Monday, December 28, 2015

The Wig and the Man: Reflections on a Satment by Keirkegaard, with apology to "Anonymous."

On Christmas Eve a couple of days ago I did a piece called "Christmas and the crucified God." It was received pretty well but it's the third time I ran it. The last time was Christmas 2013. Looking back at it that copy I noticed a comment that was ironic and heart breaking.

This blog, comments, Dec. 13, 2013:

I will admit that having read you for a while now I do get confused about a particular thing - most of your theology seems to be based around a more nebulous, all-encompassing, almost deist view of god (vs the big man in the sky) and metaphysical transitions that are only hinted at in the Bible narrative, which you normally regard as allegory and mythology. Yet at one point or another, you will make a statement that implies a commitment to the Bible as a literal document demanding worship, water baptism, sinner's prayer, etc. If you hit a slow point in your writing next year I would love to see an explanation of how you marry these concepts. For me, if you don't accept that there was a literal ark of every animal on earth riding the flood waters past Everest, I don't understand how you believe that you literally need to be dunked in water and repeat a litany to be metaphysically transformed into a higher form of being.

I really must apologize to this reader, even though he/she will probably never see it. I meant to do a thing on that and on all your comments but my brother died before I could get to it. That was devastating and I forgot. Then Moving beyond that point I got sick and haven't really gotten well to this day (still in rehab),  Although, I've made a lot of progress. I only need to get back to walking now. The root of it all was infection that was resistant to antibiotic, coming through my legs due to Vinous ulcer disease. I'm not really prepared to answer the full comments which were really more about theodicy. I should have pointed you to my theodicy answers on Doxa or religious a priori, I did talk of that on the blog before those comments were made. I want to focus here upon the section quoted above. Recently a friend  on my message board said that I was straddling the fence between the fundamentalism and liberalism.

It is also ironic what this person said about water baptism because I never said any such thing. That person must be from a church of Christ background because they believe in being dunked totally in water and they believe that is necessary to salvation. I certainly do not believe that, nor have I since about 1970. The ironic bit is I was raised in the church of Christ, became an atheist in high school and got saved in 79 at age 23. One of the first things I did when I got saved was to reject the church of Christ teachings, blaming them for my atheism. I don't blame them now but I still don't believe in the necessity of water baptism. I did get baptized again but only as a symbolic link with the traditions not because I thought I was lost without it.

In explaining my over all outlook I am reminded of a parable Kierkegaard tells. I turn back to SK because is foundational to my understanding of Christian intellectualism. He was about the first modern Christian thinker I read and I discovered him long before I went to seminary. There are two statements the first I can't find don't remember where he said it. The second I will foot note

First he says a native witchdoctor in Africa praying with fetishes who is in his heart reaching out to the true creator is a better Christian than the baptized church going businessman who is in church to make contacts. I think there is a whif of xenophobia if not racism but it was early 19th century. He was Northern European in the mid 19th century.

The second is told as a parable by John Climacus (SK's pseudopigraphal character) in Concluding Unscientific Postscript. [1] The story is retold here by another writer:

It is supposed to have happened in England that a man was assaulted on the highway by a robber disguised with a large wig. He rushes at the traveler, grabs him by the throat, and shouts: Your wallet. He takes the wallet, which he keeps, but he throws away the wig. A poor man comes down the same road, finds the wig, puts it on, and arrives in the next town, where the traveler has already given the alarm. He is recognized, arrested, and identified by the traveler, who swears that he is the man. By chance, the robber is present in the courtroom, sees the mistake, turns to the judge and says, "It seems to me that the traveler is looking more at the wig than at the man" and asks permission to make an experiment. He puts on the wig, grabs the traveler by the throat, and says: Your wallet – and the traveler recognizes the robber and offers to swear to it – but the trouble is that he already has sworn an oath. So it goes with everyone who in one way or another has a "what" and pays no attention to "how"; he swears, he takes an oath, he runs errands, he risks his life and blood, he is executed – all for the wig.[2]
What the heck is he saying? The parable is about a figure SK used several times, the master criminal, Why is he using a thief for the Christian saint or hero? Because the important thing is not the what but the how. What the hell? What and how represent for SK two aspects of Christian life, the outer and the inner. The What is the trappings of the outer display of religiosity; The how is the process of inner reflection and seeking that leads to true knowledge of God. The traveler misses the true identity of the crook because he's only concerned with the outward appearance. This is symbolic of the one who sees herself as a Christian  because she goes to church and takes part in Bible studies. That does not mean one should not do these things but those are not what make us Christians. It is not as matter of outward trappings of faith,

