I know a lot of people don’t like leftovers, but I love them. If it was great a night or two ago, it will be great again tonight. George Carlin said it perfectly: “Leftovers make you feel good twice.” (Had he ended the quote right there, we all would have been happy, but instead, he explained: “First, when you put it away, you feel thrifty and intelligent: ‘I’m saving food!’ Then a month later when blue hair is growing out of the ham and you throw it away, you feel really intelligent: ‘I’m saving my life!’”). Forget Carlin! I love leftovers. Here are six leftover quotes from Kierkegaard that I didn’t offer in this series, but, because they’re just too good to pass up, I offer them to you now.
- “People understand me so little that they do not even understand when I complain of being misunderstood.”
- “I would rather be a swineherd, understood by the swine, than a poet misunderstood by men.”
- “Above all, do not lose your desire to walk. Every day, I walk myself into a state of wellbeing and walk away from every illness. I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it.”
- “What is a poet? An unhappy person who conceals profound anguish in his heart but whose lips are so formed that, as sighs and cries pass over them, they sound like beautiful music.”
- “It is the duty of the human understanding to understand that there are things which it cannot understand.”
- “A fire broke out backstage in a theatre. The clown came out to warn the public; they thought it was a joke and applauded. He repeated it; the acclaim was even greater. I think that’s just how the world will come to an end: to the general applause of wits who believe it’s a joke.”
We come today to the end of this series. It would break my heart to think that any of you were applauding (whether or not you thought I was joking!). For the last 17 weeks, we have been looking at Mark Teitjen’s wonderful book on Kierkegaard, entitled, “Kierkegaard: A Christian Missionary to Christians” (IVP Academic, 2016). For me, this has been a wonderful journey; and I hope you also have enjoyed it. Today, we wrap things up with six multiple-choice questions and a ton of quotes (and I wouldn’t have it any other way!).
Let’s begin. Kierkegaard spends a lot of time dissecting the difference between true faith (which is infused with passion in every direction—intellect, emotion and will) and a merely intellectual faith (a faith that is “as simple as pulling on one’s socks”). Unfortunately, most of us know far more truth than we practice (and most of us like it that way).
Question 1: Pick one of the following four quotes that you feel speaks to you most powerfully about forsaking a mechanical faith and memorize that quote.
a. “The object of the (Christian) faith is not the teaching, but the teacher.”
b. “The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly.”
c. “Christianity is not a doctrine to be taught, but rather a life to be lived.”
d. “What one’s life proclaims is a hundred thousand times more powerfully effective than what one’s mouth proclaims.”
Question 2: Below are six quotes which offer abundant wisdom. Pick one, copy it and then keep it with you so that the next time you are in an important conversation with a friend, you can have this quote at your disposal.
a. “How sin came into the world, each person understands solely by themselves.”
b. “The most common form of despair is not being who you are.”
c. “Our life always expresses the result of our dominant thoughts.”
d. “Face the facts of being what you are, for that is what changes what you are.”
e. “The question is not ‘To be or not to be,’ it is what we should be until we are not.”
f. “There is nothing with which every man is so afraid as getting to know how enormously much he is capable of doing and becoming.”
Kierkegaard invested a lot of time and energy thinking about love, especially how we can carry out Jesus’ command to love God and our neighbors. For Kierkegaard, love was the measure of true Christianity, especially when that love was difficult.
Question 3: Below are five quotes on love. Pick one and read it every day for the next 60 days and pray that God will give you opportunities to use that quote in real life.
a. “We often talk about finding the perfect person in order to love him. Christianity speaks about being the perfect person who limitlessly loves the person he sees.”
b. “Men think that it is impossible for a human being to love his enemies, for enemies are hardly able to endure the sight of one another. Well, then, shut your eyes—and your enemy looks just like your neighbor.”
c. “To love oneself in the divine sense is to love God, and to truly love another person is to help that person to love God.”
d. “If mistrust can actually see something as less than it is, then love also can see something as greater than it is.”
e. “Love is all; it gives all, and it takes all.”
