Christian Discourses

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Christian Discourses (April 26, 1848) by Søren Kierkegaard, copyright 1997 by Howard Hong, Princeton University Press. Also translated by Walter Lowrie, Christian Discourses & The Lilies of the Field and the Birds of the Air & The Discourses at the Communion on Fridays 1940, 1961

Soren Kierkegaard 1813-1855
Soren Kierkegaard 1813-1855

Part I The Cares of the Pagans[edit]


Journal entries before Kierkegaard published his Christian Discourses of 1848.
Journal entries before Kierkegaard published his Christian Discourses of 1848.
  • Prayer Father in heaven! In springtime everything in nature comes back again with new freshness and beauty. The bird and the lily have lost nothing since last year – would that we, too, might come back unaltered to the instruction of these teachers! But if, alas, our health has been damaged in times past, would that we might recover it by learning again from the lilies in the field and form the birds of the air!
    • Hong translation P. 5
  • Paganism forms the opposition to Christianity, but the lily and the bird form no opposition to either of these contending parties – they play outside, if one may put it this way, and shrewdly keep out of all oppositions. In order, then, not to judge and condemn, the Gospel uses the lily and the bird to make clear what paganism is, but thereby in turn to make clear what is required of the Christian.
    • Hong translation P. 9-10
  • Thus the upbuilding discourse is fighting in many ways for the eternal to be victorious in a person, but in the appropriate place and with the aid of the lily and the bird, it does not forget first and foremost to relax into a smile. Relax, you struggling one! One can forget how to laugh, but God keeps a person from ever forgetting how to smile! A person can forget much without any harm and in his old age certainly has to put up with forgetting a lot that he could wish to remember, but God forbid that a person would forget the lily and the bird before his final blessed end!
    • Hong translation P. 12

I The Care Of Poverty[edit]

  • Therefore you should not worry and say, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink? – the pagans seek all these things. Matthew 6:31-32
    • Hong translation P. 13
  • What, then, does the poor Christian live on? On the daily bread. In that he resembles the bird. But the bird, which certainly is not a pagan, is not a Christian either - because the Christian prays for the daily bread. But then is he even poorer than the bird, since he even has to pray for it, whereas the bird receives it without praying? Yes, the pagan is of this opinion.
    • Hong translation P. 14
  • It is told of a pious hermit, who had lived, dead to the world, for many, many years strictly observing the vow of poverty, that he had won the friendship and devotion of a rich man. That the rich man died and bequeathed his whole fortune to the hermit, who for so long a time had lived on the daily bread. But when someone came and told the hermit this, he answered, “There must be a mistake. How can he make me his heir when I was dead long before him!” – Ah, how poor wealth looks alongside of – wealth!
    • Hong translation P. 17
  • What is the temptation that in itself is many temptations? Certainly it is not the glutton’s temptation to live in order to eat; no (what rebellion against the divine order!) it is to live in order to slave. The temptation is this, to lose oneself, to lose one’s soul, to cease to be a human being and live as a human being instead of being freer than the bird, and godforsaken to slave more wretchedly than the animal. Yes, to slave!
    • Hong translation P. 21

II The Care of Abundance[edit]

  • Therefore you should not worry and say, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” – the pagans seek all these things. Matthew 6:31-32 This care the bird does not have.
    • Hong translation P. 23
  • The bird, like that simple wise man of antiquity, is a teacher of ignorance.
    • Hong translation P.23
  • The rich Christian indeed realizes that in the highest sense the wealth is not his own property. Oh no, the owner is God, who expressly wants it administered in this way. That is how far it is from the rich Christian’s being able to call the earthly wealth “mine” – it is God’s property; and as far as possible it is to be managed according to the owner’s wishes, managed with the owner’s indifference to money and monetary value, managed by being given away at the right time and place.
    • Hong translation P. 30
  • The rich Christian became ignorant of it; he is rich, poor, rich. The rich pagan is poor, poor, poor. The rich Christian does not talk about his earthly wealth at all but only about the wealth. The rich pagan knows nothing else to talk about except his mammon.
    • Hong translation P. 35

III The Cares of Lowliness[edit]

  • For the bird there is no question of to be or not to be; by of the shortcut it slips past all the cares of dissimilarity. Whether it is a bird just like all other birds, whether it is “just as good a bird” as the others of the same species, indeed, even whether it is just like its mate – of all such things it does not think at all, so impatient is it in its joy of being. No young girl on the point of leaving for a dance can be as impatient to leave as the bird is to set about being what it is. It has not a moment, not the briefest, to give away if this would delay it from being; the briefest moment would be a fatally long time for it if at that moment it was not allowed to be what it is; it would die of impatience at the least little objection to be summarily allowed to be.
    • Hong translation P. 38
  • What, then, is the lowly Christian who before God is himself? He is a human being. Inasmuch as he is a human being, he in a certain sense is like the bird, which is what it is. But he is also a Christian, which is indeed implied in the question about what the lowly Christian is. To that extent he is not like the bird, because the bird is what it is. But one cannot be a Christian in this way; if one is a Christin, one must have become that. And he can continually become more and more, because he can continually become more and more a Christian. As a human being he was created in God’s image, but as a Christian he has God as the prototype.
    • Hong translation P. 41
  • “What.….lowly?” says the bird. “Let us never think about such things; one flies away from that!” “What.….lowly?” says the Christian. “I am a Christian!” “Alas, lowly!” says the pagan.“ “I am what I am,” says the bird; “What I shall become has not yet been disclosed,” says the lowly Christian; “I am nothing and will never become anything,” says the lowly pagan. “I exist,” says the bird; “Life begins in death,” says the lowly Christian; “I am nothing, and in death I remain nothing,” says the lowly pagan.
    • Hong translation P. 46

