Friday, September 27, 2013

KIERKEGAARD: FAITH AND OFFENSE IN THE LIGHT OF ABSURDITY

In a sense the conversation about Jesus and the Incarnation is amusing because we're still trying to rationalize the irrational and illogical -- and as long as we're doing that we're not really admitting that Jesus is philosophically absurd, (i.e., that Jesus being fully man while being fully God, is utterly inconsistent with what common sense and experience dictate). On this point, Kierkegaard has some very intriguing things to say.

The problem, from Kierkegaard's point of view, is that we Christians have tried to make our faith palatable to an unbelieving mind by trying to rationalize with logical categories what is truly absurd.  We don’t want the unbeliever to have any despair or suffering as they wrestle with the rational absurdities of believing that Christ in His essence is all that God is in His essence. Yet ultimately, it is in fact better to let them wrestle with the absurdity -- the only place for Kierkegaard from which genuine faith can be born.

When you think about it, the absurdity includes the truth that the God of heaven didn’t make Jesus reasonable or more palatable to the senses of the rational mind at all.  And, Scripture testifies that to the unbelieving observers of that day, familiar with the OT revelation that there is only one God who is Absolutely God (alone), Jesus didn’t help make God become more believable.  Jesus just threw a wrench into the whole thing actually.  This is why Scripture always references Jesus as the stumbling block -- never God the Father or God the Spirit [Isa. 8:14-15; 1 Pet. 2:8].

So Jesus being God in His essence really can't be rationalized because it’s inherently irrational; it really can't be speculated upon because it’s completely incomprehensible and unimaginable; and it really cannot be quarantined within boundaries because the essence of God is that which is boundless.  By that we mean that  God is completely and innately incomprehensible because in His essence He is non-corporeal, i.e., no property of matter can be ascribed to him.  He has no extension in space, no weight, no mass, no bulk, no parts, no form.  So being One in essence, and without parts, he is thought by some to be theologically indivisible (the doctrine of divine simplicity is that the being of God is identical to the "attributes" of God). So the problem is that Jesus, possessing the nature and essence of God, who must therefore be God, could not at the same time logically and rationally continue to be God if he had had all those things like body parts and extension in space, because possessing those physical features necessarily disqualifies Him from the God category.

Kierkegaard went on to suggest that if Jesus as God is almost probable, or probable, or extremely probable, or emphatically probable, then it is impossible (and unnecessary) to believe it, because it would then be knowable, i.e., it would then be objectively graspable.  But precisely because I cannot know this GOD IDEA objectively, it must be believed

So then, Jesus, the true object of our faith -- is absurd; yet, if we really want to believe in God, then Jesus is the only object that can be believed, because otherwise God is still utterly incomprehensible. So Kierkegaard said, "Fine. You want proof before you believe that Jesus is God?  Then let the comedy begin!"

For Kierkegaard, the reason Jesus is an objective absurdity is because in Him, that which is the Eternal Spiritual Truth has come into being, in time, as a particular individual, Christ, and has put Himself in relationship with our existence, and has proclaimed himself as The Paradox. And this paradox, the God-man, is an absurdity to the understanding. 

Kierkegaard said the real problem with Jesus then isn’t that He’s not believable – it’s that He’s offensive to rational thinking. The options to trusting the Gospel then are not limited to faith or unbelief.  Jesus is at the crossroad of logical, rational thought, where every individual must either have:faith in the objective truth of Christ as God, or must be utterly offended in the truth of Christ as God.

Only from the possibility of rational offense can one turn to genuine faith in Christ; one never comes to faith except from the possibility of rational offense.  Instead of using the category of doubt in reference to Jesus, (i.e., one either believes or doesn't believe in Christ being God in essence), we ought in our discussion to be thinking more in terms of either being offended at the rational absurdity of Jesus being God in His essence or believing and trusting that Jesus is God in His essence. These are the only real options to believing the categorical Truth that Jesus is God in His essence. This was Kierkegaard's argument about Jesus' own comments about Himself and the warning about being offended because of Him in Mt. 11:1-6 [John 6:61].

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