On Becoming a Christian; Knowledge of God; And Analogy in Constructive Engagement with Søren

There is no analogy for God, or “Godness” without God’s graciousness to stoop down to us in our stuttering tongues and depraved hearts, and therein meet us with the possibility to know Him in a corresponding way in and through the analogy and bond of Christ’s faith for us. So, Christ’s faith in His vicarious humanity is the whence by which an analogy for knowledge of God obtains. This is the case because God is God, and we are not. It isn’t just that we are sinners, it is that we are creatures who by definition are finite. As such, even prior to the Fall (cf. Gen. 3), we were “handicapped” in regard to reaching the elevated heights of God’s own inner life and reality (in se). Without God’s grace, which is first exemplified in His first canonizing Word, ‘In the Beginning God created,’ there is no first order basis for the creature to reach out or up to their Creator; there is no whence for God inherent to the creature, there is only the need and constant dependence upon God’s first and last word of Grace. As Christians we have come to spiritually recognize this as the basis by which we live and move in a world contingent upon God’s Grace; we have come to recognize by the Holy Spirit that God’s Grace is Jesus Christ, and that in Christ we can come to analogize God—but only because God first analogized Himself for us in His election to not be God without us, but with us in the mediatorial humanity assumed by the eternal Logos who we know preciously as, Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

It is in this logic of grace that someone like Søren Kierkegaard would repudiate attempts, classical or modern, to offer proofs for God and His Self-existence. For SK, as we have just been opining ourselves, the bases for knowledge of God is not an analytical or systematic bases, but instead one where we as liminal creatures are confronted with our deep need for a personal God and Savior. For SK, though, it is not ‘our need’ that becomes the ‘foundation’ for our approach to God, instead it is God’s approach towards us in Jesus Christ, in Grace, wherein knowledge of God inheres. This has multitudinous applications, but without getting into those in mass, let’s hear some from Andrew Torrance and his commentary on SK in this direction.

Kierkegaard observes:

this is how people behave with respect to God – people forget that God exists and they consider whether it is the best thing, the most satisfactory thing, to have a God.

Christian thought is constantly faced with the danger and temptation of reducing God to a mere human concept and a relationship with God to a human worldview. This perpetuates a perception that human beings possess a certain authority over both ‘God’ and the Christian faith. Accordingly, Christians become preoccupied with such activities as demonstrating the truth of Christianity, for example, by engaging in rationalistic attempts to prove the existence of ‘God’. Or, alternatively, the devote themselves to speculating over the doctrine of ‘God’ in a way that makes little or no difference to their becoming followers of Jesus Christ. Under these circumstances, ‘God’ all too easily becomes a postulate to keep systematic theologians in business rather than the Lord who personally calls individuals to active lives of discipleship. Reflecting on this dynamic, Lee Barrett writes, in a passage that takes us to the very heart of Kierkegaard’s theological vision:

Even if God is said to transcend the categories of space and time, God is still treated as something whose mode of being can be an object for speculation and metaphysical description. According to such a practice, God would have to exhibit recognizable differentiating features and possess attributes that could be compared with the attributes of other beings. But for Kierkegaard, ‘God’ is not the name of any item locatable within the domain of finite beings, or of an entity recognizable by way of contrast to finite beings … Diverging from a certain kind of academic approach to theology, Kierkegaard resisted the tendency to specify the meaning of ‘God’ by compiling an inventory of identifying characteristics, no matter how lofty such characteristics might sound. Kierkegaard does not define God in terms of such daunting metaphysical properties as omnipotence, omniscience, and so forth. Rather, Kierkegaard seeks to give ‘God’ meaning by exhibiting the concept’s role in the life of devotion to God.

For Kierkegaard, as I have sought to show, the Christian faith is not primarily grounded in the human imagination or understanding but in God’s personal and dynamic engagement with the world in and through Jesus Christ. It is grounded in the living God who encounters persons in history and draws them to participate in a life of devotion to God. In its truest form, therefore, the Christian faith exists as a living witness and active expression of God’s relationship to us in and through Jesus Christ. It is out of a passionate devotion to the personal reality of God that an individual takes up the task of becoming a Christian.[1]

For the ‘school’ theologian what has been written is hard to hear, but maybe they should. Regardless, as Torrance (and Barrett) have annunciated for us, for SK, what is of premium importance for the Christian, in regard to their knowledge of and relationship with God, is driven by ‘personalist’ loci.