IV The Care of Loftiness[edit]

  • Do not worry about what you will wear – the pagans seek all these things. Matthew 6:31-32 This care the bird does not have.
    • Hong translation P. 48
  • What, then, is the eminent Christian? Well, if you ask in a worldly way whether he is a king or an emperor or his lordship or his grace, etc., it is, of course, generally an impossibility to answer. But if you ask in the Christian sense, the answer is easy: He is a Christian.
    • Hong translation P. 50
  • This is the way the eminent pagan lives in loftiness. That there are many below him in loftiness, he knows full well, but what he does not know is that below him – it is still below him – there is the abyss. In other words, when, as stated, someone is higher in loftiness than others below him, he also has the abyss below him, because only in earthly loftiness can one be lofty in this way.
    • Hong translation P. 57

V The Care of Presumptuousness[edit]

  • No one can add one foot to his growth – the pagans seek all these things. Matthew 6:31-32 This care the lily and the bird do not have.
    • Hong translation P. 60
  • What is told in the parable fits such a pagan, the parable about the vineyard workers who misappropriated the vineyard and acted as if the owner did not exist; and insofar as he is brought up in Christianity, what they are reported to have said also fits him: “Let us kill the son, and the vineyard will be ours.” The life of every human being is God’s possession; the human being is his bond servant. But one cannot kill God; on the other hand, as is said, one certainly can kill the thought of him.
    • Hong translation P. 66-67
  • So the presumptuous pagan insanely wants to add a foot to his stature, insanely wants what was denied, in blind confidence wants to venture the foolhardiness of plunging down from the peak of the temple – and what is even more presumptuous, wants God to help him do it. Abandoning himself more and more to this unholy game, he wants by inadmissible means to penetrate the forbidden, discover the hidden, discern the future.
    • Hong translation P. 68

VI The Care of Self-Torment[edit]

  • To be properly positioned, to take the correct position, is important for everything in life. The Christian does this with regard to the next day because it does not exist for him. – It is well known that the actor, blinded as he is by the effect of the lighting, faces the deepest darkness, the blackest night. Now, one would think that this must disturb him, make him uneasy. But no, ask him and you will hear; he himself admits that precisely this supports him, calms him, keeps him in the enchantment of the illusion. It would, however, disturb him if he could see some particular, catch a glimpse of a particular spectator. So also with the next day.
    • Hong translation P. 73
  • We speak of a lust for life based on despair, which simply because it does not have the next day lives totally in the today. But this is an illusion, because one cannot exactly live in that way in the today, least of all totally. A human being has the eternal within him, and therefore he cannot possibly be totally in the purely momentary. The more he attempts to will to dispense with the eternal, the further away he is from living today. Weather the pagan will die tomorrow, we leave undecided; one thing is certain, he is not living today.
    • Hong translation P. 77-78

VII The Care of Indecisiveness, Vacillation, and Disconsolateness[edit]

  • No one can serve two masters – the pagans seek all these things. Matthew 6:24
    • Hong translation P. 81
  • The bird and the lily serve only one master and, what amounts to the same thing, serve him wholly. So be like the bird and the lily; you, too, serve only one master, serve him with all your heart, with all your might, and with all your mind, and with all your strength – then you also are without care. The Christian does not have this care.
    • Hong translation P. 82
  • When vacillation has ruled long enough and, of course, like all ungodly rulers has sucked the blood and wasted the marrow, disconsolateness comes to power. Then the pagan would prefer to get rid of the thought of God entirely; now he wants to sink into the emptiness of worldliness, there to seek forgetfulness, forgetfulness of the most dangerous (precisely because it is the most uplifting) of all thoughts the thought of being remembered by God, of existing before God. Indeed, if one wills to sink, what is more dangerous than everything that will lift up! Yet he has, so he thinks, overcome his pain, expelled all delusions, learned to console himself.
    • Hong translation P. 89

Part 2 States of Mind in the Stress of Suffering[edit]

  • I will incline my ear to a proverb; I will set my dark saying to the music of the harp. Psalm 49:5
    • Hong translation P. 93

I The Joy of It: That One Suffers Only Once But Is Victorious Eternally[edit]

