit of betrayal has crept into the house of God throughout our nation.  Many religious leaders have come to love money more than Christ Himself.  No doubt, most of them started out with pure hearts and joy about their salvation.  They were great witnesses to the love of God, and had powerful testimonies of forgiveness and deliverance.

But now many of these have exalted themselves against the holy things of God. They are selling Jesus to innocent people, with a variety of dishonest tactics, and are robbing the poor and the widows in their midst.

Using spiritual slight-of-hand they are summoning money out of the pockets of the poor, promising them blessings and prosperity in return. The money disappears up their sleeves and never reappears. As the poor continue to struggle, someone is holding the money bag.

This he (Judas) said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.  (John 12:6)

 

OLIVE TWIST ©2012

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