I’ve been reading a compilation of writings by Soren Kierkegaard, a Danish philosopher and theologian, who died (at the age of 42) in 1855. His thinking/words are often considered to be dense and reading can be laborious…but I’m finding it well worth the exercise. He is feisty, though feisty in a different vein than Calvin (who I found to be a bit arrogant in his feisty-ness, though that is probably my fault).
I’ve highlighted much. I agree with Philip Yancey, who says that Kierkegaard “has taught me, moved me, perplexed me, and always provoked my thinking in new directions.” Not all those things have happened in my own mind, but I can see that they could. He has certainly perplexed me, and caused me to think new ways and question some notions I have held.
This morning, I read his essay “Alone with God’s Word”. It was, challenging? Convicting? Something. Either way, I think his words are worth sharing here:
“Yes, alone with God’s Word! Allow me to make a confession about myself here. I still do not dare to be utterly alone with God’s Word. I don’t have the honesty and courage for it. I dare not! If I open it–any passage–it traps me at once. It asks me–indeed, it is as if it were God himself who does the asking–“Have you done what you read there?” And then I am trapped. Then either right into action or immediately a humbling confession. Oh, to be alone with Scripture; yet if you are not, then you are not truly reading.”
Yes. This is truth. What I have found to bear out as truth over and over in my halting and fumbling approach to scripture is this: I can study the words all day long. I can pull them apart, look up commentary information, ask questions of the passages, make observations, arguments–analyze it. And yet, it is not unusual for me to avoid letting it affect my mind. Or my soul.
But, when I am alone with God’s word–when I am engaged in writing out prayers based on scripture, instead of strict analytical, academic examination of the words–something different occurs. A different kind of work is accomplished.
The words drive me to confession.
The words kick me to action.
The words show me how to care for others.
The words discipline me.
The words correct me.
The words teach me.
The words even settle my mind and soul, oftentimes.
Yes, it is easier to study. It is much easier to study scripture, and therefore, study God. I would make an excellent scientist–my powers of observation and dissection and research are well-honed.
And, study is important. It is vastly important–don’t hear me say that it is not. Studying God’s word also provides some of the above list. Plus, like hard work is trustworthy and reliable and will be there tomorrow, so will the study of God’s word. It will be there, it will not abandon. One can always count on there being something new to explore, to study, to examine, to analyze. It is inexhaustible. There is great comfort in that.
But, I’m not entirely sure that there is lasting comfort in the analyzing, though I certainly have looked for it.
I am slowly learning that the comfort comes not in the study, but in the One who is the source of the words. It is God who drives, kicks, shows, disciplines, corrects, teaches and settles. It is God, in the sacrifice of His son, who saves….and, my soul, provides grace and forgiveness. He is who creates the mind and soul change, through His words, not the labor of examination of who He is.
I often fail to make that distinction. Or, rather, I often ignore it.
Kierkegaard also says this:
“Being alone with God’s Word is a dangerous matter……Take the Bible, lock your door–but then get out ten dictionaries and twenty-five commentaries. Then you can read it just as calmly and coolly as you read newspaper advertising….and we then allow this preoccupation to swell to such profundity that we never come to look at ourselves in the mirror…herein lies the problem. It is not a question of interpretation, but action.”
Right interpretation is important. But it should always have the point to God, not overshadow Him and His work in our minds and souls.
“Being alone with God’s Word is a dangerous matter….” It is fire (Jeremiah 23:29); a dangerous fire that we–that I–need to run into, not away from.