I originally framed this post through a lens that the quote itself does not exactly correspond to; at least not directly. But I think analogy is an important piece to this; at least insofar as that implicates a discussion on the whence of God for us. If we were to think constructively, as I am attempting to do, we might see a discussion on analogy as important to SK’s theology, and then Christian theology in general, in the sense that it serves as a focus, a modal focus, that allows us to understand how it might be that God alone in His gracious movement, ought to serve as the One who controls how we come to a knowledge of Him; how it is that we become Christians at all.

If the analogy for knowledge of God, and thus the entrée point for becoming a Christian, is always already one that is grounded in the movement of God’s Grace for us; if that movement eventuates in His condescension to be with and for us in Christ, and in that movement the Christ in His humanity provides the ‘faith’ through which a genuine knowledge of God can be gotten; then theologies that attempt to find a knowledge of God, or ‘Godness,’ outwith God’s Self-delimited parameter for that to happen, indeed in the assumed flesh of the Son of Man, will not ultimately provide for a sound basis towards a genuine knowledge of the living God. Further, if the Christian’s basis for knowledge of God, and thus the whence of becoming a Christian, is necessarily based upon encounter with this living God for us in the illumined face of Jesus Christ, then there can be no refraction of this movement; a refraction wherein we come to God based on an analogy that is outside of this gifted parameter in God’s Grace.

If what I am getting at isn’t clear enough: What I am, once again!, arguing, is that an analogy of being that presumes upon the meta-idea of an abstract humanity, one that is not enclosed by the humanity of Christ, one that presumes on a logico-deductive schemata that comes prior to this encounter, will only lead this sort of school theologian to be engaging with an impersonal and self-projected conception of the living God. Remember, the Christian, by definition, is one who calls Jesus Christ, Lord; but only by the Spirit. It is this Gift that keeps on giving; giving as the Bread of Life that sustains us moment by moment. To construct a foreign ground, another foundation other than Christ (cf. I Cor 3.11), even after someone has ostensibly come to encounter with Christ, would be similar to being the Israelite who was redeemed out of Egypt, baptized in the Red Sea, and then began to worship Yahweh through a Golden Calf of their own making. Becoming a Christian never flutters this way or that, it always finds its wind through the breath it first encountered through the living voice of God in the face of Jesus Christ. As such, knowledge of God is always already contingent upon this voice; that doesn’t change after-the-fact. The fact remains that God is God, and our knowledge of Him is fully dependent upon Him meeting us every moment of everyday in the givenness of His own voice.

If we reject the proposal I’m driving at in this post, then we place ourselves in a position to manipulate God’s voice into a tertium quid that is no-God; and an übermensch of our own projection (cf. Rom. 1.18ff). What often trips folks up at this point is the Tradition. The Trad is school theology, of the sort that SK, Barth, Torrance et al. did not fully abandon, instead they all engaged with it as if a worthy fish-monger engages with his catch; as if the Trad itself is only a proximate iteration full of bones, and juicy flesh, but full of bones needing to either be removed, or purposed in reformulated ways—under the pressure that is provided for by the Christian who is in a constant and fresh relationship with the living voice of God in Jesus Christ.

[1] Andrew B. Torrance, The Freedom To Become A Christian: A Kierkegaardian Account of Human Transformation in Relationship with God (London/New York: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2016), 189-90.


Bearing Witness to the Living Christ in the Midst of Sin and the World: Against Monasticisms

It does no good to pretend like we aren’t still sinners as Christians; we can’t hide from something that is in our hearts simul justus et peccator. Monkery sought to recluse itself into an inner-chamber of cloistery intended to reduce worldly temptation and provide a safer place for devotio Christi; but this represented an abject failure. The Christian’s problem, along with the rest of the world, is that our hearts are desperately wicked above all else, who can know them?; but God. The answer isn’t reclusion; the answer is reckoning and facing our sins through the power of the resurrection. We still have monks among us; often we call them Fundamentalists. Fundamentalists can be found on the progressive left or the religious right; no matter. Fundamentalists-Right attempt to withdraw into a rationalist and rigid moralism, while Fundamentalists-Left attempt to withdraw into a libertine and anti-moralism (which ends up being just another sort of moralism). Søren Kierkegaard, via one of his commentators, Andrew Torrance, had thoughts on the effectiveness (and whimpyness) of the monk’s procedure. Torrance writes of Kierkegaard’s view:

