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Only Jesus (great song by Big Daddy)

What Did Jesus Say? (2012) - 7 topics 

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Kierkegaard in mid 1800s on "Apostle Paul"

1. Protestantism is Paulinism In Mitigation of True Christianity (A Lutheran-trained Theologian Seeks Reform)


"Protestantism is altogether untenable. It is a revolution brought on by proclaiming 'the Apostle Paul' at the expense of the Master (Christ). If there is to be any question of retaining Protestantism...we confess that this teaching is a mitigation of Christianity which we humans have allowed ourselves, appealing to God to put up with it. And instead Protestantism is blazoned forth as an advance in Christianity! No, it is perhaps the most profound concession to the numerical...this numerality that wants to be Christian but wants rid of ideality or to have it downgraded, and insists upon being such and such a number." (Kierkegaard, Papers and Journals (1996) at 629 -- link to original.)


"[I]t is of great importance, especially in Protestantism, to correct the enormous confusion Luther caused by inverting the relation and actually criticizing Christ by means of Paul, the Master by means of a follower."

(Kierkegaard, "My Task" (1855)," in The Essential Kierkegaard (ed. Edward H. & Edna Hong)(Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000) at 446 fn.)(You can find this quote also at Kierkegaard's Attack Upon Christendom 1845-1855 (ed. Walter Lowrie)(Princeton University Press, 1968) at 283. Page 283 is outside the viewable range of unless you do a word search, and you will then see the quote come up.)



"As early as the Apostle [Paul], the scaling down process begins, and it seems as if the natural man gets off a little easier in becoming a Christian....[N]owadays whole countries and kingdoms are called Christian, and millions of natural men are disguised as Christians."

(Kierkegard's Journals 3:2921 quoted in David McCracken, The Scandal of the Gospels: Jesus, Story, and Offense (1994) at 65


"Only the God-man [i.e., Jesus] would be able to endure...the propogation of the doctrine by proclaimnig it, even if he did not gain one single follower. The apostle [Paul] still has some selfish urge for the alleviation, aquiring adherents, become many, something the God-man does not have [to do]. He does not selfishly crave adherents and therefore has only the market price of eternity, not the market price [of the world which is cheap]."

(Kierkegaard, "What Do I Want?" (1855)," in The Essential Kierkegaard (ed. Edward H. & Edna Hong)(Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000) at 433.)


2. Paul Made Christianity The Religion of Paul and Not of Christ


"In the teachings of Christ, religion is completely present tense: Jesus is the prototype and our task is to imitate him, become a disciple. But then through Paul came a basic alteration. Paul draws attention away from imitating Christ and fixes attention on the death of Christ The Atoner. What Martin Luther in his reformation failed to realize is that even before Catholicism, Christianity had become degenerate at the hands of Paul. Paul made Christianity the religion of Paul, not of Christ. Paul threw the Christianity of Christ away, completely turning it upside down, making it just the opposite of the original proclamation of Christ" (Kierkegaard, The Journals.)


3. Luther Cheated Christianity of Its True New Testament Principles


“O Luther...the Christianity of the New Testament simply does not exist. Here there is nothing to reform; what has to be done is to throw a light upon a criminal offense against Christianity, prolonged through centuries, perpetuated by millions (more or less guiltily), whereby they have cunningly, under the guise of perfecting Christianity, sought little by little to cheat God out of Christianity, and have succeeded in making Christianity exactly the opposite of what it is in the New Testament.” (Kierkegaard's Attack (ed. Lowrie), supra, at 32-33.)


"Protestantism, Christianly considered, is quite simply an untruth, a piece of dishonesty, which falsifies the teaching, the world-view, the life-view of Christianity...." Id., at 34.


4. Cover-Up By Artifice That This Mitigation of Christianity (Paulinism) Abandoned Christ


"I want to have the mitigation that is current Christianity here in this country set alongside the New Testament in order to see how these two relate to each other. If I...or anyone else can show it can be maintained face to face with the Christianity of the New Testament, then I will accept it with the greatest joy. But one thing I do not want at any price: I do not want to create, by suppression or artifice, the appearance that the current Christianity in this country and the Christianity of the New Testament resemble each other...[T]he extreme mitigation of Christianity of the New Testament...cannot possibly hold good when every artifice has been used to cover up the difference between the Christianity of the New Testament and this mitigation." (Kierkegaard, "What Do I Want?" (1855)," in The Essential Kierkegaard (ed. Edward H. & Edna Hong)(Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000) at 429.)


