Defending Organized Religion and Kierkegaard’s Anti-Climacus

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Defending Organized Religion and Kierkegaard’s Anti-Climacus

Practice in Christianity, written by the pseudonym[1] of Anti-Climacus, describes the ideal Christian life from the perspective of the ideal Christian. ‘Anti-’ in the sense of ‘Anti-Climacus’ is not an indication of opposition (to Climacus, the ‘devoutly non-Christian’ ethicist and editor of Either/Or whose esthetic sense was particularly keen). Rather, “Anti-” is an older form of “ante”, meaning ‘before’ both in the sense of time and in the sense of rank. Anti-Climacus is the perfect Christian; this was useful to Kierkegaard, who could not claim that distinction for himself. Practice in Christianity deals harshly with the Church’s homogenization of Christianity by removing its “offensiveness.” This paper will examine and analyze several passages from Practice in Christianity, draw parallels between the inoffensive Church of Denmark in the mid-19th century and both the charismatic and “High-Church”[2] traditions of worship in the United States today, and suggest criteria for sincere, “offensive” worship in an organized church.

Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is he who takes no offense at me.”

-Matthew 11:2-6; RSV

“The possibility of offense is the crossroad, or it is like standing at the crossroad…one never come to faith except from the possibility of offense.”

-Anti-Climacus; Practice in Christianity, pg. 81

What is offensive about Christianity? Surely such a question is absurd, even blasphemous! The word “Christianity” implies to many people a lifestyle characterized by altruism, kindness, mercy and sincere love—even after centuries of monarchs and murderers alike have used “Christianity” as an excuse for a variety of causes. Consider also the Christian’s devotion to God and attempted emulation of Christ—it is surely impossible to take umbrage at this patently inoffensive way of life. This argument makes great sense to many who call themselves “Christians.” Indeed, the concept of Christianity as a belief system is unlikely to offend many. The practice of Christianity, on the other hand, is particularly offensive, albeit not in the sense in which “offensive” is particularly used.

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