The Requirement of Christianity: Kierkegaard’s Take

A crucial question to consider, for one seeker of truth, are the requirements expected of a person for becoming a Christian. What exactly are these said requirements? What doctrines or creeds do I have to recite in order to admit Lordship to Christ? “What good thing must I do to get eternal life?” (Matt. 19:16) Soren Kierkegaard  (1813-1855) in his Practice in Christianity (1848) points his attention to ‘the requirement’, from he which uses Matthew 11:28 to express this: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Spoken by Jesus himself, the requirement simply is, ‘come here to me.’ However, the insistence by which Kierkegaard presses this issue is primarily aimed towards those who don’t desire salvation on Jesus’ terms. In other words, this message is directed towards those find it more important to “bury their own dead” (Matt. 8:22), get married, maintain their good standing in society, secure their finances, and so forth. As Murray Rae once noted, “It is directed against those whose ‘Christianity’ consists principally in the conventional observance of religious ritual. . . Or, it is directed against those who count all these things first in importance and yet imagine they are following Jesus” [1].

Of course, don’t be misled on this point. The severity of Christianity’s requirement is not the initial thing to be learned – the main thing is grace. “The requirement should be heard – and I understand what is said as spoken to me alone – so that I might learn not only to resort to grace but to resort to it in relation to the use of grace” [2]. The command “come to me” is seen by Kierkegaard as relatively simple, but almost willfully impossible due to man’s insistent preoccupation with worldly things – power, wealth, reputation, etc. But, even more difficult is the source of the invitation being given: our inviter is himself a lowly servant, having been despised, rejected, and prosecuted.

Hence, we face the following paradox: “the one offering help appears to be in desperate need of help himself” [3]; the one offering salvation “can’t even save himself” (Matt. 27:42). How then do we pass the obstacle of obedience? Kierkegaard proposes the solution of lowliness and humbling oneself in being a follower of Christ. Suffering, then – which is the inevitable consequence of following Christ (2 Tim. 3:12) – is the ultimate mark of discipleship. The warrant that we do have for initiating these acts of faith (coming to Jesus, trusting him, etc.) are simply in the words of Christ – i.e., that we have nothing for these things and that we must simply trust in his word.

______________________

Notes:

  • [1] Murray Rae, Kierkegaard and Theology (T&T Clark International: 2010), p. 109.
  • [2] Kierkegaard. Ibid., p. 108.
  • [3] Ibid., p. 110.
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