Kierkegaard had many harsh things to say about the church and pastors (that were, unfortunately, very true), as well as many thoughtful things to say about what it means to be a witness. He also offered up some helpful suggestions to get the church back on track. Below are eight such quotes.
Question 4: Pick one of these eight quotes that, for one reason or another, strikes you. Read it slowly a second time and then pray for that concern, whether it be for you, your witness, your church or your pastor.
a. “O Luther, you had 95 theses. . . . The matter is far more terrible—there is only one thesis. The Christianity of the New Testament does not exist at all. Here, there is nothing to reform.”
b. “The human race in the course of time has taken the liberty of softening and softening Christianity until at last we have contrived to make it exactly the opposite of what it is in the New Testament.”
c. “No matter how good or how poor a pastor preaches, his sermons always speak far better than his life.”
d. “We should not hesitate to preach against Christianity in Christian sermons.”
e. “The reason why preachers are so eager to preach in a chock-full church is that if they were to say what they have to say in an empty room, they would become anxious and afraid, for they would notice that it pertains to themselves.”
f. “To the frivolous, Christianity is certainly not glad tidings, for it wishes first of all to make them serious.”
g. “In all eternity it is impossible for me to compel a person to accept an opinion, a conviction, a belief. But one thing I can do: I can compel him to take notice.”
h. “The truly simple way of presenting Christianity is to do it.”
Far from being a man of despair, Kierkegaard was a man of immense hope (even though he did quip once: “My melancholy is the most faithful mistress I have known; what wonder, then, that I love her in return.”). Here are four great quotes about hope.
Question 5: We all go through times where we feel everything is hopeless. Take one of these quotes and put it somewhere convenient so that when a dire situation arises, you can quickly find this quote and read it.
a. “Therefore, never unlovingly give up on any human being, since it is possible that even the most prodigal son could still be saved. No, hope all things.”
b. “Blessed is the man of faith; he believes what he cannot see. Blessed is the lover; he believes away what he nevertheless can see.”
c. “It is better to try something and fail than to try nothing and succeed. The result may be the same, but you won’t be. We always grow more through defeats than victories.”
d. “The prodigal son’s father was perhaps the only one who did not know that he had a prodigal son, because the father’s love hoped all things.”
Kierkegaard loved parables. In week nine, we told several of his parables and ended with this one:
“There was a little town of Ducks. Every Sunday the ducks waddle out of their houses and waddle down Main Street to their church. They waddle into the sanctuary and squat in their proper pews. The duck choir waddles in and takes its place, then the duck minister comes forward and opens the duck Bible (Ducks, like all other creatures on earth, seem to have their own special version of the Scriptures.) He reads to them: ‘Ducks! God has given you wings! With wings you can fly! With wings you can mount up and soar like eagles. No walls can confine you! No fences can hold you! You have wings. God has given you wings and you can fly like birds!’ All the ducks shouted ‘Amen!’ And then they all waddled home.”
Question 6: Where are you in the parable?
a. I’m with the ducks, and I see no problem with staying there.
b. I’m with the ducks, but I see a terrible gap between my beliefs and my life.
c. I’m with the ducks, but I don’t want to be.
d. I’m flying.
If you choose “a,” here is your Kierkegaard quote:
“There are this many children baptized every year, that many confirmed, and how many become theological professors and Bible teachers? There are thousands of pastors. Everything is in place—if only following Christ existed.”
If you choose “b,” here is your Kierkegaard quote:
“How easily can one forget this; how quickly can one jump into patterns and habits of religiosity and quite literally lose heart, lose one’s love for God and live dishonest lives that mimic more than practice the faith we claim.”
If you choose “c,” here is your Kierkegaard quote:
“The truth is a trap: you cannot get it without it getting you; you cannot get the truth by capturing it, only by its capturing you.”
And if you choose “d,” here is your Kierkegaard quote:
“Now, with God’s help, I shall become myself.”
One last thought. Kierkegaard wrote:
“Many of us pursue pleasure with such breathless haste that we hurry past it.”
Thanks for taking the time to slow down and read these posts. I hope you found some wisdom, some challenge and some pleasure in them. And note: for the next two weeks we will be on vacation; and so, there will be no new blog posts. But we will be back in September.
Blessings and peace!