A further problem with monasticism, for Kierkegaard, was that it invited Christians to deal with their anxiety over sin by trying to escape the secular world, by binding themselves to a uniform Christian environment in which it is much easier to copy Christ’s ascetic life and avoid worldly temptation. The problem with this approach is that it avoids what he saw as the highest Christian calling: to imitate Christ by remaining in the world, as a witness. For him, the Christian is not called to hide herself away like a hermit, avoiding the world’s opposition and persecution, but to stand out as a Christian before God and the world – ‘in the middle of actuality before the eyes of all’ – and suffer the consequences that follow. Nonetheless, he was happy to acknowledge that the Christian should try to avoid temptation (Fristelse), so long as it did not entail hiding away from the spiritual trials that he felt were so essential to the Christian life. The Christian is called to ‘go straight toward’ spiritual trial, ‘trusting in God and [Christ]’. This means voluntarily choosing to enter into situations where temptation will be a real factor: situations in which overcoming temptation will itself be a spiritual trial that needs to be faced: ‘one of the most painful forms of spiritual trial’. In these situations, the Christian must turn to Christ to find the strength and courage to endure temptation and be delivered from evil. If, however, he anxiously looks to other means, such as the safety of a monastery, there will be an extent to which he is avoiding Christ. He will be attempting to deal with his sin-anxiety through a worldly retreat from temptation. Under these circumstances,

Even if he prays, calling upon [Christ’s] name fervently, [Christ] is still no savior to him. He fights on his own as well as he can, uses all of his rational powers uprightly, if I can put it like that, to avoid temptation and thus really does avoid temptation and perhaps brings it all gratefully to [Christ]. But he doesn’t have the faith that [Christ] will help him triumph over temptation.

For Kierkegaard, it is the Christian’s loving relationship with God that animates her in her faithful struggle to follow Christ. It is in fellowship with God that the Christian comes to will ‘as God wills’ and thereby develops the passion to follow Christ in the face of tribulation.[1]

Bearing witness in the midst of the struggle with temptation and sin—even and mostly in our many failures—is, for Kierkegaard (and I’d contest, for Scripture’s teaching), the height of what it means to walk participatorially in imatatio Christi. I’d like to place one caveat here: I would contend that to ‘imitate Christ’ is not an effort that we have the capacity or energy within ourselves to accomplish; which is what the small quote from SK, that Andrew shares, I think helps to reinforce. The point is that in our struggle with sin we are confronted with the One who has not only never sinned, but never sinned for us; and beyond that put sin, in and from His ultimacy, to a living death. In other words, we can imitate Christ only insofar as Christ has provided that reality for us in and from His vicarious humanity for us (pro nobis).

Further, and back to the original remarks to open this post: to attempt a withdraw into some sort of monastic space—whether that be in our church communities, social media cliques, actual monasteries, or what have you—can only and ever result in a vicious circle of self-reliance and delusion. Delusion in the sense that we think we have sequestered ourselves off from the ‘world’ and its temptations, when in fact the reality is that the world is in our hearts. Like I asserted earlier, this sort of moral sequestering happens on all ‘sides’ and everywhere. There is no retreat but Christ; and in Christ we have the [resurrection] energy to not only stand, but fall and rise back up in Christ—over and again. It is in this holy cycle of mortificatio/vivificatio, of failure and success canonized for us in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ that the living God in the risen Christ is borne witness to mostly.  

[1] Andrew B. Torrance, The Freedom To Become A Christian: A Kierkegaardian Account of Human Transformation in Relationship with God (London/New York: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2016), 144-45.

How Jesus Took the ‘Leap of Faith’ For Us: The Relationship of Historicity, Faith, and Christianity

Christianity it has been said is one of the most historically contingent, and grounded religions out there. Indeed. If as the Apostle Paul argued, ‘if Christ be not risen our faith is in vain.’ But historicity and facticity often get in the way of what is of even more import, and that is what actually happened in the ‘history’ making event, in the ‘fact’ making event. What happened, for the Christian (and for the unbelieving world) is even more important than being able to “prove” that it did indeed happen. The reality of what Christ did in the incarnation, lived life, cross, death, burial,
jesusleapresurrection, ascension, and current priestly session are all realities, that in themselves ground the possibility, epistemically (and ontologically, for that matter) wherein our ‘beings’ as human agents come to have the apparatus needed in order to actually see what indeed did happen in history; it gives us the conditioning needed, the illumination required in order to have space to taste and see that God in Christ is indeed good. Historicity remains highly important for the Christian, relative to who God is and has revealed himself to be in Christ. But what is more important is what was accomplished in that history. This is what Thomas Torrance is getting at as he appeals to Kierkegaard on how faith and history, bounded up in the Christ event, implicate one another, and then us as people in need of more than just brute history for our salvation. TFT writes:

The Nature of faith: Kierkegaard on the apprehension of God in time

Now let us turn for a moment to the teaching of Kierkegaard that if we are to apprehend a historical fact we must apprehend not simply what has actually taken place and is now a static fact of history, but apprehend the happening itself, and indeed how it happened. But in apprehending a movement, the coming into being of a historical event, we must behave in terms of it. This apprehension involves an act of decision or an act of faith. Thus the New Testament witnesses report the events or happenings in the life of the historical Jesus, but they also bear witness to their belief that Jesus disclosed and authenticated himself to them as the Christ, the Son of the living God. Yet in the nature of the case they cannot transmit in ideas or factual reports that to which they bear witness in their belief. Their witness and belief challenge us to decision and belief with them, and only by an act of decision or belief can we enter into the situation that confronted them, and apprehend what they apprehended. Our way of apprehending Christ’s self-presentation in his actions must involve on our part a way of action corresponding to his action. Our mode of knowing Christ must be analogous to the mode of Christ’s coming into being in history. This entails on our part a movement of reason which Kierkegaard called the ‘leap of faith’, or resolution, or a decision.

There is no doubt that this is important. Unless in some real sense we share here in the life of Christ, we really cannot apprehend him; unless in some real sense what took place in his crucifixion and resurrection takes place also in an analogous way in our own experience, it can finally mean nothing to us. That is a very strong emphasis, for example, in the fourth Gospel. The truth conveyed to us by Christ is not simply a truth revealed by word, but a truth embodied in his person, so that to apprehend it we must personally have an experience of Christ himself as the one sent by the Father. Only by going through Christ to the Father can we come to know Christ as the Son of the Father. Only by an act of decision in obedience to the challenge of Christ can this come about. In Kierkegaard, the important element is not found in the decision of faith itself, but in the fact of Christ behind the decision. In encounter with Christ, decision derived its importance from the person of Christ himself, and therefore the decision cannot be abstracted from what Christ himself was and did.[1]

In our History Channel age we get so hung up on rationalist certitude about everything that what often gets lost is the significance of said history itself; in and of itself. If what Torrance describes vis-à-vis Kierkegaard has teeth, what should stand out to us is that as we talk about historicity and factualism, all along, the resurrected Christ is sitting there at the right hand of the Father just smiling as he sees the masses wringing their hands (or not) about whether he really died and rose again to begin with.

For the Christian, according to Torrance, it’s not ultimatelyreally even faith alone that matters, what matters is that Christ is standing behind that faith as a channel waiting to encounter us over and over again. The good news is that ‘faith’ itself is not something that we have to construct or muster up out of our own resources; for as Torrance develops in the following paragraphs to what I just shared from him, it is the importance of Christ’s vicarious faith for us that is made available to us in Christ (which we have addressed multiple times here at the blog in the past). For the Christian history is important, facts are important; but Jesus is more important.

[1] Thomas F. Torrance, Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ (Downers Grove, Illnois: IVP Academic, 2008),

Cultural Christianity’s Shielding Itself From Its Source: Søren Kierkegaard’s Critique of Soft Cultural Christianity

Christianity in America, in the West, and pretty much everywhere, at one point or another, and in one period of history or another always ends up collapsing in its particular culture so deeply that it is hard to distinguish between what is actually Christian and what isn’t. I think it would be safe to say that we currently inhabit a time in human history, and in my personal experience in North kierkegaardAmerica, wherein Christianity has really become more of a folk and cultural expression rather than an expression that is given its primary shape by the Gospel and biblical reality itself.

Danish philosopher and theologian Søren Kierkegaard experienced this same type of Christianity in his own day and age in 19th century Denmark. There are many parallels between the type of folk and/or cultural Christianity that he critiqued, and the cultural Christian in 21st century North America that needs similar critique. It is critique, primarily, of Christians who have fallen victim to the spirit of this age by syncretistically conflating this age, and all of its mores, or lack thereof, with the Gospel itself. It is a critique of a cultural Christianity that shies away from the determinations and implications of the Gospel in favor of a softer, gentler, more “gracious” Gospel that is like warm buttermilk and sandwiches to the soul.

