Why the Demoniac Stayed in his Comfortable Corner of Hell

the-drunkard

Detail from The Drunkard (1912) by Marc Chagall. Courtesy Wikipedia

John Kaag | Aeon Ideas

I am not what one might call a religious man. I went to church, and then to confirmation class, under duress. My mother, whom I secretly regarded as more powerful than God, insisted that I go. So I went. Her insistence, however, had the unintended consequence of introducing me to a pastor whom I came to despise. So I eventually quit.

There were many problems with this pastor but the one that bothered me the most was his refusal to explain a story from the New Testament that I found especially hard to believe: the story of the demoniac.

This story from Mark 5:1-20 relates how Jesus and the disciples go to the town of Gerasenes and there encounter a man who is possessed by evil spirits. This demoniac – a self-imposed outcast from society – lived at the outskirts of town and ‘night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones’. The grossest part of the story, however, isn’t the self-mutilation. It’s the demoniac’s insane refusal to accept help. When Jesus approached him, the demoniac threw himself to the ground and wailed: ‘What do you want with me? … In God’s name, don’t torture me!’ When you’re possessed by evil spirits, the worst thing in the world is to be healed. In short, the demoniac tells Jesus to bugger off, to leave him and his sharp little stones in his comfortable corner of hell.

When I first read about the demoniac, I was admittedly scared, but I eventually convinced myself that the parable was a manipulative attempt to persuade unbelievers such as me to find religion. And I wasn’t buying it. But when I entered university, went into philosophy, and began to cultivate an agnosticism that one might call atheism, I discovered that many a philosopher had been drawn to this scary story. So I took a second look.

The Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, who spent years analysing the psychological and ethical dimensions of the demoniac, tells us that being demonic is more common than we might like to admit. He points out that when Jesus heals the possessed man, the spirits are exorcised en masse, flying out together as ‘the Legion’ – a vast army of evil forces. There are more than enough little demons to go around, and this explains why they come to roust in some rather mundane places. In Kierkegaard’s words: ‘One may hear the drunkard say: “Let me be the filth that I am.”’ Or, leave me alone with my bottle and let me ruin my life, thank you very much. I heard this first from my father, and then from an increasing number of close friends, and most recently from a voice that occasionally keeps me up at night when everyone else is asleep.

Those who are the most pointedly afflicted are often precisely those who are least able to recognise their affliction, or to save themselves. And those with the resources to rescue themselves are usually already saved. As Kierkegaard suggests, the virtue of sobriety makes perfect sense to one who is already sober. Eating well is second nature to the one who is already healthy; saving money is a no-brainer for one who one is already rich; truth-telling is the good habit of one who is already honest. But for those in the grips of crisis or sin, getting out usually doesn’t make much sense.

Sharp stones can take a variety of forms.

In The Concept of Anxiety (1844), Kierkegaard tells us that the ‘essential nature of [the demoniac] is anxiety about the good’. I’ve been ‘anxious’ about many things – about exams, about spiders, about going to sleep – but Kierkegaard explains that the feeling I have about these nasty things isn’t anxiety at all. It’s fear. Anxiety, on the other hand, has no particular object. It is the sense of uneasiness that one has at the edge of a cliff, or climbing a ladder, or thinking about the prospects of a completely open future – it isn’t fear per se, but the feeling that we get when faced with possibility. It’s the unsettling feeling of freedom. Yes, freedom, that most precious of modern watchwords, is deeply unsettling.

What does this have to do with our demoniac? Everything. Kierkegaard explains that the demoniac reflects ‘an unfreedom that wants to close itself off’; when confronted with the possibility of being healed, he wants nothing to do with it. The free life that Jesus offers is, for the demoniac, pure torture. I’ve often thought that this is the fate of the characters in Jean-Paul Sartre’s play No Exit (1944): they are always free to leave, but leaving seems beyond impossible.

Yet Jesus manages to save the demoniac. And I wanted my pastor to tell me how. At the time, I chalked up most of the miracles from the Bible as exaggeration, or interpretation, or poetic licence. But the healing of the demoniac – unlike the bread and fish and resurrection – seemed really quite fantastic. So how did Jesus do it? I didn’t get a particularly good answer from my pastor, so I left the Church. And never came back.

Today, I still want to know.

I’m not here to explain the salvation of the demoniac. I’m here only to observe, as carefully as I can, that this demonic situation is a problem. Indeed, I suspect it is the problem for many, many readers. The demoniac reflects what theologians call the ‘religious paradox’, namely that it is impossible for fallen human beings – such craven creatures – to bootstrap themselves to heaven. Any redemptive resources at our disposal are probably exactly as botched as we are.