5. 'I Hold Up Christ As Paramount To Beat Down the Sophistic Found In Paul's Teachings That Consumes Christianity'


"Inasmuch as I have made a critical comment upon 'the Apostle,' the following is to be noted. I am entirely within my rights, for the Apostle [Paul] is only a man....If in the teaching of the Apostle [Paul] there is found even in the slightest degree anything that can be related to what in the course of the centuries has become the sophistic which consumes all true Christianity, I must raise an outcry, lest the Sophists appeal to the Apostle. It is of great importance, especially in Protestantism, to straighten out the prodigious confusion Luther has brought about by inverting the relationship, and in effect criticizing Christ by Paul, the Master by the disciple....What I have done is to hold up Christ’s preaching alongside the preaching of the Apostle."

Kierkegaard’s Attack Upon ‘Christendom’ 1854-1855 (Trans. and Introduction by Walter Lowrie)(Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1972) at 282-83 note (part of My Task, September 1, 1855).


6. Challenge Is To Restore True Christianity


“If anything is to be done, one must try to introduce Christianity into Christendom.” Practice of Christianity


"[I]n Protestantism, especially in Denmark, Christianty marches to a different melody, to the tune of ‘Merily we roll along, roll along, roll along’ — Christianity is enjoyment of life, tranquillized as neither Jew nor the pagan was, by the assurance that the thing about eternity is settled, settled precisely in order that we might find pleasure in enjoying this life, as well as any pagan or Jew." (Kierkegaard’s Attack Upon ‘Christendom’ 1854-1855 (Trans. and Introduction by Walter Lowrie)(Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1972) at 35.)


"Protestant ministers teach that 'eternal blessedness can be bought for a song [i.e., for cheap]....a brilliant transaction.' In comparison to what Jesus taught, one can readily see the ministers’ 'price is cheap, a regular selling-out price.'" (Attack upon Christendom (1854-55)(ed. Lowrie), supra at 51.)


7. What Is Called Christianity Is A Christianity Without Christ


"Whoever thou art, whatever in other respects thy life may be, my friend, by ceasing to take part (if ordinarily thou doest) in the public worship of God, as it now is (with the claim that it is the Christianity of the New Testament), thou hast constantly one guilt the less, and that a great one: thou dost not take part in treating God as a fool by calling that the Christianity of the New Testament which is not the Christianity of the New Testament." [Kierkegaard quoted at Voice of]




Kierkegaard was a very key influence upon Bonhoeffer. The only key difference is Bonhoeffer never openly criticized the modern emphasis on Paul over Jesus. Bonhoeffer simply ignored Paul when Bonhoeffer summarized the salvation principles applicable to believers in Cost of Discipleship (1937). Bonhoeffer was clearly influenced by Kierkegaard in de-emphasizing Paul. Bonhoeffer's book Cost of Discipleship even begins by giving an account of Kierkegaard's principles. The Cost of Disicipleship then proceeds to give lessons which are obvious paraphrases from Kierkegaard, e.g., 'cheap grace.' The key difference was that Bonhoeffer toned down any direct criticism of Paul. Kierkegaard himself was also very circumspect, and you have to dig hard to put all these criticisms of Paul together. However, the benefit of doing so helps elucidate Kierkegaard's true meaning.

For example, note how in the quote under #1 that Kierkegaard equates Paulinism aka predominant Protestantism with a "mitigation of Christianity." Then see how Kierkegaard describes in #4 above this same "mitigation" (without identifying Paulinism) as covered up by artifice so we do not see the difference between NT Christianity and this mitigation of Christianity. No more scathing analysis of Paulinism can be found by a true theologian than in the writings of Kierkegaard, albeit couched sometimes so obscurely that many miss his true points.

Rarely is this aspect of Kierkegaard mentioned. In fact, a completely opposite spin now exists because Kierkegaard's works fell into the hands of Paulinists. Thus, in one edition of his Journals, there is a constant footnoting by the editor to confirmation found in the writings of Paul even though Kierkegaard's habit was ALMOST always to quote or cite Jesus. For example, see any mention to Paul in Journals vol. 2 in this edition, and it is almost exclusively in the editor's footnotes. See this link.

However, some specialists concede that Kierkegaard turned against Paul's validity. "S.K.'s ever stricter demands also led him to turn against the apostle Paul." (Soren Kierkegaard, The diary of Søren Kierkegaard (ed. Peter P. Rohde (1990) at 239 n. 213 - link to original.)

In truth, Kierkegaard was very cognizant that his views on Paul would cause sweeping rejection and further isolation of what he had to say. At one point he says "I stand alone." Kierkegaard's strategy to avoid further isolation was to deny he was a Christian. But Kierkegaard was clearly a follower of Jesus and a believer. Most recognize him as a Christian theologian of merit. What Kierkegaard meant was he was not a Paulinist when Paulinism had come to redefine what it meant to be a Christian. This can only be realized when you take the quotes as we did above and place them together. When you look carefully for the basis of his critique of Protestantism, it was its excessive elevation of Paul and consequent marginalization of Jesus Christ. Kierkegaard was thus the forerunner of the movement we see today: the restoration of Christianity to the one who is the sole true teacher and pastor -- Jesus Christ, taking all such de facto interference from Paul out of the way.


In Fear and Trembling on the 'apostle' Paul, "Kierkegaard emphatically and repeatedly said that he [Paul] was 'without authority.'"

See also "Kierkegaard," Wikipedia


In False Christianity, Kiekegaard writes:

What is Christianity? Simple: to be like Christ.

Christianity has been made so much into a consolation that people have completely forgotten that it is first and foremost a demand.

We could at least be truthful before God and admit our weakness instead of reducing the requirement.

Christ comes to the world as the example, constantly enjoining: Imitate me. We humans prefer to adore him instead.

The greatest danger to Christianity is, I contend, not heresies, heterodoxies, not atheists, not profane secularism no, but the kind of orthodoxy which is cordial drivel, mediocrity served up sweet.  There is nothing that so insidiously displaces the majestic as cordiality. Perpetually polite, so small, so nice, tampering and meddling and tampering some more the result is that majesty is completely defrauded of course, only a little bit.

Imagine a kind of medicine that possesses in full dosage a laxative effect but in a half dose a constipating effect. Suppose someone is suffering from constipation. But for some reason or other, perhaps because there is not enough for a full dose or because it is feared that such a large amount might be too much in order to do something, he is given, with the best of intentions, a half dose: "After all, it is at least something." What a tragedy!

So it is with today's Christianity. As with everything qualified by an either/or the half has the very opposite effect from the whole. But we Christians go right on practicing this well-intentioned half-hearted act from generation to generation. We produce Christians by the millions, are proud of it yet have no inkling that we are doing just exactly the opposite of what we intend to do.

It takes a physician to understand that a half dose can have the opposite effect to that of a full dose. Common sense, cool-minded mediocrity never catches on. It undeviatingly continues to say of the half-dosage: "After all, it is something; even if it doesn't work very well, it is still something." But that it should have an opposite effect, no, mediocrity does not grasp that.

Honestly, New Testament Christianity simply does not exist. If the human race would rise in rebellion against God and cast Christianity away from it, it would not be nearly so dangerous as this clever way of making Christians of everybody and giving this activity the appearance of zeal for the truth. This is nothing but a scoffing at God by offering him thanks for bestowing his blessing upon the progress that Christianity was making.


Christianity's history is one of alienation from God through the gradual strengthening of appearance. Or it might be said Christianity's history is one of the progressive removal of God tactfully and politely by building churches and monumental buildings, by a monstrous doctrinal system, with an incalculable host of preachers and professors. Established Christianity is about as far away from God as one can possibly get.

Now if I say this to anyone, I will be surely be told, "True, something must be done, but the problem is that there are too few pastors in proportion to the population. Let's get a thousand more (Excellent in order to get farther away from God!), a good many more churches (Excellent, in order to get farther away from God!), and a permanent alliance of pastors and professors to make the doctrine more strictly accurate (Excellent, in order to get farther away from God!)."

