For those who know me, I started my journey into Christian spirituality as a complete atheist who distrusted the church. Amongst the many great teachers that helped me to gain an understanding and language for faith, was the nineteenth century writer, Soren Kierkegaard. He was very much a man ahead of his time, a committed contemplative Christian, highly influenced by the thinking of Socrates, and was passionate about a mystical and God-led form of the faith and Church. If he was around now, I hope that he would feel quite at home in our little Moot Community. So why am I so encouraged by this guy?
Well firstly, Kieregaard really struggled with the Church as he experienced it in Denmark. For him there was far too much certainty and the language of ‘arriving’. For him Christianity had become too rational, too certain, almost like sitting back and not really living it. For Kierkegaard (and like the contemplatives, monastics, mendicants and mystics) you never arrive. In fact, he was very critical of forms of Christianity that were too intellectual, too wordy, where people didn’t live it. For him, Christianity is never about arriving, about not being certain, and about faith being an ongoing process as we seek to grow in our becoming. So rather than ‘being’ and the language of certainty, Kierkegaard is all about seeking, of transformation and ‘becoming’. For him dialogue was key, to open up what the Holy Spirit was seeking to reveal rather than dualistic debate about who is right and wrong. For Kierkegaard discipleship is about seeking, seeking God and revelation in the ordinary, getting beyond our self-deception and the ills of the false-self and the ego, to reach beyond the limitations of our own thinking and feeling (sound familiar?).
I really like this emphasis on not taking ourselves too seriously, and this call to humility and the discipline of really listening in prayer to the divine. I love his idea of God’s love unsettling us to find our true selves. I think many of us are not very happy at the moment. Many of us are feeling cornered and having to face up to parts of our personality we don’t like very much. Well if Kierkegaard was listening to this, he would argue that this is the Christian path of the open-endness of God, that demands a response. For him, all our thinking and explorations are utterly subjective and will never be objective. For him objectivity is a distorter – a deadly sin, something that takes the life out of us and takes us away from God.
Just by accident, I came across a BBC Radio 4 Podcast on Kierkegaard the other day, which unpacks all of these themes far more eloquently than I can. So to listen to this click here, and scroll down to number 18. You won’t regret it. I have suddenly realised, that a lot of the themes I explored in my book ‘God Unknown’ are inspired by this particular approach to Christianity. It is interesting how Rohr, Brueggemann, Moltmann and others of my teachers resonate with the writings of Kieregaard. What a hero!
The beautiful gift of his writing, is that the Christian spiritual path is open to anyone who is willing to listen and seek God, and realise that we can in ourselves be very blind and deaf to where the Spirit seeks to draw us. However, if we are able to face our false deceptions, let go of our need to be in control or right/certain, then we can reach beyond and encounter a God who never stands still.
So what is the challenge for Moot? I still think that we are massively over-rational even though we have focused on the contemplative. Many of us have relied on being bright or intelligent to get through difficult times in life. This then is like a coping strategy. It then becomes a great danger that we hold too tightly to this. This was demonstrated to me hugely when we did the Lectio Divina training the other day – we completely got stuck at the interpretation stage and ended up in a huge hermeneutical debate rather than anything to do with prayer and God speaking subjectively. It is this subjectivity we need to hold onto, to not take our selves sooo seriously. Letting go to listen to God, to quite literally get out of the way of God!!