There are many ways to distract ourselves from this paradox – and we are very good at manufacturing them: movies and alcohol and Facebook and all the fixations and obsessions of modern life. But at the end of the day, these are pitifully little comfort.

So this year, as New Year’s Day recedes from memory and the winter darkness remains, I am making a resolution: I will try not to take all the usual escapes. Instead, I will try to simply sit with the plight of the demoniac, to ‘stew in it’ as my mother used to say, for a minute or two more. In his essay ‘Self-will’ (1919), the German author Hermann Hesse put it thus: ‘If you and you … are in pain, if you are sick in body or soul, if you are afraid and have a foreboding of danger – why not, if only to amuse yourselves … try to put the question in another way? Why not ask whether the source of your pain might not be you yourselves?’ I will not reach for my familiar demonic stones, blood-spattered yet comforting. I will ask why I need them in the first place. When I do this, and attempt to come to terms with the demoniac’s underlying suffering, I might notice that it is not unique to me.

When I do, when I let go of the things that I think are going to ease my suffering, I might have the chance to notice that I am not alone in my anxiety. And maybe this is recompense enough. Maybe this is freedom and the best that I can hope for.Aeon counter – do not remove

John Kaag

This article was originally published at Aeon and has been republished under Creative Commons. Read the original article here.

What is Christianity?

This is an excellent discussion between Sam Harris and Bart Ehrman about Christianity and Christian history and theology. There is a remarkable resemblance between Ehrman’s life and periods of my own life in which I pursued truth and my faith was gradually lost. The problems with interpreting the scriptures too literally are exemplified. Anybody that honestly believes herself to be a Christian should cautiously examine the things discussed here. Sapere aude!

inri

Waking Up Podcast with Sam Harris #125: What is Christianity?


In this episode of the Waking Up podcast, Sam Harris speaks to Bart Ehrman about his experience of being a born-again Christian, his academic training in New Testament scholarship, his loss of faith, the most convincing argument in defense of Christianity, the status of miracles, the composition of the New Testament, the resurrection of Jesus, the nature of heaven and hell, the book of Revelation, the End Times, self-contradictions in the Bible, the concept of a messiah, whether Jesus actually existed, Christianity as a cult of human sacrifice, the conversion of Constantine, and other topics.

Bart D. Ehrman is the author or editor of more than thirty books, including the New York Times bestsellers Misquoting Jesus and How Jesus Became God. Ehrman is a professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and a leading authority on the New Testament and the history of early Christianity. He has been featured in Time, The New Yorker, and The Washington Post, and has appeared on NBC, CNN, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The History Channel, National Geographic, BBC, major NPR shows, and other top print and broadcast media outlets. His most recent book is The Triumph of Christianity.

Twitter: @BartEhrman

Why Our Declining Biblical Literacy Matters

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Songwriters such as Nick Cave (pictured) and the late Yolngu star Gurrumul have often drawn on the scriptures in their work.
Paul Bergen/EPA


Meredith Lake, University of Sydney

Biblical literacy is likely lower in Australia today than at any point since the convict era. General levels of familiarity with the Christian scriptures are difficult to plot precisely, but studies of Bible reading habits, and data on various forms of Christian socialisation, indicate a significant decline in Australians’ exposure to the Bible over the last half century.

A 1960 study found that nine in ten Australians had a Bible at home. It was rivalled only by a cookery book and a dictionary, and far outstripped works by Shakespeare. Sixty one per cent of Bible-owning Australians picked it up at least once a year. Thirty eight per cent had read it within the previous two weeks. (Mind you, it seems that apart from the most regular churchgoers, most people read the Bible in a cursory manner if at all.)


Read more: Jesus wasn’t white: he was a brown-skinned, Middle Eastern Jew. Here’s why that matters


A 2002 survey found that 29% of Australian adults still read the Bible at least once a year, with 8% reading it frequently. In 2010, around 10% of Australian secondary students read the Bible weekly or more, and a further 15 to 20% browsed it occasionally.

Overall, though, since 1960 the proportion of annual Bible readers has dropped by half, and regular readers by three-quarters. In less than two generations, the proportion of Australians who never pick up a Bible for themselves has leapt to seven out of ten. The rising use of online Bibles and Bible apps may modify this picture, but 2013 data indicates that Australians read less of the Bible online than their counterparts in the UK or the US.