No, no, no! If you are really serious about getting God closer, then consign the whole system of established Christianity with its lying gang of preachers and professors, these Christian experts who en masse provide an excellent commentary on every Bible passage, to death and the devil. Seek first God's kingdom.  The Christian rule for action is simple: Venture to act in accordance with the truth and at the same moment through this action you will collide with the environing world. Your action will be such that you will discover the collisions of the essentially Christian. In no other way can one enter into the situation where faith can come into existence. Venture right into the middle of actuality. Risk and then God will truly come.

But now God sits and watches to see if there is one single person who will venture. Every single human being is able to venture, and God is willing to become involved with absolutely every human being who ventures. He is infinite love, but he is also majesty. And he is a connoisseur; with his dreadful sharp-sightedness he is able to see whether a person wants to exploit him or is venturing.

It is a Christianity from which the cross has been removed. It is a sentimental view of faith which forgets that Christ's call provokes the consciousness of sin.

Let us look more carefully at what Christ actually says with regard to children: "Let the little children come and do not forbid them to come to me, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven" (Mt. 19:14). The whole chapter speaks of the difficulty of entering the kingdom of heaven, and the expressions are as strong as possible: "There are eunuchs who have castrated themselves for the sake of the kingdom of heaven." "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." It is no wonder that the disciples become so terrified that they exclaim: "Who then can be saved?"

After Christ answers the disciples, he goes on to speak of the reward awaiting those who have left houses and brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands for the sake of his name. All of these teachings are salty expressions depicting the collisions in which a Christian can and will be tested. Consequently, Christ makes entering into God's kingdom as difficult as possible. But if entering this kingdom is supposed to be about the loveliness and innocence of being a little child, a proper little angel, then what could this possibly mean in the presence of the apostles who were called to pick up their cross and follow?

A childish view of Christianity is ludicrous. If the assertion about being a child must be understood literally, then it is nonsense to preach the cross of Christ to adults. Yet this is the way Christianity is defended by orthodox fencers. Childlike Christianity, which in a little child is lovable, in an adult is childish.  Faith such as that confuses everything. If a little child (literally understood) is to provide the definition of what Christianity is, then there is no terror; it ceases to be an offence, as the apostle Paul says, to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks.


One best becomes a Christian without "Christianity."


It is a very simple matter. Pick up the New Testament; read it. Can you deny, do you dare deny, that what you read there about forsaking everything, about giving up the world, being mocked and spit upon as your Lord and master was can you deny, do you dare deny, that this is very easy to understand, indescribably easy, that you do not need a commentary or a single other person in order to understand it?

But you say, "Before I do this, however, before I risk such a decisive step, I must first consult with others." Insolent, disobedient one, you are cheeky! You cheat; all you are looking for is a way out, an excuse.

To leave out the strenuous passages in the New Testament is now the method. We hush them up and then we arrange things on easier and cheaper terms. I think it is better to take them along, to acknowledge that these demands are found in the New Testament and then make confession of our own weakness.

Of every word Christ spoke pointing toward the cost and suffering of being a Christian, we say this: This does not apply to us; this was spoken expressly to the disciples. We make good, however, of every word of consolation, of every promise; whether Christ spoke to the apostles or not makes no difference.

Kierkegaard's Position Overlooked By Scholars

One has to think Kierkegaard would laugh if he could read what some scholars have said about his reverence and trust in the authority of Paul. These writers have downplayed in the extreme that Kierkegaard stood in opposition to all of Paul's main ideas on faith alone and his supposed authority as an apostle, placing these points in discreet yet unmistakable places in his writings.  Here is an example of a scholar who twists it entirely around to represent the opposite of Kierkegaard's point about Paul:

"Kierkegaard is rather consistent in his treatment of Paul throughout his corpus, affirming his status as an apostle, emphasizing his call to action (rather than on a more Lutheran focus on Paul's assurance of grace), and ascribing a sense of divine authority to both Paul's life and writings." (Lori Unger Brandt, "Paul: Herald of Grace and Paradigm of Christian Living," inLee C. Barrett, Kierkegaard and the Bible (Great Britain: 2010) at 191.)

A thorough examination of Kierkegaard's writings proves these highlighted statements are impossible.