Faith and the Danish

KierkegaardTwo men went up to the Temple to pray, said Jesus.  And the way Soren Kierkegaard saw it, one was an insincere Lutheran and the other a Godly Hindu.

Soren Kierkegaard was an eighteenth century Danish philosopher who no one paid much attention to until after he died.   While alive though, he had unsuccessfully waged a war of words with the Danish Lutheran church, as well as the Danish print media.   A century after his death German liberals like Karl Barth rediscovered his philosophy just in time to wage war against the gospel.  Today, whole denominations like the PCUSA lie in ruins, victims of the Kierkegaardian false mind-heart dichotomy which Barth so successfully championed from his seminary base in the Fatherland.  Who is Kierkegaard and what did he teach that was so evil?

Denmark had tried to institutionalize Christianity.   Lutheranism was the hustle, and the only game in town was the state church.  If you were a Dane back then you were born Christian simply by virtue of being born a Dane.  The problem, of course, is that you wouldn’t really have been a Christian.  Oh, the Danes got baptized well enough, and they attended church and partook of all the customary rites and rituals, but when it came right down to it, they never actually believed the gospel.  They were Danes instead; saluting  the flag by planting their feet in church every Sunday.

One of the biggest problems with a state church is the fact it tends to fill churches to capacity with rank unbelievers.  So it was with Denmark.  Denmark wound up with state-sponsored churches full of unbelievers.  Thousands failed to identify themselves as sinners deserving of death and in need of the vicarious death of Christ to save them.  Instead, everyone thought they were safe, because they attended church every Sunday.  Kierkegaard awoke one day to find himself surrounded by a nation of religious hypocrites who were as insincere about their doctrine as they were about their devotion.

But as sincere as he himself may have been, Kierkegaard still failed to identify the real problem, which was a state-sponsored false gospel.  Kierkegaard instead identified insincerity as the culprit.  The Danes weren’t sincere enough, he thought.  If he could just point this out to them and show them how they needed to be more sincere, then the problem would be fixed.  How was he to do this though?  How could he prove to people who could not have cared less about his proofs that they were in need of sincerity?

Kierkegaard chose the Danish newspapers as his starting point.   He wrote editorial opinions criticizing the sincerity of Danish churches.  The problem, he said, was that the Danish had failed to understand the true definition of faith.  Faith, said Kierkegaard, was not simply a matter of the mind.  That is, faith is not about what you believe, but rather how you believe it.  Faith is more than just assenting to propositions; it is also a way of feeling, an experience, a sincerity that is impassioned and which transcends and inspires you to a deeper devotion.  Faith, he said, is not just a matter of the mind, but also of the heart.

Kierkegaard would go on to develop this mind-heart dichotomy into what is now known as existentialism.  Existentialism is a philosophical system that divides knowledge into two parts – objective and subjective; outside and inside; impersonal facts and personal experience.  According to Existentialism, one without the other is tantamount to no knowledge at all.  According to later Existentialists like Sartre, the subjective alone is good enough.

The problem for Kierkegaard is that the Bible never makes this distinction.  Kierkegaard inserted it into the text.  Scripture views head and heart as the same thing.  What you know in your head is what you know in your heart.  The thoughts of the heart, said Jesus, proceed from the mouth.  If the heart is for one thing and the head for another, then it is impossible for a heart to have thoughts.

Proverbs 23:7 As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.

Matthew 15:19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts

Romans 1:21 and their foolish heart was darkened

Acts 5:4 Why have you conceived this deed in your heart?

Romans 8:27 And he who searches the heart knows what is the mind of the Spirit

If foolishness is something that describes a poor mind (Prov 11:29, Ps 14:1), then it is hard to imagine how a heart could be foolish if a heart is something other than a mind.

The Bible does not differentiate between heart and mind.  Both words refer to the same thing – the intellect.  In fact, the Greek word for heart, “kardia”, means to think.

Romans 10:10 for with the heart one believes

How did Kierkegaard get it so wrong then?  He got it so wrong for two main reasons.  First, he did not, nor did he ever believe the true gospel.  Second, he began with his own head rather than with the Bible.

Kierkegaard was convinced that the problem with the Danish church was its lack of sincerity.  He did not go to the Scriptures first to learn what the problem was.  Instead, he first assumed what the problem was, and then he went to the Bible to prove his assumption true.

His cure for the Danish church was no better than the disease.  And the Danes knew it!  The Danish responded in kind to his editorials.  Even worse, they openly mocked him.   This only set Kierkegaard to scribble even more furiously.  Soon, the Danes were publishing editorial cartoons mocking his appearance.  Out in the streets, children threw stones at him.

While the Danish response to criticism was no better than the criticism itself, Kierkegaard cure for the Danes was also no better than the disease.  This was because Kierkegaard had literally turned pagan idolaters into citizens of God’s kingdom overnight.  He composed an illustration in which he imagined two men praying; one, an insincere Lutheran and the other a sincere Hindu.  Kierkegaard argued that because the Lutheran was insincere, the Lutheran was therefore praying to an idol, while the Hindu, because he was sincere, was actually praying to the God of the Bible.  Yes, he actually claimed this!