A working knowledge of the Bible, and a critical skill in interpreting it, remain extremely useful in a secular society.
shutterstock

In parallel with declining Bible reading, fewer Australians identify as Christian at the census. Similarly, the proportion of people attending church at least once a month has fallen from 36% in 1972 to 15% in 2014. So fewer Australians have been exposed to the public reading and preaching of the Bible, and to its inculcation through liturgy and hymnody.


Read more: Friday essay: who was Mary Magdalene? Debunking the myth of the penitent prostitute


Does it matter if Australians are becoming less familiar with the Christian scriptures? I would argue that, even aside from matters of faith, a working knowledge of the Bible, and a critical skill in interpreting it, remain extremely useful.

Firstly, the world is still an overwhelmingly religious place.

While Christianity has declined in its former European strongholds, and in related societies like New Zealand and Australia, it has spread widely in the global south. In 2018, it remains the most practised faith in the world. Effective global citizenship can only benefit from a working knowledge of its key text.

Shaping Our Culture

Secondly, biblical literacy is worthwhile because of the Bible’s dynamic role in creative culture.

Shakespeare’s plays contain many biblical references.
First Folio of Shakespeare’s works (and used for three subsequent issues). Published in 1623. Wikimedia Commons

The foundational role of the Bible in shaping English language and literature is well attested. Common phrases such as “the powers that be”, “from strength to strength”, “in the twinkling of an eye” and “escaped by the skin of my teeth” all come from English translations of the Bible.

Classic texts from Shakespeare’s plays to T. S. Eliot’s poems to the speeches of Martin Luther King assume some knowledge of biblical stories, images and ideas.

Among Australian creatives, too, literary lights such as Patrick White, Elizabeth Jolley, Tim Winton, Helen Garner and Christos Tsiolkas all make powerful use of biblical narratives and imagery. Songwriters from Nick Cave to the late Yolngu star Gurrumul have drawn on the scriptures in their lyrics.

Biblical stories and symbols have also inspired visual artists such as Grace Cossington Smith, Arthur Boyd and Margaret Preston. Reg Mombassa’s popular creation, “Australian Jesus”, offers a subversive take on the gospels.

Each of these Australians has found the Bible an enlarging influence on the imagination. Audiences can easily miss key elements of their work without a degree of biblical literacy

Reg Mombassa’s popular creation, ‘Australian Jesus’, offers a subversive take on the gospels.
Paul Miller/AAP

A Colonial Legacy

Thirdly, the Bible is a substantial – and unresolved – part of Australia’s European cultural baggage.

It loomed especially large in the process of colonising Aboriginal land and forging settler societies. The legal fiction of terra nullius, for example, drew on a particular interpretation of Genesis 1:28 – “replenish the earth, and subdue it”.

Most British colonists assumed that European agriculture was the proper means of fulfilling this divine command. Failing to recognise Indigenous forms of land use, they deemed the land “waste”, belonging to no one, and ripe for the taking.

At the same time, a minority of colonists drew on verses like Acts 17:26 – “[God] hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth” – to affirm the common humanity of Aboriginal people, and to denounce settler greed and violence.

Crucially, as Indigenous Australians interpreted the Bible for themselves, they used it to demand just treatment and to assert their unique relationship to country. As the Mabo case made its way through the courts, for instance, plaintiff Dave Passi liked to quote from the Old Testament: “Do not move an everlasting boundary stone, set up by your ancestors” (Proverbs 22:28).

The ConversationIn all these ways, the Bible has been bound up with the Australian experience of colonialism. As such, a robust biblical literacy can aid understanding of the past and contribute to present day reconciliation.

Meredith Lake, Honorary Associate, Department of History, University of Sydney

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

The Psychological Significance of the Biblical Stories

15-Part Lecture series by Dr. Jordan B. Peterson

The Bible is a series of books written, edited and assembled over thousands of years. It contains the most influential stories of mankind. Knowledge of those stories is essential to a deep understanding of Western culture, which is in turn vital to proper psychological health (as human beings are cultural animals) and societal stability. These stories are neither history, as we commonly conceive it, nor empirical science. Instead, they are investigations into the structure of Being itself and calls to action within that Being. They have deep psychological significance. This lecture series, starting with the very first book, will constitute an analysis of that significance.