Stephen Backhouse in his recently released book Kierkegaard: A Single Life (which I’ll be writing a review of soon), offers insight on Kierkegaard’s critique of his Danish Christianity. In Backhouse’s development of Kierkegaard’s critique he offers two quotes that illustrate just how Kierkegaard went about his critique. I offer this up with hopes of spurring us on unto love and good works. Backhouse writes:

Søren’s long-held antipathy to Christendom hardens during the silent years, as does his conviction that it is now beyond redemption. Ultimately, it is the Christendom over which Mynster [Kierkegaard’s family pastor] and his successors preside that is the issue, more than any one priest. The official relationship of state and church, whereby clergymen were effectively civil servants of the country and agents of civilization is clearly a problem for Kierkegaard:

A modern clergyman [is] an active, adroit, quick person who knows how to introduce a little Christianity very mildly, attractively, and in beautiful language, etc.—but as mildly as possible. In the New Testament Christianity is the deepest wound that can be dealt to a man, designed to collide with everything on the most appalling scale—and now the clergyman is perfectly trained to introduce Christianity in such a way that it means nothing; and when he can do it perfectly, he is a paragon like Mynster. How disgusting!

Yet “Christendom” does not begin and end with the established church. In short, the “established church” might well be Christendom, but not all “Christendoms” are established churches. Christendom is a way of being, thinking, and feeling that has far more to do with the cultural appropriation of Christianity than it does with any specific legal agreement between church and state. Christendom is what happens when people presume they are Christians as a matter of inherited tradition, as a matter of nationality, or because they agree with a number of common-sense propositions and Christianised moral guidelines. Kierkegaard sees Christendom as a process by which groups adopt, absorb, and neuter Christianity into oblivion, all the while assuming they are still Christian. Christendom is adept at shielding itself from its own source, for Christianity’s original documents offer a deep challenge precisely to the form of civilized life that Christendom represents.

The matter is quite simple. The New Testament is very easy to understand. But we human beings are really a bunch of scheming swindlers; we pretend to be unable to understand it because we understand very well that the minute we understand we are obliged to act accordingly at once. But in order to make it up to the New Testament a little, lest it become angry with us and find us altogether wrong, we flatter it, tell it that it is so tremendously profound, so wonderfully beautiful, so unfathomably sublime, and all that, somewhat as a little child pretends it cannot understand what has been commanded and then is cunning enough to flatter Papa. Therefore we humans pretend to be unable to understand the N.T.; we do not want to understand it. Here Christian scholarship has its place. Christian scholarship is the human race’s prodigious invention to defend itself against the N.T., to ensure that one can continue to be a Christian without letting the N.T. come too close…. I open the N.T. and read: “If you want to be perfect, then sell all your goods and give to the poor and come and follow me.” Good God, all the capitalists, the officeholders, and the pensioners, the whole race no less, would be almost beggars: we would be sunk if it were not for … scholarship!

During this time, Søren begins to sound out medicinal, frequently gastroenterological, ways of talking about the situation. An 1854 entry reads simply: “Christianity in repose, stagnant Christianity, creates an obstruction, and this formidable obstruction is the sickness of Christendom.”[1]

What Kierkegaard critiques is what I inhabit, by and large, in North American evangelicalism, in particular, and in North American Christendom in general. We need to repent, and not be afraid to say so. We need to understand the Ultimate we are up against in the living God, in the Lord Jesus Christ and simply cry out Kyrie eleison, Lord have mercy!


[1] Stephen Backhouse, Kierkegaard: A Single Life (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2016), 171-73.

Oh My God! Who Will Save Me from this Body of Death? A Kierkegaardian Account of Sin as ‘Despair’

I am currently reading a book on the life and theology of Strasbourg Protestant Reformer, Martin Bucer; but as is typical I also have multiple other books going at the same time. The book I will be referring to in this post is one I am working through slowly, it is a book authored by Andrew Torrance on Kierkegaard’s theology entitled: The Freedom To Become A Christian: A Kierkegaardian despairAccount of Human Transformation in Relationship with God. A. Torrance, in the section we will look at, is describing Kierkegaard’s doctrine of sin as ‘despair.’ As I picked Torrance’s book up and began to read this I was compelled to immediately sit down and write this post; so here we go.

As we will see, through Torrance’s explication, Kierkegaard sees despair as something that happens to people as God removes himself from their lives, and in a sense, leaves them to themselves. It is natural, as Augustine and the Bible so presciently note, that if humans were created for relationship with God, if they were created to find their purpose and end in Deus incarnatus, God incarnate, Jesus Christ, and then are uncoupled from that, for humans to despair. This becomes the entry point for how we ought to understand the human condition of sin, according to Kierkegaard, according to Torrance. Torrance writes:

Notably, however, although Anti-Climacus [pseudonym for Kierkegaard] describes despair as a sickness, he also affirms that it is not ‘something that happens to man … like a disease to which he succumbs’. Rather, ‘despairing lies in man himself’. It arises by way of the individual’s own volition, which God allows the human when he ‘releases it from his hand’. It arises when the individual willingly embraces a self that is not the true self but the sinful self.

