Thursday, December 10, 2009

Training in Christianity

So if you follow this blog you probably think I've been doing nothing but watching dvd's and playing video games for the last week or so as I haven't posted anything about reading. Well, that's not exactly it. What happened is that I ran into a buzz saw of a book entitled Training in Christianity by Soren Kierkegaard. I was quite looking forward to this book, having read ABOUT Kierkegaard in seminary, but never having actually read his stuff...

This book opens with no less than four introductions over a total of 55 pages. I began to get the impression that each person wanted desperately to attach themselves to a work of Kierkegaard. It was, quite frankly, tiresome after a while. I enjoyed the first introduction, found the chronology to be an excuse for someone else to write their own introduction to this book, and by introduction number four I simply didn't care anymore.

Unfortunately for me the book is even more tedious than the introductions. First is a section entitled "Come Hither" which is a 50+ page commentary on those two words. Really.

After that is a long section entitled "The Offense" which is on what it means to be offended by Christ. It includes amazing nuggets like this:

What is to be understood by a "sign"? A sign is the negation of immediacy, or a second state of being, differing from the first. It is not thereby affirmed that the sign is not something immediate, but that what it is as a sign is not immediate, in other words, that as a sign it is not the immediate thing it is. A nautical mark is a sign. Immediately it is a post, a light, or some such thing, but a sign it is not immediately, that it is a sign is something different from what it immediately is. This [viz., the failure to observe this distinction] lies at the bottom of all the mystifications by the help of "signs"; for a sign is a sign only for one who knows what it signifies; for everyone else the sign is only what it immediately is. Even in case no one had erected this or that into a sign, and there was no understanding with anybody that it was to be regarded as such, yet when I see something striking and call it a sign, it is qualified as such by reflection. The striking trait is the immediate, but that I regard it as a sign (a reflective act, producing something out of myself) expresses my conception that it must signify something, but the fact that it must signify something means that it is something else than that which it immediately is. So I am not denying the immediacy of the thing when I regard it as a sign without knowing definitely that it is a sign or what it should signify.

Got that? I'm guessing that most of you just skimmed that paragraph because it made almost no sense whatsoever. Now imagine reading a 254 page book full of paragraphs like that and you see why I've been reading this book for days. I can honestly say that I DO understand the paragraph above, and am no better for it. In other words, taking the time to understand it was a waste of my time.

The third section, "He Will Draw All" is quite a bit better than the first two. There are some interesting thoughts on the church and its shortcomings, as well as a good discussion of Nicodemus. But this, for me, was really not enough to rescue the whole book.

I almost feel like this book is the kind of thing one reads to show other people how smart you are when you don't have the self confidence necessary to not worry about what other people think about you… I'm sure this book has its fans, but I am definitely NOT one of them. I think rather than "Training in Christianity" it should be titled "Laborious Incomprehensible Ramblings of a Swedish Philosopher"

Recommended only if you need titles like this on your reading list to make yourself feel smart…


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You crack me up....Laborious Readings of an Incomprehensible Swedish Philosopher....indeed! I understood the paragraph - but chalked it up to "Duh!!" - just common sense which could have been written in a 10 word sentence. Thanks for blogging, Joel - I'm certainly enjoying it! Laurin