Dr. Peterson is a professor at the University of Toronto, a clinical psychologist and the author of 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos (Jan 2018, Penguin Books). His now-classic book, Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief, offers a revolutionary take on the psychology of religion, and the hundred or more scientific papers he published with his colleagues and students have substantively advanced the modern understanding of creativity and personality. As a Harvard professor, he was nominated for the prestigious Levinson Teaching Prize, and is regarded by his current University of Toronto students as one of three truly life-changing professors. His classroom lectures on mythology and psychology, based on Maps of Meaning, were turned into a popular 13-part TV series on TVO.

Dr. Peterson’s YouTube channel, Jordan Peterson Videos features his university and public lectures (including the most recent 15-part biblical series), responses to the polarizing political crises of today, and interviews with people such as Camille PagliaJonathan Haidt and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. As of December 2017, the channel has 300 videos, 550,000 subscribers, and 30 million views.

Dr. Peterson and his colleagues have also produced two online programs to help people understand their personalities and improve their lives. The newest, UnderstandMyself, provides its users with detailed information about their personalities, based on work he published with his students here. Tens of thousands have now used it to determine who they are, and to help others understand them, as well. His original self-analysis program, the Self Authoring Suite, (featured in O: The Oprah Magazine, CBC radio, and NPR’s national website), has helped over 200,000 people resolve the problems of their past, rectify their personality faults and enhance their virtues, and radically improve their future. Research indicating the program’s effectiveness at helping university students stay in school and thrive can be found here and here.

Dr. Peterson has appeared on many popular podcasts and shows, including the Joe Rogan Experience (#877#958#1006), The Rubin Report (12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to ChaosFree Speech, Psychology, Gender Pronouns), H3H3 (#37), and many more.

Lost in Translation

paul.jpg

Detail from The Apostle Paul by Rembrandt van Rijn (c1675). Courtesy National Gallery of Art/Wikipedia

Everything You Know about the Gospel of Paul is Likely Wrong

By David Bentley Hart

This past year, I burdened the English-speaking world with my very own translation of the New Testament – a project that I undertook at the behest of my editor at Yale University Press, but that I agreed to almost in the instant that it was proposed. I had long contemplated attempting a ‘subversively literal’ rendering of the text. Over the years, I had become disenchanted with almost all the standard translations available, and especially with modern versions produced by large committees of scholars, many of whom (it seems to me) have been predisposed by inherited theological habits to see things in the text that are not really there, and to fail to notice other things that most definitely are. Committees are bland affairs, and tend to reinforce our expectations; but the world of late antiquity is so remote from our own that it is almost never what we expect.

Ask, for instance, the average American Christian – say, some genial Presbyterian who attends church regularly and owns a New International Version of the Bible – what gospel the Apostle Paul preached. The reply will fall along predictable lines: human beings, bearing the guilt of original sin and destined for eternal hell, cannot save themselves through good deeds, or make themselves acceptable to God; yet God, in his mercy, sent the eternal Son to offer himself up for our sins, and the righteousness of Christ has been graciously imputed or imparted to all who have faith.

Some details might vary, but not the basic story. And, admittedly, much of the tale’s language is reminiscent of terms used by Paul, at least as filtered through certain conventional translations; but it is a fantasy. It presumes elements of later Christian belief absent from Paul’s own writings. Some of these (like the idea that humans are born damnably guilty in God’s eyes, or that good deeds are not required for salvation) arise from a history of misleading translations. Others (like the concept of an eternal hell of conscious torment) are entirely imagined, attributed to Paul on the basis of some mistaken picture of what the New Testament as a whole teaches.

Paul’s actual teachings, however, as taken directly from the Greek of his letters, emphasise neither original guilt nor imputed righteousness (he believed in neither), but rather the overthrow of bad angels. A certain long history of misreadings – especially of the Letter to the Romans – has created an impression of Paul’s theological concerns so entirely alien to his conceptual world that the real Paul occupies scarcely any place at all in Christian memory. It is true that he addresses issues of ‘righteousness’ or ‘justice’, and asserts that this is available to us only through the virtue of pistis – ‘faith’ or ‘trust’ or even ‘fidelity’. But for Paul, pistis largely consists in works of obedience to God and love of others. The only erga, ‘works’, which he is anxious to claim make no contribution to personal sanctity, are certain ‘ritual observances’ of the Law of Moses, such as circumcision or kosher dietary laws. This, though, means that the separation between Jews and gentiles has been annulled in Christ, opening salvation to all peoples; it does not mean (as Paul fears some might imagine) that God has abandoned his covenant with Israel.

