Training In Christianity Book Review

Training In Christianity

Author: Søren Kierkegaard, Translated With An Introduction And Notes By Walter Lowrie

Publisher: Princeton: Princeton University Press

275 pages, including Preface, Translator’s Introduction, and Index

ISBN 0-691-01959-2, Paperback

Reviewed by Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson

 The nineteenth century Danish philosopher-theologian, Søren Kierkegaard is, in most cases, difficult to read, and this work is no exception. Kierkegaard had a penchant for at times paragraph-long sentences, which are rather obscure and too abstract. Reading Kierkegaard is sorenklike running a marathon in that it requires both endless patience and endurance. Moreover, I would not be surprised either if some of the meaning has been lost translating from the Danish into English and making sections of the work in English even more cumbersome than the original text. If one is to understanding even an inkling of Kierkegaard’s works, it is helpful to remember and look for his use of paradox and dialectic in his thinking and writing.

   In this volume Kierkegaard suggests there are two different kinds of history—secular and sacred. Secular history relies on facts drawn from asking the usual questions: who? what? where? when? why? how?

   On the other hand, sacred history does not rely on such facts or questions. Rather, it is taken and written, read and lived with “a leap of faith,” i.e. ultimate, radical trust that its content is true and of divine origin, hence not subject to analysis by the categories of secular history nor dependent on their ultimate results. Authentic faith then tends to become offensive to every secular, rational, natural value of human beings.

   Kierkegaard comes across as blunt and crude at times in his criticism of the state Church and clergy in particular. He makes all kinds of nasty remarks about their lacklustre character, their indifference, their lack of faith, etc. One does wonder if his vitriolic ranting in this regard at times is unfair and perhaps the consequence of his depressed and despairing state of being; as well as his being regarded as something of a pariah.

   However there are passages in this work that do shine. For example, I like this quote based on Jesus’ call to take up one’s cross: “At the precise place where suffering would have come if I had been living in a militant Church, now comes reward; there, where scorn and derision would overtake me if I had been living in a militant Church, now honour and esteem beckon to me; there, where death would be unavoidable, I now celebrate the highest triumph.” (p. 208) Kierkegaard thought that the established Church lost its sense of contending since it had become too cozy in the world; whereas the militant Church was always in a state of becoming and survives only by contending with the world.

   Training In Christianity is not for the faint-of-heart. If you’re up for challenging, heavy plodding along; if you enjoy theological and philosophical gymnastics; then this work is waiting for you.

Today the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity begins

Today, January 18, marks the beginning of the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. In North America, it always begins on this date, when we celebrate the Confession of Peter, and the week ends on January 25 when we celebrate the Conversion of Paul. In between, on January 20, we remember the twentieth century martyr, Martin Luther King Jr.

This year’s theme is titled: “Is Christ divided?” It is based on 1 Corinthians 1:1-17, the apostle Paul’s appeal to the church at Corinth struggling with divisions. In his appeal, Paul urges the church to live in koinonia-translated into English as fellowship, but also can mean community/communion, and refer to a sense of unity. Of course for Paul, and for all Christians, unity is God’s gift of faithfulness vis-a-vis baptism and the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus.

Our response and calling is to make visible unity a reality in the church and world; which is an ever and ongoing process under the leading of the Holy Spirit until such time as Jesus’ high priestly prayer in John chapter seventeen becomes a reality.

In the meantime, we take small steps of faith on the journey towards full unity. This year’s materials for Week of Prayer for Christian Unity have been prepared by a Canadian team comprised of participants from various denominations-sad to say, I don’t see any mention of Lutherans, and I wonder why? At any rate, if you follow this link to one of the pages on the World Council of Churches website, you will see a link there to a PDF document, click on it, and you can download it for either personal, parish or ecumenical services, prayers and devotions: http://www.oikoumene.org/en/resources/documents/wcc-commissions/faith-and-order-commission/xi-week-of-prayer-for-christian-unity/2014

ON ANOTHER MATTER, PLEASE NOTE: I am continuing to evaluate whether or not I am going to keep this blog active or shut it down, which means, as I stated in the previous post, I shall likely be posting only sporadically.

Our New Year X-County Ski

Today we went out skiing to Police Point Park. It was a perfect winter’s day, not too hot, not too cold, no wind, about minus 7 or 8. God was smiling down on us, so we got our 30-year-old cross-country skis, boots, poles, and  gloves and headed out to do some skiing.

Me all enthusiastic at the beginning of the ski

Me all enthusiastic at the beginning of the ski

My wife, Julianna on the enjoying the trail

My wife, Julianna enjoying the trail

Me gliding along on the trail

Me gliding along on the trail

We met up with these folks snowshoeing

We met up with these folks snowshoeing

Of course others were x-country skiing too

Of course others were x-country skiing too

The sun going down behind the trees

The sun going down behind the trees

River banks in the distance

River banks in the distance

Happy New Year everyone, and a BIG thank you to all who visited my blog and especially those of you who took the time and made the effort to leave a comment on my blog in 2013. I am going to take some time to evaluate whether or not to continue with this blog, as it has been online now for several years. So if you find my posting rather infrequent or not at all, that is the reason.