For one-hundred years after his death, Kierkegaard’s incurable cure lay dormant until Barth and Schleiermacher discovered it.  In their own search for a cure for Nietzsche’s Nihilism, both Barth and Schleiermacher discovered Kierkegaard’s unbiblical definition of faith.

Barth would go on to fill the minds of hundreds of young American men with his nonsense.  These young men, zealous to be made into Godly pastors, would find their heads filled with Barth’s rubbish. Being ill equipped to combat it, these young men would return to America to begin unwittingly filling the heads of the people in their congregations with Kierkegaardian garbage.

Some ninety or so years later, we find the hollowed out remains of what used to be churches standing everywhere in our midst. The buildings remain intact, and the congregations inside continue to gather, but the gospel has long since vanished from the place.  What remains are a bunch of pagans convinced of their righteousness because they are sincere.

American Christianity is now awash in Kierkegaardian impassioned sincerity.  Faith is no longer defined as intellectual assent to the gospel’s propositions.  Instead, faith is today defined as impassioned sincerity.

Jesus Christ saved His people by offering His body to God at the cross as a sacrifice for His people’s sins.   The Bible says agree that this is true and you will be saved.  Today, preachers and podcasters all over the Western world tell us that we must do more than agree with the gospel to be saved.  They tell us we must also be sincere and take measurements of our sincerity to make sure we are sincere.   Justified by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone has been replaced with justified by grace, but saved by sincerity.   It is blasphemy to tack the Holy Spirit onto the end of that last sentence.  It is blasphemy and it is a lie to pretend that the message is still one of grace simply because the Holy Spirit is now asserted to be the one who enables me to be sincere.  Justified by grace, but saved by a sincerity which the Holy Spirit enables me to perform is an utterly wicked and abominable message. 

6 thoughts on “Faith and the Danish

  1. Far from idleness being the root of all evil,
    it is rather the only true good.
    – Soren Kierkegaard

  2. Kierkegaard , “Whoever has learned to be anxious in the right way has
    learned the ultimate.”

  3. To be able to love a person despite his weaknesses and defects and
    imperfections is still not perfect love, but rather this, to be able
    to find him lovable despite and with his weaknesses and defects and
    imperfections. Let us understand each other. It is one thing
    fastidiously to want to eat only the choicest and most delectable dish
    when it is exquisitely prepared or, even when this is the case,
    fastidiously to find one or another defect in it. It is something else
    not merely to be able to eat plainer foods but to be able to find this
    plainer food to be the most exquisite, because the task is not to
    develop one’s fastidiousness but to transform oneself and one’s

    -Søren Kierkegaard, Works of Love, p. 157-8

  4. Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855):

    When the prosperous man on a dark but starlit night drives comfortably in his carriage and has the lanterns lighted, aye, then he is safe, he fears no difficulty, he carries his light with him, and it is not dark close around him.

    But precisely because he has the lanterns lighted, and has a strong light close to him, precisely for this reason, he cannot see the stars. For his lights obscure the stars, which the poor peasant, driving without lights, can see gloriously in the dark but starry night.

    So those deceived ones live in the temporal existence: either, occupied with the necessities of life, they are too busy to avail themselves of the view, or in their prosperity and good days they have, as it were, lanterns lighted, and close about them everything is so satisfactory, so pleasant, so comfortable—but the view is lacking, the prospect, the view of the stars.

  5. Attribute the quote to C S Lewis, G K Chesterton, or any one of those other Catholic guys and I don’t think anyone could tell the difference.

    Country of the Blind by C S Lewis

    Hard light bathed them-a whole nation of eyeless men,
    Dark bipeds not aware how they were maimed. A long
    Process, clearly, a slow curse,
    Drained through centuries, left them thus.

    At some transitional stage, then, a luckless few,
    No doubt, must have had eyes after the up-to-date,
    Normal type had achieved snug
    Darkness, safe from the guns of heavn;

    Whose blind mouths would abuse words that belonged to their
    Great-grandsires, unabashed, talking of light in some
    Eunuch’d, etiolated,
    Fungoid sense, as a symbol of

    Abstract thoughts. If a man, one that had eyes, a poor
    Misfit, spoke of the grey dawn or the stars or green-
    Sloped sea waves, or admired how
    Warm tints change in a lady’s cheek,

    None complained he had used words from an alien tongue,
    None question’d. It was worse. All would agree ‘Of course,’
    Came their answer. “We’ve all felt
    Just like that.” They were wrong. And he

    Knew too much to be clear, could not explain. The words —
    Sold, raped flung to the dogs — now could avail no more;
    Hence silence. But the mouldwarps,
    With glib confidence, easily

    Showed how tricks of the phrase, sheer metaphors could set
    Fools concocting a myth, taking the worlds for things.
    Do you think this a far-fetched
    Picture? Go then about among

    Men now famous; attempt speech on the truths that once,
    Opaque, carved in divine forms, irremovable,
    Dear but dear as a mountain-
    Mass, stood plain to the inward eye.

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