  • The one who wants something must also know what he wants, must be conscious of what it is that he wants.
    • Hong translation P. 95
  • Where there is nothing terrifying whatever and no terror whatever, there is nothing that builds up either, no upbuilding whatever. There is forgiveness of sin – that is upbuilding. The terrifying is that there is sin, and the magnitude of the terror in the inwardness of guilt-consciousness is proportionate to the dimension of the upbuilding. The terrifying is that there is pain, strife, danger; and the magnitude of the terrifying and the terror is proportionate to what builds up and to the upbuilding.
    • Hong translation P. 96
  • Consider that if a person had lived his whole life in undisturbed enjoyment of all the good things on this earth, consider that in the moment of death he has nothing whatever to recollect, nothing whatever with which to approach recollection’s vast future. Enjoyment is pleasant at the moment but, just like the momentary in its emptiness, does not make a good showing for recollection and does not exist at all for eternal recollecting. On the other hand, there is no recollecting more blessed, and nothing more blessed to recollect, than sufferings over and done with in company with God; this is the secret of sufferings. So, then: either seventy years in all possible enjoyment, and nothing, nothing for eternity (of all the most dreadful lack, and also indeed the longest lasting!), or seventy years in suffering and then an eternity for blessed recollecting. Blessedly to recollect the sufferings over and done with in covenant with God!
    • Hong translation P. 104

II The Joy of It: That Hardship Does Not Take Away But Procures Hope[edit]

  • How could there be dreams if there were no dreamer! The term “dream-life” is connected with the more noble part; in the awakened person the spirit is awake, whereas there is indeed something that sleeps, namely the lower nature. In the child and youth, it is the spirit that sleeps and the lower nature is awake; yet 'it is the destiny of spirit to awaken, and therefore that life is called a dream-life.
    • Hong translation P. 108
  • Hardship procures hope. It does not give hope, but it procures it. It is the person himself who acquires it, eternity’s hope which is planted in him, hidden in his innermost being; but hardship procures it.
    • Hong translation P. 110
  • Imagine a stubborn witness who refuses to testify (and every human being must, after all, be a witness concerning the eternal and give testimony to it). Hardship does not let him go because he refuses to give evidence; day after day it imposes heavier and heavier fines for failure to comply, until he gives testimony.
    • Hong translation P. 112

III The Joy of It: That the Poorer You Become the Richer You Are Able to Make Others[edit]

  • If a person has hope, eternity’s hope beyond all measure, he has not thereby in the slightest way taken anything away from anybody – on the contrary, he has thereby worked for all. That one person has hope, or that there is one person who has hope, is for all others a much more joyful news, just because it is much more reassuring, than the news, that one ship has reached its goal is for all the other ships steering to the same goal. With regard to ships, accidental circumstances can determine the outcome for each one, and “the other” ships are not by an essential possibility participants in the one ship’s good fortune. But that there is one person who has hope, or every time there is a person who has hope, is decisive for all, that they are able to have it. Here it holds true that one is all and all are one.
    • Hong translation P. 117
  • So, in truth, it is with the goods of the spirit, which also have the reassuring quality, that mark of truth, that they can be possessed only in truth. If someone wants to possess them selfishly, possess them for himself, have them for himself in the selfish sense, then he does not possess them either. But in contrast to merely earthly and worldly goods, there are also spiritual goods, less perfect spiritual goods. For example, insight, knowledge, capacities, gifts, etc. are spiritual goods. But here it still holds true of the less perfect that the possessor decides the outcome, or that what decided the outcome depends on the nature of the possessor, whether he is benevolent and communicating or he is selfish, because these goods in themselves are still not communication.
    • Hong translation P. 118-119
  • These, then, are the relations with regard to riches and riches, and these relations must indeed underlie and define the thought: to enrich others. On the one side are the earthly goods (or the less perfect spiritual goods), the possession of which in itself is begrudging, the acquiring of which in itself is begrudging, and therefore every hour, every thought that is occupied with possessing or acquiring them is begrudging; on the other side are the true goods of the spirit, the possession of which in itself is communication, the acquisition of which in itself is communication, and therefore every hour, every thought occupied with possessing or acquiring them is enriching for others.
    • Hong translation P. 119-120

IV The Joy of It: That the Weaker You Become the Stronger God Becomes in You[edit]

  • There is so much talk in the world about conflict and conflict and conflict. There is the talk about this man and that man who live in conflict with each other, about this man and his wife, who, although united in the holy bonds of marriage, live in conflict with each other, about the scholarly conflict that has commenced between this one and that one, about someone who challenged someone else to a duel. There is talk about a riot that broken out in the city, about the thousands of enemy troops who are advancing against the country, about the imminent European war, about the conflict of the elements that rages horribly.
    • Hong translation P. 124-125
  • But let us first try to make it really clear that a person’s becoming weak means that God becomes strong in him inwardly. And this is what we first and foremost must ask of the sufferer, that he look away from the external as quickly as possible, turn his gaze inward, lest his gaze, and he along with it, become stuck in an external view of the relation of his suffering to the surrounding world. When the former is done, when it is made clear that a person’s becoming weak means that God becomes strong in him inwardly – then it indeed follows of itself that it is joyful.
    • Hong translation P. 127
  • The one who is strong without God is in fact weak. But the one who became utterly weak – in him God became strong. That God is stronger and stronger in him, means that he is stronger and stronger. But if you were utterly weak in perfect obedience, then all the mighty on the earth in union would be unable to bend a hair on your head in any way other than God wills it.
    • Hong translation P. 130

