2018 Classics Challenge #4- A classic in translation
The Journals of Kierkegaard, translated by Alexander Dru
The Journals of Kierkegaard, as translated by Alexander Dru, is a fascinating look inside a brilliant mind and soul. Covering a wide variety of subjects- even with a short story or two thrown in- it is arranged by date rather than topic, and we get to see certain themes revisited as they develop. The tone is usually melancholy- a word Kierkegaard will freely use to describe his disposition- but now and then it will erupt into joy.
“This is what I have known for certain, that God is love. Even if I am wrong on this or that point: God is nevertheless love, that I believe, and whoever believes that is not mistaken. If I have made a mistake it will be plain enough; so I repent – and God is love. He is love, not he was love, nor: he will be love, oh no, even that future was too slow for me, he is love.” 1850, pages 194-195
One thing I appreciated about Kierkegaard was how he continuously challenged. He is willing to point out issues he found even from such respected persons as the local bishop, Martin Luther, and the king. I wasn’t always comfortable with some of his rebukes which seemed to swing the pendulum too far in the other direction. But he himself declares he is no extremist:
“People will make it appear that I wanted to introduce pietism, little, pusillanimous self-abnegations in matters of no consequence. No thank you, I never wanted that in the slightest degree. What I want is to spur people on to becoming moral characters, witnesses to the truth, to be willing to suffer for the truth, and ready to give up worldly wisdom.” 1850, page 200
But I say I appreciated Kierkegaard’s challenges because it made his notes on faith especially powerful. He wrote about Christianity as something that that is active and intimate, but which will cost much to follow. He doesn’t settle for ‘cultural’ or ‘comfortable’ Christianity. Kierkegaard had his own challenge, which he called ‘the great earthquake’. It was a shaking of both heart and mind, and without that I doubt we would have ‘The Journals of Kierkegaard’.
“The immediate person thinks and imagines that when he prays, the important thing, the thing he must concentrate upon, is that God should hear what HE is praying for. And yet in the true, eternal sense it is just the reverse: the true relation in prayer is not when God hears what is prayed for, but when the person praying continues to pray until he is the one who hears, who hears what God wills. The immediate person, therefore, uses many words and, therefore, makes demands in his prayer; the true man of prayer only attends.” – 1846, page 97
When I’m reading a book, I like to mark the pages that have an interesting or insightful passage. About every second page in The Journals of Kierkegaard has been marked. I may not always have agreed with or understood all that Kierkegaard said, but he always had something worth mulling over. I think I will have to re-read this book several times.