Sin is: before God, or with the conception of God, in despair not to wil to be oneself, or in despair to will to be oneself. Thus sin is intensified weakness or intensified defiance: sin is the intensification of despair.

Here, Anti-Climacus presents sin as the state of the self who, ‘before God’, is in despair. In sin, a person consents to a life that is not the life for which he was created – a life of loving fellowship with God. Despair is the state of the individual who ‘before God’ chooses himself in sin. According to Anti-Climacus, there are two ways in which a person conscious before God, uses God-given volition to choose sin: ‘in despair not to will to be oneself’, and ‘in despair to will to be oneself’.

First, sin is ‘in despair not to will to be oneself’. In this case, the sinner chooses to continue in sin because she does not have the inner strength or passion to embrace what she knows to be her true selfhood before God. This either takes the form of ‘despair over the earthly’/’despair in weakness’, in which a person is distracted from devotion to God by commitment to worldly affairs, such as the question of what the immediate future might hold. Or, it takes the form of ‘despair of the eternal over oneself’/’despair over weakness’. In this case, the person recognises that it is a weakness to despair over the earthly, but then proceeds to despair over this weakness, bringing about a sense of self-hatred, which closely resembles guilt. That is, instead of faithfully humbling himself before God and seeking forgiveness, he dwells legalistically on sin and despairs that nothing can be done for him, thereby becoming further entrenched in despair and further intensifying his sin. In so doing, a person resists his actual selfhood and true selfhood before God. With this despair in mind, Kierkegaard writes,

This is … the eternal consolation in the doctrine of the forgiveness of sins: you shall believe it. For when the anguished conscience starts having burdensome thoughts, and it seems to one that in eternity it is impossible to forget: then it says, you shall not forget, you shall stop thinking of your sin; not only are you permitted to stop, not only do you dare ask God for permission to dare forget – no, you shall not forget, for you shall believe that your sin is forgiven.

Second, sin is ‘in despair to will to be oneself’. In this case, the individual chooses to cling to his own autonomy in active defiance of his true freedom before God. In this instance, ‘the self in despair wants to be master of itself or to create itself, to make his self into the self he wants to be’. With this despair, the individual is too proud to see his need for repentance and reconciliation, in unbelief seeing himself as his own god who sets the standard for what it means to be a self. Hence, the individual has no desire to die to himself or to the world, and feels no need to be forgiven for the life that he has made for himself. As a result, the individual embraces himself as a self that is dead to the true God.[1]

The first form of despair, I think, could loosely define many Christians out there; the latter form of despair sounds simply like unbelieving humanity in the main. It is interesting, and not surprising, because we are reading sin through Kierkegaard, how prominent the psychological factor is; i.e. the personalist element of Kierkegaard’s understanding of sin. I think all too often because of the forensic models of sin that evangelical and Reformed Christians have been stunted by, we lose sight of how existential, sin actually is; how relationally oriented it is.

As I read Kierkegaard’s account, mediated through Torrance, it resonates deeply with my own lived experience of sin. I have had seasons where I have desperately despaired of my sin before God; burdened down with such a sense of guilt-riddeness that it damaged my vision of and fellowship with God in Jesus Christ. I have despaired of sin so deeply, and particular sins so trenchantly, that it almost took my sanity. It wasn’t until I was able, by the Holy Spirit, through laborious wrestling with God in Scripture, and with Scripture’s reality, Jesus, that I was finally able to stand in who I am in the elected humanity of God in Jesus Christ; I was finally able to stand in the liberty by which Christ had made me free and not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.

As we read the second account of despair in Kierkegaard, I am sure we can all recognize that type of despair, at points in our old-self, but most prominently in the world at large; in the people we bump into daily at work, the mall, on the freeways, in the classroom and elsewhere. It is the despairing soul who has looked up into the heavens, presumed itself to be its own terminus, and lived a life out of that destruction. It is this soul we have been called to ambassador the reality of the evangel to. God help us!

[1] Andrew B. Torrance, The Freedom To Become A Christian: A Kierkegaardian Account of Human Transformation in Relationship with God (London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2016), 30-1.