V The Joy of It: That What You Lose Temporally You Gain Eternally[edit]

  • There is scarcely any more upside-down thought that this, that the eternal is the uncertain, and scarcely any more upside-down sagacity than that which lets go of the eternal – because it is the uncertain, and grasps the temporal – because it is the certain.
    • Hong translation P. 134
  • If someone wanted to grasp the eternal in order to have earthly advantage from it, he is lost; if someone wanted to by the Holy Spirit, he is lost. Why is he lost? Because he temporally lost the eternal; he lost the eternal by wanting to reduce it to the temporal. The purpose or the objective is always higher than the means.
    • Hong translation P. 137
  • Only with the help of the eternal is a person able to let go of the lost temporal thing in such a way that he loses it only temporally. If the eternal does not help, then he loses much more than the temporal. But when the temporally losing of the lost temporal thing is a qualification of the eternal in the one who loses, then eternity is certainly very close to him.
    • Hong translation P. 142

VI The Joy of It: That When I “Gain Everything” I Lose Nothing at All[edit]

  • “To gain everything,” no one can ask for more, and if one gains everything, it is clearer than day that one loses nothing at all. And that this is joyful is certainly easy enough to perceive. Any child can immediately understand that; indeed, in the cravings of his desires, even the most confused and impatient young person can understand that at once. If he does not misunderstand this and thereby the entire discourse. These discourses actually are not for a young person, at least not to be used at once; not until his life has first given him the text can he perhaps find use for them and better understand the theme.
    • Hong translation P. 144
  • There is much said in the world about there being two ways to truth: the way of faith and the way of doubt. But this is just as strange as to say that there are two ways to heaven, and one of them leads to hell.
    • Hong translation P. 146

VII The Joy of It: That Adversity Is Prosperity[edit]

  • And just because it seems so very easy for thought, untried in the actuality of life and ignorant of any pressure, to swing up and down and down and up, to wheel around to the right and to the left, is it also so easy when adversity presses on the thought that should make the swing, is it then so easy when thought is to manage to turn around the one who in suffering and adversity continually wants to take the opposite position? That is, for thought, for aimless and ownerless thought, thought as such in general, thought that belongs nowhere and is not anybody’s, thought that shadowboxes with the unnamed names and definitions that define nothing: “here/there,” “right/left,” “straight ahead/turned around” – for thought as a vagrant it is easy enough to do the trick. But when it is thought with a name, when it is my thought, or when it is your thought and, when you are a sufferer, it consequently becomes an earnest matter that thought, which can turn easily enough, acquire in earnest this power over you to turn you around despite all the many things that manifoldly prevent you – is this, then, so easy?
    • Hong translation P. 150
  • With regard to sin, a turning around is required; with regard to eternity’s comfort, the same is required but in a milder form – namely, that one turn around. To the sinner, the rigorousness of the Law says terrifyingly, “Turn around!” To the suffering one, eternity says gently, sympathetically, “Oh, just turn around.
    • Hong translation P. 153
  • But (to offer you a little lighter fare if the Scriptural text about first seeking God’s kingdom should be too strong for you) then do you believe that the poet, whose songs delighted humankind, do you believe that he could have written these songs if adversity and hard sufferings had not been there to tune the soul! It is precisely in adversity, “when the heart sits in deepest gloom, then the harp of joy is turned.” Or do you believe that the one who in truth knew how to comfort others, do you believe that he would have been able to do this if adversity had not been for him the requisite prosperity that had helped him to proficiency in this beautiful art!
    • Hong translation P. 157

Part Three Thoughts That Wound From Behind – For Upbuilding Christian Addresses[edit]

I Watch Your Step When You Go to the House of the Lord[edit]

  • Watch Your Step When You Go to the House of the Lord. Ecclesiastes 5:1
  • What is honesty before God? It is that your life expresses what you say. We human beings have to be satisfied with less, with one person’s solemnly assuring the other that this and that is what he honestly means. But God in heaven, the infinitely lofty one or – yes, here it comes again – God, the knower of hearts, who is very close to you: God understands only one kind of honesty, that a person’s life expresses what he says. All other honesty, all other solemnity, all mere assurance that one means what one says is to God a deception, an untruth – such an invocation is presumptuousness toward him.
    • Hong translation P. 167
  • The one who has any knowledge of himself at all knows from his own experience that it is rather that one has in one’s innermost being a secret anxiety about and wariness of the truth, a fear of getting to know too much. Or do you actually believe that it is everyone’s honest desire to get to know very effectually what self-denial is, to get it made clear that every excuse, every evasion, every extenuation, every refuge in the false but favorable opinion of others is cut off for him! Do you believe this? Well, I need not wait for your answer, because if it were the case, then everyone would in truth have self-denial, since precisely this is the first form of self-denial.
    • Hong translation P. 170
  • Christ’s suffering is not to be brought to mind as a past event – oh, save your sympathy! No, when this horror is portrayed, it is something present, and you are present, and I, at something present, and as – accomplices in guilt!
    • Hong translation P. 174
  • Faith is the conviction, the blessed conviction, which is in fear and trembling. When faith is seen from its one side, the heavenly, only the reflection of eternal salvation is seen in it; but seen from its other side, the merely human side, one sees sheer fear and trembling.
    • Hong translation P. 175