Why is he a master criminal? Because that's the misleading nature of a "what," What is he? A criminal. How does he go about being a criminal? He undoes his crimes and dies for the truth, At that rate is being a criminal important? What was the thief on the cross? A thief. He died for being what he was but how did he do it? By repenting via an expression of faith in Messiah. It's the inner reality of what is going on in the heart that matters.

How does this answer the question "Anonymous" asked me? Look at why the thief was willing to go to jail for the wig? Not because it is important in itself but because it's a vehicle for truth. For that reason it symbolizes something and it is what it symbolizes that is important. I don't regard everything in the Bible as symbolic. I think is a core to the Gospel and we need to find that core and stick to it because that it's all about. The core is about knowing God. All the other things like doctrines are just wigs. But don't forget, the thief died for the wig. It made me angry that Philipse wrote off liberal theology as "making metaphors" as though metaphor equates to "fiction." [3] There is something on the other end of the metaphor that's really there and it is really important.

How do you know what is core? That's another reason to keep the wig. Don't be fooled into thinking the wig is the point but it does symbolize something. There are previous generations who have been down these roads before. There are guides in the tradition. While we don't want to be stuck with the surface trappings we also need to keep the wig, One of the first things I learned about knowing God was the reality of God's presence, Here I refer you to my testimony on Doxa. God started off getting my attention with the reality of his presence, Then one of the most important and productive Bible sturdies I did was on the terms "knowledge" and "knowing" in the New Testament. That reinforces the concept that it's all about the reality of experience of God's presence and not just ideas on paper.

One such example is the passage in first John saying "he who loves knows God for God is love," That term for know is not the word one would use for factual knowledge but for first had knowledge. We know it because we actually experienced it, (ginosko). That raises the question why value the Bible at all? Thebo0ok tells us plainly how to find God. Why trust it? Have to start some where I was blessed in that I had the experience I talk about in that link, because I said calling out to God the one my parents told me about and I got an immediate answer that told me "here is the way." What does the book say>

First of all it says Jesus is the word, not the Bible. The Bible never mentions itself. It says in former times God spoke through the Prophets  but in latter times he spoke through his son, Prophets are the Bible. Jesus' words are in part of the Bible but they are not the book itself. The crucifixion the guy get's killed seems top be a fairly important part of the story. He raises from the dead seems even more important. That must be core. I could see them as just symbolic but since I know from  my experiences that God does stuff why should I take them as only symbolic? Sure the resurrection is symbolic but does that mean it didn't happen? It is a true symbol, A true symbol participates in the thing it symbolizes.

I think part of the reason Philipse just wrote off the metaphorizers is because postmodern theology has forgotten the core that Tillich and Pannenberg and the great liberals of the 20th century were into. Instead of wigs they have black shirts but it's the same thing, Philipse doesn't see a core because those guys don't have one. My core is Jesus.


[1] Kierkegaard's Writings, XII, Volume II:Concluding Unscientific Post Pcript to Philosophical Fragments. Preinceton NJ: Preceton University Press translated by Howard V. Hong and Edna H Hong Princeton U P 1992, 610

[2] Sara Katrine Jandrup, The Master Thief Alias S. Kierkegaard, And His Robbery Of The Truth,
Fredriksberg, Denmark. M. A., Roskilde Universitets Center, PDF URL:  (accessed 12/26/2015)

[3] Herman Philipse, God In The Age of Science, Oxford, London: Oxford University Press, 2012, 3

see my review

No comments: