Monday, December 6, 2010

Collecting Manna: Soren Kierkegaard

"Christ is the way. These are his own words; so it certainly must be true. And this way is narrow. These are his own words; so it certainly must be the truth. Indeed, even if he had not said it, it still would be the truth. Here you have an example of what it is, in the highest sense, "to preach." Even if Christ had never said, "strait is the gate and narrow the way that leads to life," look at him and you see immediately: the way is narrow. But the fact that his life every single day, every hour, every moment expresses "the way is narrow" is indeed a totally different continual and penetrating proclamation that the way is narrow than if his life had not expressed it and he had proclaimed a few times: the way is narrow. Furthermore, you see here that proclaiming of Christianity for a period of a half hour, by a man whose life every day, every hour of the day, every moment, expresses the opposite, is at greatest possible distance from the true proclamation of Christianity. Such a proclamation transforms Christianity into its very opposite...

There is only one way, the one that the proclaimer is walking, proclaiming "the way" is narrow. There are not two ways, one smooth and easy, along which the proclaimer walks proclaiming that "the way" is narrow - that is, the true way, the one he is not walking - thus his proclamation invites people to follow Christ on the narrow way, while his life, and it of course carries a much greater authority, invites them to follow the proclaimer along the smooth and easy path. Is this Christianity? No, from the Christian point of view, life and proclamation must express the same thing, this same teaching: "the way" is narrow.

And this way, which is Christ, this narrow way - it is narrow in its beginning. He is born in poverty and wretchedness. One is almost tempted to believe that it is not a human being who is born here - he is born in a stable, wrapped in rags, laid in a manger - yet, strangely enough, already as an infant he is persecuted by the rulers in power so that the poor parents must flee with him. That in truth is a singularly narrow be born in a stable and wrapped in rags - that is destitution and poverty that can be straits dire enough...but just as he does not seem to be destined for the heights by his birth, so it also remains just about as it was at the beginning: he lives in poverty and lowliness and has no place to lay his head...(from For Self-Examination, trans. Howard V. Hong (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990), 56-7).

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