II See, We Have Left Everything and Followed You; What Shall We Have? (Matthew 19:27)[edit]

  • The words quoted are the Apostle Peter’s, spoken on the occasion of Christ’s declaration about how difficult it is to enter into the kingdom of God. The ending of the question pertains to all of us: What shall we have, what does Christianity promise us? But now the beginning of the question, “We have left everything and followed you,” does that pertain also to us?
    • Hong translation P. 176
  • It is, however, actually true that Christ requires of the Christian that he shall voluntarily give up and leave everything. This was not required in the Old Testament days; God did not require of Job that he himself should give up anything and, testing, explicitly required of Abraham only Isaac. But Christianity is indeed the religion of freedom, and precisely the voluntary is essentially Christian. Voluntarily to give up everything to follow Christ means to be convinced of the gloriousness of the good that Christianity promises. Cowardly and timorously not to dare venture it out of fear of tempting God is a slavish spirit; cunningly to pretend that it was out of fear of tempting God is making a fool of God.
    • Hong translation P. 179
  • No person is saved except by grace; the apostle, too, was accepted only by grace. But there is one sin that makes grace impossible, that is dishonesty, and there is one thing God unconditionally must require, that is honesty. If however, a person keeps God away through dishonesty, such a person can come neither to understand that he, if God should require it, in the more rigorous sense would leave everything, nor to understand himself in humbly admitting that he certainly did not in the literal sense leave everything but still entrusts himself to God’s grace.
    • Hong translation P. 187

III All Things Must Serve Us for Good – When We Love God[edit]

  • Yes, people have often been busy in a strange way in the wrong place. They struggle and struggle, ponder and ponder, in order to demonstrate the truth of Christianity, and when it is demonstrated they reassure themselves and think that now everything is as it should be. This is settling down to rest at the beginning, which one really ought not do before the end, and which is especially strange in these times when one is usually very busy going further.
    • Hong translation P. 189
  • Yes, woe to the person who ventures to cast doubt about God into another person’s heart, because all this doubt is sinful, and to awaken this doubt in another sense is to seduce. But honor be to the person, praise be to him, thanks be to him, to him the earnest one who has no fear of awakening in another person the doubt that teaches him to have doubts about himself, the doubt that is the origin of self-concern. Therefore, when! This “when,” it is the preacher of repentance. Perhaps you think that a preacher of repentance is like a rushing violent wind that terrifies physically. No, the true preacher of repentance, like God’s voice, also comes in a gentle breeze – yet it is not soft but rigorous, as rigorous as the earnestness of eternity.
    • Hong translation P. 191-192
  • When you love God – or when you believe that God is love, because if you believe that God is love, then you also love him, and then all things serve you for good. But do not make a mistake, do not go ahead and love God in the overflowing feeling of your good fortune, as if you did not really need him because you are fortunate enough. No, you must learn to need God, to love him because you need him, you the more fortunate of all. Your welfare is by no means, oh, by no means decided by all your good fortune; it is first decided when – but then it is also eternally decided – when you believe that God is love, when you love God. O you fortunate one – when you believe it – congratulations.
    • Hong translation P.193-194
  • The effect this truthful discourse will bring about depends solely on who the listener is.
    • Hong translation P. 200

IV There Will Be the Resurrection of the Dead, of the Righteous – and of the Unrighteous[edit]

  • What is it that has given rise to this whole error about immortality? Is it that the placement of the issue has been shifted, that immortality has been turned into a question, that what is a task has been turned into a question, what is a task for action has been turned into a question for thought.
    • Hong translation P. 205
  • Either one works unceasingly with all the effort of one’s soul, in fear and trembling, on self-concern’s thought, “whether one will oneself be saved,” and then one truly has no time or thought to doubt the salvation of others, nor does one care to. Or one has become completely sure about one’s own part – and then one has time to think about the salvation of others, time to step forward concerned and to shudder on their behalf, time to take positions and make gestures of concern, time to practice the art of looking horrified while one shudders on behalf of someone else.
    • Hong translation P. 210
  • The individuals perhaps do not perceive how they are in the power of the human race and that it is the human race that is speaking through them; therefore they think that the person who calls to them and calls them individuals is a rebel – and so he is indeed; in the name of God he rebels against making the human race into God and immortality into a problem. In the name of God he rebels, and he appeals to God’s word: that there will be the resurrection of the dead, of the righteous- and of the unrighteous!
    • Hong translation P. 213

V We Are Closer to Salvation Now – Than When We Became Believers[edit]

