Thursday, March 24, 2011

Kierkegaard on kenosis and ascension

Kierkegaard's (or rather, Anti-Climacus') Practice in Christianity--one of the little brothers in a corpus that includes Fear & Trembling, Sickness Unto Death, and Concluding Unscientific Postscript--is sort of an amalgam of Kierkegaardian themes. (And it still includes all those aspects of Kierkegaard that frustrate me to no end; I have a passionate love/hate relationship with the Dane.) But while recently re-reading Practice, this passage about Christ's "abasement" and "loftiness" stood out for me--sort of a rebuff of both a simplistic theologia crucis as well as the typical Lutheran critique of the theologia gloriae. It seems to me a number of different theological schools of thought might come under his critical glare:

"If there were someone who could love him only in his loftiness, that person's vision is confused; he does not know Christ and therefore does not love him either; he is taking him in vain. Christ was and is indeed the truth. If someone can love him only in his loftiness, what does that mean? It means that he can love the truth--only when it has conquered, when it is in possession of and is surrounded by power and honor and glory. But when it was struggling, when it was foolishness, to the Jews an offense, to the Greeks foolishness; when it was insulted, mocked, and, as Scripture says, spat upon--then of course such a person could not love it; then he wished to stay far away from it. That is, he wanted the truth far away from him, but this is actually to be in untruth. It is just as essentially a part of 'the truth' to suffer in this world as to be triumphant in another world, in the world of truth--and Jesus Christ is the same in his abasement as in his loftiness. But if, on the other hand, someone could feel drawn to Christ and love him only in his abasement, if such a person wanted to hear nothing about his loftiness, when power and honor and glory are his; if he (what sad perversity!) with the impatience of a restless spirit, bored, as he would not doubt say, with the good and victorious days of Christendom, if he longed only for scenes of horror, to be with him when he was being insulted and persecuted--then the vision of such a person is also confused; he does not recognize Christ and therefore does not love him either. Christianity is not at all closer to heavy-mindedness than to light-mindedness; they are both equally worldliness, equally far away, and both have just as much need of conversion" (pp. 153-154).