Questions of law and righteousness, however, are secondary concerns. The essence of Paul’s theology is something far stranger, and unfolds on a far vaster scale. For Paul, the present world-age is rapidly passing, while another world-age differing from the former in every dimension – heavenly or terrestrial, spiritual or physical – is already dawning. The story of salvation concerns the entire cosmos; and it is a story of invasion, conquest, spoliation and triumph. For Paul, the cosmos has been enslaved to death, both by our sin and by the malign governance of those ‘angelic’ or ‘daemonian’ agencies who reign over the earth from the heavens, and who hold spirits in thrall below the earth. These angelic beings, these Archons, whom Paul calls Thrones and Powers and Dominations and Spiritual Forces of Evil in the High Places, are the gods of the nations. In the Letter to the Galatians, he even hints that the angel of the Lord who rules over Israel might be one of their number. Whether fallen, or mutinous, or merely incompetent, these beings stand intractably between us and God. But Christ has conquered them all.

In descending to Hades and ascending again through the heavens, Christ has vanquished all the Powers below and above that separate us from the love of God, taking them captive in a kind of triumphal procession. All that now remains is the final consummation of the present age, when Christ will appear in his full glory as cosmic conqueror, having ‘subordinated’ (hypetaxen) all the cosmic powers to himself – literally, having properly ‘ordered’ them ‘under’ himself – and will then return this whole reclaimed empire to his Father. God himself, rather than wicked or inept spiritual intermediaries, will rule the cosmos directly. Sometimes, Paul speaks as if some human beings will perish along with the present age, and sometimes as if all human beings will finally be saved. He never speaks of some hell for the torment of unregenerate souls.

The new age, moreover – when creation will be glorified and transformed into God’s kingdom – will be an age of ‘spirit’ rather than ‘flesh’. For Paul, these are two antithetical principles of creaturely existence, though most translations misrepresent the antithesis as a mere contrast between God’s ‘spirit’ and human perversity. But Paul is quite explicit: ‘Flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom.’ Neither can psychē, ‘soul’, the life-principle or anima that gives life to perishable flesh. In the age to come, the ‘psychical body’, the ‘ensouled’ or ‘animal’ way of life, will be replaced by a ‘spiritual body’, beyond the reach of death – though, again, conventional translations usually obscure this by speaking of the former, vaguely, as a ‘natural body’.

Paul’s voice, I hasten to add, is hardly an eccentric one. John’s Gospel too, for instance, tells of the divine saviour who comes ‘from above’, descending from God’s realm into this cosmos, overthrowing its reigning Archon, bringing God’s light into the darkness of our captivity, and ‘dragging’ everyone to himself. And, in varying registers, so do most of the texts of the New Testament. As I say, it is a conceptual world very remote from our own.

And yet it would be foolish to try to judge the gospel’s spiritual claims by how plausible we find the cosmology that accompanies them. For one thing, the ancient picture of reality might be in many significant respects more accurate than ours. And it would surely be a category error to assume that the story of Christ’s overthrow of death and sin cannot express a truth that transcends the historical and cultural conditions in which it was first told. But, before we decide anything at all about that story, we must first recover it from the very different stories that we so frequently tell in its place.

This Idea was made possible through the support of a grant from Templeton Religion Trust.  The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Templeton Religion Trust.Aeon counter – do not remove

David Bentley Hart

This article was originally published at Aeon and has been republished under Creative Commons.

Silence

There is a saying here: Mountains and rivers can be moved, but man’s nature cannot be moved… We find our original nature in Japan. Perhaps it’s what’s meant by finding God.

– Father Ferreira

Related image

I recently watched the new Martin Scorsese film, Silence. It is based upon the 1966 novel of the same name by Shūsaku Endō. Silence holds a special significance for me since I have studied, and at times embraced, both Christianity and Buddhism. The film explores the lived experiences of faith and religion through the historical context of 17th century Jesuit priests on a mission to Catholicize Japan.

Father in Heaven, praised be Thy name. I’m just a foreigner who brought disaster. That’s what they think of me now.

– Father Rodrigues

While on foreign soil the Jesuit priests encounter a culture that they cannot understand, yet presume to. In much the same way, the Japanese struggle to understand Christianity and Western values. The priests, along with secret Japanese Christians, attempt to remain hidden as an inquisition sweeps the land purging itself of Catholicism. Worldviews and values clash as the priests are inevitably found, captured and forced to recant their beliefs.

Inquisitor: The doctrine you bring with you may be true in Spain and Portugal, but we have studied it carefully, thought about it over much time, and find it is of no use and of no value in Japan. We have concluded that it is a danger.