  • The essentially Christian is precisely this: the relation to Christianity is what is decisive. Someone can know all about Christianity, can know how to explain, discuss, expound – but if in addition he thinks that his own personal relationship to Christianity is a matter of indifference, then he is a pagan.
    • Hong translation P. 215
  • Are you really aware of this difficulty that comes, as it were, from behind? The question is not whether you have gone backward since the time you became a believer, whether you have abandoned the faith. One could indeed draw a conclusion in this way: it is self-evident that I am closer now than when I became a believer, because now is a later moment than when, therefore it is self-evident, unless, as said, you have since that time abandoned the faith. Nothing is self-evident if it is not certain that at some time you became a believer, that you have experienced the moment when you became a believer. When, then, did you become a believer? It is of enormous importance that you get this determined if you are going to be able to determine where you are now.
    • Hong translation P. 216-217
  • can a person be further away from his salvation than when he does not even know definitely whether he has begun to want to be saved?
    • Hong translation P. 220

VI But It Is Blessed – to Suffer Mockery for a Good Cause[edit]

  • “Blessed are those who suffer persecution for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult and persecute you and speak every kind of evil against you for my sake and lie. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will bed great in heaven; so have they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” These words will be the basis for the following discourse: But it is blessed – to suffer mockery for a good cause, in order that really for upbuilding we might become aware of the comfort, or rather, the joy, that Christianity proclaims, because these discourses are for upbuilding even if they, as is said, wound from behind.
    • Hong translation P. 223
  • What does a person desire as the highest reward? To have his name inscribed immortally in the annals of history. But that the person who is mocked, just by suffering mockery, receives the highest reward – has his name inscribed in the Book of Life!
    • Hong translation P. 225
  • Far be it from Christianity to be so foolish as to say that everyone who was mocked while he lived was on the right road. It only says: The true Christian must normally be found among those who were mocked while they lived. This is Christianity’s view: what is eternal, what is true, cannot possibly win the approval of the moment, must inevitably win its disapproval. … To be a Christian is a matter of honor, and therefore every Christian is bound by his own and Christianity’s honor to safeguard the true concept of honor lest by accepting the honor and respect of worldliness and the applause of the moment he become an accomplice in the dissemination of the false concept.
    • Hong translation P. 227-228
  • If Christ came again to the world now, he would be crucified again, unless the death penalty had been abolished by that time. People drop this remark as casually as they say “Good day,” only with greater pretentiousness; and people find it said so aptly and strikingly, and it does not occur to the person who says it to become aware of this whole mirage of Christendom. Truly this is inexplicable to me.
    • Hong translation P. 229

VII He Was Believed in the World[edit]

  • 1 Timothy 3:16 And great beyond all question is the mystery of godliness: God was revealed in the flesh, was justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the pagans, believed in the world, taken up in glory.
    • Hong translation P. 234
  • Paul does not come to you and ask you if you have believed, with a demand to hear your yes or your no, but he says, “He was believed in the world” – now it is left up to you yourself, to your conscience, to answer for yourself.
    • Hong translation P. 235
  • The one who understood the question and answered, “I have believed in him,” he understood himself. And if he answered, “I have not believed in him,” he still understood himself. Instead of the historical “He was believed in the world.” the personal is “I have believed in him,” when the single individual says, “I have believed in him.”
    • Hong translation P. 239
  • To take an example from that humanly speaking is unique in the world and that we usually place closest to Christianity. I have admired that noble simple wise man of antiquity. Reading about him has made my heart beat as violently as did the young man’s heart when he conversed with him; the thought of him has been the inspiration of my youth and has filled my soul; my longing for conversation with him has been entirely different from the longing for conversation with anyone with whom I have ever spoken.
    • Hong translation P. 241
  • My listener, this is indeed also a creed, or at least a confession of faith. For a person to be a Christian, it certainly is required that what he believes is a definite something, and then with equal certainty it is also required that it be entirely definite that he believes. To the same degree that you draw attention exclusively to the definite something he is to believe, to the same degree he moves away from faith. To the same degree that one gives the appearance that it will be very difficult to make definite what it is that a person is to believe, to the same degree one leads people away from faith.
    • Hong translation P. 244

Part Four. Discourses At The Communion On Fridays. Christian Discourses[edit]


  • Two (II and III) of these discourses, which still lack something essential to be, and therefore are not called, sermons, were delivered in Frue Church. Even if he is not told, the knowledgeable reader will no doubt himself readily recognize in the form and treatment that these two are “delivered discourses,” written to be delivered, or written as they were delivered. February 1848
    • Hong translation P. 249

I. Luke 22:15[edit]

  • Luke 22:15 I have longed with all my heart to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.
    • Hong translation P. 251
  • Let us then use the prescribed moments before the Communion to speak about the heartfelt longing for the holy meal of the Lord’s Supper.
    • Hong translation P. 253
  • So I will call to mind how uncertain everything is, that a person is thrown out at birth into the world and from that moment lies out upon the depths of thousands of fathoms, and at every moment, is like the darkest night. I will remind myself that never has anyone been so unfortunate that he could not become more unfortunate! I will remind myself that even if I should succeed in one building – that still no one, no one, will be able to guarantee to me that the whole building will not at the very moment collapse upon me.
    • Hong translation P. 255-256
  • Suppose that I had lived at the time of that dreaded episode, suppose I had been present in ‘the crowd’ that insulted him and spat upon him! Suppose that I had been present in the crowd – I dare not believe that I among a whole generation would have been one of the twelve – suppose that I had been present!
    • Hong translation P. 259
  • Oh, but the longing for fellowship with your Savior and Redeemer should increase every time you remember him. He is not one who is dead and departed but one who is living. Indeed, you are really to live in and together with him; he is to be and become your life, so that you do not live to yourself, no longer live yourself, but Christ lives in you. Therefore, just as heartfelt longing belongs to worthy remembrance, so in turn it belongs to heartfelt longing that the longing is increased through remembrance, so only that one went worthily to the Lord’s table who went there with heartfelt longing and went there with increased heartfelt longing.
    • Hong translation P. 260

