The gentle removal of illusion

Speaking about the disturbing fact that Christendom is full of non-Christians, Kierkegaard says:

On the assumption, then, that a religious author has from the ground up become aware of this illusion, Christendom, and to the limit of his ability with, note well, the help of God, wants to stamp it out – what is he to do then? Well, first and foremost, no impatience. If he becomes impatient, then he makes a direct assault and accomplishes – nothing. By a direct attack he only strengthens a person in the illusion and also infuriates him. Generally speaking, there is nothing that requires as gentle a treatment as the removal of an illusion. If one in any way causes the one ensnared to be antagonized, then all is lost. And this one does by a direct attack, which in addition also contains the presumptuousness of demanding that another person confess to one or face-to-face with one make the confession that actually is most beneficial when the person concerned makes it to himself secretly. The latter is achieved by the indirect method, which in the service of the love of truth dialectically arranges everything for the one ensnared and then, modest as love always is, avoids being witness to the confession that he makes alone before God, the confession that he has been living in an illusion.

-Kierkegaard, On my work as an author, The aesthetic writing, “Christendom is an enormous illusion”, Essential p.459

This may be the best thing I read in the whole book. I guess because it rings very true with my own perception of people and reality.

Must we assume that preaching the gospel faithfully will always involve some sort of “in your face” confrontation? As if your preaching against sodomy will strike conviction into the hearts of sodomites within earshot. Only the Holy Spirit can do such a thing and his voice is keen and quiet.

The hedonist and materialist surfing for a larger TV and eying the $80 Scotch at the liquor store on the way home – he is under a spell.

There are two ways to look at the sinner (and we’re all sinners). He can be a rebel – hateful and smearing at his creator. Or he can be seen as a slave – someone trapped and pitiable. God has hard words for the rebel indeed! But the imagery used to describe the whole life and ministry of Jesus Christ, even by himself directly, was one of “setting the captives free”, “those in darkness have seen a great light”. When Jesus weeps over Jerusalem, he says that he wished he could gather them under his wings like a protective hen. He could just have easily said that he wished to beat them straight with a rod for their rebellion and idolatry. But he didn’t say that. A few years later, in 73 A.D., they would be beaten down and crushed by Rome. But only a week after he said that, he died for a city – even a whole world and race – full of slaves.

As S.K. put it, “demanding a face-to-face confession” when what they really need is one in secret, in their heart of hearts – that is how you sabotage a conversion experience. Because we are more slaves than rebels.