Father Rodrigues: But we believe we have brought you the truth. And the truth is universal. It’s common to all countries at all times. That’s why we call it the truth. If a doctrine weren’t as true here in Japan as it is in Portugal then we couldn’t call it the truth.

Inquisitor: I see you do not work with your hands, Father, but everyone knows a tree which flourishes in one kind of earth may decay and die in another. It is the same with the tree of Christianity. The leaves decay here. The buds die.

As nihilism encroaches upon the West and the death of God is both celebrated and denied, Silence offers a unique and insightful perspective on religion and the faithful. Myriad thoughts came to mind while I was watching the film. I was frequently reminded of Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Nishitani, Jesus and Buddha. Sometimes I even veered in the direction of considering the missionaries as part of a national psychological operation geared toward global domination via the poison of ideology. In the end, though, I am reminded only of my own suffering at the hands of Christianity and the false hope it once offered.

I feel so tempted. I feel so tempted to despair. I’m afraid. The weight of your silence is terrible. I pray, but I’m lost. Or am I just praying to nothing? Nothing. Because you are not there?

– Father Rodrigues

Christ Copyright

Nothing More – Christ Copyright

Don’t form thoughts, trust politicians
Forfeit soul, pursue religion
Lose free will to gain protection
Sink the ship with good intention

See our minds become conditioned
As we swear by these traditions
Lose our hearts and breed division
Oh my God why can’t we wake up

They’re selling heaven tonight
Sign on the dotted line
They got your Christ on copyright

To think you know who goes to heaven
Is just one big misconception
Like God hates fags and communism
Create fear to feed the system

They’re selling heaven tonight
Sign on the dotted line
They got your Christ on copyright

We are not machines

If they scream loud
They might muscle the crowd
But we won’t bow down
No, we won’t bow down

They’re selling heaven tonight
Sign on the dotted line
They got your Christ on copyright

Kierkegaard Attacked the Christianity of the Church, Nietzsche Attacked Christendom as Such

When the question about truth is asked objectively, truth is reflected upon objectively as an object to which the knower relates himself. What is reflected upon is not the relation but that what he relates himself to is the truth, the true. If only that to which he relates himself is the truth, the true, then the subject is in the truth. When the question about truth is asked subjectively, the individual’s relation is reflected upon subjectively. If only the how of this relation is in truth, the individual is in truth, even if he in this way were to relate himself to untruth.

Objectively the emphasis is on what is said; subjectively the emphasis is on how it is said.

When subjectivity is truth, the definition of truth must also contain in itself an expression of the antithesis to objectivity, a memento of that fork in the road, and this expression will at the same time indicate the resilience of the inwardness.

Here is such a definition of truth: An objective uncertainty, held fast through appropriration with the most passionate inwardness, is the truth, the highest truth there is for an existing person.

At the point where the road swings off (and where that is cannot be stated objectively, since it is precisely subjectivity), objective knowledge is suspended. Objectively he then has only uncertainty, but this is precisely what intensifies the infinite passion of inwardness, and truth is precisely the daring venture of choosing the objective uncertainty with the passion of the infinite.

I observe nature in order to find God, and I do indeed see omnipotence and wisdom, but I also see much that troubles and disturbs. The sum total of this is an objective uncertainty, but the inwardness is so very great, precisely because it grasps this objective uncertainty with all the passion of the infinite.

In a mathematical proposition, for example, the objectivity is given, but therefore its truth is also an indifferent truth.

But the definition of truth stated above is a paraphrasing of faith. Without risk, no faith. Faith is the contradiction between the infinite passion of inwardness and the objective uncertainty. If I am able to apprehend God objectively, I do not have faith; but because I cannot do this, I must have faith.

Sin is: before God in despair not to will to be oneself, or before God in despair to will to be oneself.

Very often, however, it is overlooked that the opposite of sin is by no means virtue. In part, this is a pagan view, which is satisfied with a merely human criterion and simply does not know what sin is, that all sin is before God.

No, the opposite of sin is faith, as it says in Romans 14:23: “whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” And this is one of the most decisive definitions for all Christianity – that the opposite of sin is not virtue but faith.

The thought of death is a nimble dancer. Everybody is too serious for me. My whole thought is the task of becoming a Christian.

– Søren Kierkegaard

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“Merciful Heavens! but what do I care for the laws of nature and arithmetic, when, for some reason, I dislike those laws and the fact that twice two makes four? … I write only for myself, and I wish to declare once and for all that if I write as though I were addressing readers, that is simply because it is easier for me to write in that form. It is a form, an empty form – I shall never have readers.”

– Dostoevsky (Notes from Underground)