II. Matthew 11:28[edit]

  • Matthew 11:28 Come here to me, all who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.
    • Hong translation P. 261
  • Father in heaven, just as the congregation’s intercessory prayer usually asks that you yourself will comfort all who are sick and sorrowful, so in this hour it asks that you give rest for their souls to those who labor and are burdened. And yet this is no intercession: who would dare to think himself so healthy that he would pray only for others. Alas, no, everyone is praying for himself, praying that you will give him rest for his soul. Give, O God, rest for the soul to each one individually whom you see are laboring and burdened in the consciousness of sins.
    • Hong translation P. 261
  • But how would this discourse ever end if it were to mention all these dissimilarities, and even if it were to attempt to do so, it would perhaps misguide instead of guide, would draw attention distractingly to the dissimilarities instead of concentrating the mind on the one thing needful.
    • Hong translation P. 263
  • The invitation, then, does not wish to be taken in vain in a worldly way. Therefore it contains a requirement; it requires that the invited person labor and be burdened in the more profound sense. There is a longing for God; it pertains to nothing earthly and temporal, not to your external conditions, not to your future; it is a longing for God. The person who is carrying this longing silently, humbly in his heart – that person is laboring.
    • Hong translation P. 264
  • God grant that the one who is seeking may also find, that the one who is seeking the right thing may also find the one thing needful, that the one who is seeking the right place may also find rest for the soul. It is certainly a restful position when you kneel at the foot of the altar; but God grant that this truly be only a dim intimation of your soul’s finding rest in God through the consciousness of the forgiveness of sins.
    • Hong translation P. 266-267

III. John 10:27[edit]

  • John 10:27 “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”
    • Hong translation P. 269
  • So it was not your duty to come here today; it was a need within you. It was no external summons that determined you; you yourself must have inwardly made the decision; no one could reproach you if you had not come. It is your own free choice to come; you did not do it because the others were doing it, because the others, after all, on this very day went each to his fields, to his business, to his work – but you came to God’s house, to the Lord’s table. In so doing, you have very specifically expressed that you count yourself among those who want to belong to Christ, those described in the sacred text just read, which was taken from the Gospel in which Christ compares himself to the good shepherd and the true believers to the sheep. Three statements are made about them: They hear his (Christ’s) voice; he (Christ) knows them; they follow him (Christ).
    • Hong translation P.270
  • Today is not a holy day; today there is divine service on a weekday – oh, but a Christian’s life is a divine service every day! It is not as if everything were settled by someone’s going to Communion on rare occasions; no, the task if to remain at the Communion table when you leave the Communion table.
    • Hong translation P.274

IV. 1 Corinthians 11:23[edit]

  • 1 Corinthians 11:23 … the Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed.
    • Hong translation P.276
  • We pray that you yourself will remind us of your suffering and death, remind us often at our work, in our joy and in our sorrow, of the night when you were betrayed. We pray to you for this, and we thank you when you remind us; so we also thank you now as do those gathered here today in going up to your Communion table to renew their fellowship with you.
    • Hong translation P. 275-276
  • From this moment I will no longer believe in myself; I will not let myself be deceived, as if I were better because I was not tried as were those contemporaries. No, apprehensive about myself as I have become, I will seek my refuge with him, the Crucified One. I will beseech him to save me from evil and to save me from myself. Only when saved by him and with him, only when he holds me fast, do I know that I will not betray him. The anxiety that wants to frighten me away from him, so that I, too, could betray him, is precisely what will attach me to him; then I dare to hope that I will hold fast to him – how would I not dare to hope this when that which wants to frighten me away is what binds me to him!
    • Hong translation P. 280
  • Behold, everything is now prepared; blessed is the one who for his part is also prepared! Behold, he is waiting there at his holy table – do this, then, in remembrance of him and for blessedness to yourself!
    • Hong translation P. 281

