Monday, October 31, 2011

Kierkegaard, Law, and Grace

Soren Aabye Kierkegaard, existentialist Danish philosopher, also made quite a stir as a Protestant theologian.

Sadly, his theology was poorly informed, distorted by human thinking and human will at the expense of God's grace.

The Gospel of Suffering, was the title of one text that exemplified his insistence on human beings enduring difficulty in this life to prepare for the next.

In one section, he characterized God as a loving mother reaching out to her child, yet the child had to reach out and grab the mother.

That is not the Gospel.

"For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.

"For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.

"But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:6-8)

"For when we were without strength. . " We could not come to God, even if we wanted to. He is an all-consuming fire, and mankind is consumed in sin.

Yet Christ died for us while we were still sinners, still sinning, still at willful, open enmity with God.

In fact, there is nothing that we can do, but acknowledge our immense sin-debt, and therefore receive his forgiving grace.

Paul illustrates our complete and inactive dependence on God for our salvation:

"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God

"Not of works, lest any man should boast.

"For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:8-10)

Grace is unmerited favor from God, something that we cannot earn, no matter how hard we may keep God's commandments. "For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23)

Even the faith that empowers us to receive this grace is a gift from God! Furthermore, we are God's "workmanship" - He has already been working on us to receive Him!

This characterization of God's supreme interest in working on us and releasing all to us that we may receive from Him is in direct conflict with Kierkegaard's lonely Knight of Faith crusading against the world.

Paul -- and later Oswald Chambers, emphasize that God has total control over us. We in effect "do" nothing:

"Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place." (2 Corinthians 2:14)

Chambers comments thus on this passage:

"The proper perspective to maintain is that we are here for only one purpose— to be captives marching in the procession of Christ’s triumphs. How small all the other perspectives are! For example, the ones that say, 'I am standing all alone, battling for Jesus,' or, 'I have to maintain the cause of Christ and hold down this fort for Him.' But Paul said, in essence, 'I am in the procession of a conqueror, and it doesn’t matter what the difficulties are, for I am always led in triumph.'"

There is not suffering that brings us to God, there is no effort that we can expend on our own to make us worthy to walk as He walked. Contrary to Kierkegaard's excessive emphasis on human will and human decision, the saving work of Grace is God's work through and through, something that we are called to receive by faith.

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