V. II Timothy 2:12-13[edit]

  • II Timothy 2:12-13 If we deny, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he still remains faithful; he cannot deny himself.
    • Hong translation P. 282
  • Prayer. Lord Jesus Christ, you who loved us first, you who until the last loved those whom you had loved from the beginning, you who until the end of time continue to love everyone who wants to belong to you – your faithfulness cannot deny itself. Alas, only when a person denies you can he force you, so to speak, you the loving one, also to deny him. May this be our comfort when we must indict ourselves for the offense we have committed, for what we have left undone, for our weakness in temptations, for our slow progress in the good, that is, for our unfaithfulness to you, to whom we once in our early youth and repeatedly thereafter promised faithfulness – may it be our comfort that even if we are unfaithful you still remain faithful; you cannot deny yourself.
    • Hong translation P. 282
  • We let the terrifying thought pass by, not as something that does not pertain to us – oh, no, in that way no one is saved; as long as one lives it is still possible that one could be lost. As long as there is life there is hope – but as long as there is life there certainly is also the possibility of danger, consequently of fear, and consequently there will be fear and trembling just as long. We let the terrifying thought pass by, but then we trust to God that we dare to let it pass by and to cross over as we take comfort in the Gospel’s gentle word.
    • Hong translation P. 283
  • When it comes to describing our relationship to the Deity, this human language is certainly second-rate and half-true. Even when we speak in the strongest expressions about God’s testing us, our speech is still meaningless unless the meaning is implicitly understood: that basically God is holding on to us.
    • Hong translation P. 285
  • But he, our Lord Jesus Christ, he does not deny himself, he cannot deny himself. This is why up there at the altar he stretches out his arms, he opens his arms to all; you see it on him – he does not deny himself. He does not deny himself, and neither does he deny you what you ask of him when you now renew your pledge of faithfulness to him. He is the same; he was and he remains faithful to you.
    • Hong translation P. 288

VI. 1 John 3:20[edit]

  • 1 John 3:20 … even if our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts.
    • Hong translation P. 289
  • Yet there certainly is a difference between guilt and guilt; there is a difference between owing five hundred shillings and only fifty. One person can have much, much more to reproach himself for than another; there can also be the one who must say to himself that his heart condemns him.
    • Hong translation P. 290
  • the more profound person does not allow himself to be disturbed by externality.
    • Hong translation P. 291
  • God is greater than your own heart. Ah, whether it was a sickness of soul that so darkened your mind every night that finally in deadly anxiety, brought almost to the point of madness by the conception of God’s holiness, you thought you had to condemn yourself; whether it was something terrible that so weighed upon your conscience that your heart condemned itself – God is greater!
    • Hong translation P. 293
  • Out there the stars proclaim your majesty, and the perfection of everything proclaims your greatness, but in here it is the imperfect, it is sinners who praise your even greater greatness! – The supper of remembrance I once again prepared; may you then beforehand be brought to mind and thanked for your greatness in showing mercy.
    • Hong translation P. 295

VII. Luke 24:51[edit]

  • Luke 24:51 And it happened, as he blessed them, he was parted from them.
    • Hong translation P. 296
  • the blessing is the good in itself; it is the one thing needful, is infinitely more glorious and blessed than all success. What, then, is the blessing? The blessing is God’s consent to the undertaking that a person prays God to bless. And what does it mean that he prays for the blessing? It means that he dedicates himself and his undertaking to serving God – regardless of whether or not it, humanly speaking, succeeds or progresses.
    • Hong translation P. 297
  • At the Communion table you are able to do nothing at all, not even this, that you hold fast the thought of your unworthiness and in this make yourself receptive to the blessing. Or would you dare, and even if it were only at the last moment as you come up to the Communion table, would you dare even with regard to the thought that recognizes your own unworthiness, would you dare to guarantee yourself, trust in yourself, that you would be able to keep away everything disturbing, every anxious thought or recollection that, alas, wounds from behind, every suddenly aroused mistrust that turns against you as if you were still not adequately prepared, every most transient delusion of security in yourself!
    • Hong translation P. 299-300

Quotes About Christian Discourses[edit]

  • Outside everything is in movement, nationalism surges high in all, everyone talks of sacrificing life and blood, is perhaps also ready to do it, but supported by the omnipotence of public opinion. And I sit in a quiet room; I recognize only one danger: the religious danger.
    • Journals of Soren Kierkegaard March 27, 1848 (From Lowrie's translation p. 4)
  • Kierkegaard said of the year 1848. 'It was beyond all comparison the richest and most fruitful year I have experienced as an author.'
    • Lowrie's Introduction to Christian Discourses 1940
  • The book had no reviews from contemporaries. A second edition was published in 1862. Emanuel Hirsch translated the book and called it a devotional book that combines simplicity and inwardness with reflection and presents crucial Christian concepts and presuppositions with unusual clarity.
    • Hong translation p. xiv
  • "If one is to lift a whole generation, verily one must know it. Hence it is that these proclaimers of Christianity who begin straightway with orthodoxy have not much influence, and that only upon the few. For Christianity is far behind. One must begin with paganism. So it was that I began with Either/Or. Thereby I got the generation to go with me; it did not even dream whither it was going, or where we are now. But people became aware of the problems. But, as the title of my Discourses suggests, my whole work as an author is one great thought, and that is: to wound from behind."
    • (From Kierkegaard's Journals - Lowrie's translation p. 6
  • Of the many completed works, only Christian Discourses (April 26) and The Crisis and a Crisis in the Life of an Actress (July 24-27) were published that year (1848). Kierkegaard intended to terminate his writing with them, just as he had planned to end with Concluding Unscientifc Postscript in 1845.
    • Hong's introduction to Christian Discourses

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