Lesson 36B Preview: Prof. Paul Nimmo “Friedrich Schleiermacher”; BBC Documentary “Sea of Faith” excerpts: Soren Kierkegaard and Carl Jung; the 5th Dimension Sings The Age of Aquarius

Friedrich Daniel Ernst Schleiermacher (November 21, 1768 – February 12, 1834)

We learn from Wikipedia, “Schleiermacher was a German theologian and philosopher known for his attempt to reconcile the criticisms of the Enlightenment with traditional Protestant orthodoxy. He also became influential in the evolution of Higher Criticism, and his work forms part of the foundation of the modern field of hermeneutics. Because of his profound impact on subsequent Christian thought, he is often called the “Father of Modern Liberal Theology.” The Neo-Orthodoxy movement of the twentieth century, typically (though not without challenge) seen to be spearheaded by Karl Barth, was in many ways an attempt to challenge his influence.”

Roger Olson does not discuss Soren Kierkegaard in any depth until Chapter 34 when he considers Neo-Orthodoxy and treats Kierkegaard, who was raised as a Lutheran in early nineteenth century Denmark, as a precursor of this movement often identified with Karl Barth. In Chapter 32, the one we are currently considering, he is referred to briefly as an “anathema” to liberal theologians because of his emphasis on the “wholly otherness” of God that separates Him infinitely from the “world”.  We have, however, chosen to present Kierkegaard here as his anti-rationalist and subjectivist, personality-focused philosophy broke new ground that in later generations attracted European liberal and Marxist philosophers, unquestionably disdainful of Christianity, but nevertheless ready to appropriate Kierkegaard’s profound insights.

Kierkegaard has been recognized by historians of philosophy as making the seminal contribution in the development of modern existentialism. Twentieth century artists and philosophers, including such writers as Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre,  drew from Kierkegaard ideas for enriching their radical treatments of modern man and his predicament existing in an absurd universe. [“Absurdism as a belief system was born of the European existentialist movement …The aftermath of World War II provided the social environment that stimulated absurdist views and allowed for their popular development, especially in the devastated country of France.” From Wikipedia]

From Wikipedia we also learn that,

“Søren Aabye Kierkegaard …(5 May 1813 –11 November 1855) was a Danish Christian philosopher, theologian and religious author. He was a critic of idealist intellectuals and philosophers of his time, such as Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling and Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel. He was also critical of the state and practice of Christianity in his lifetime, primarily that of the Church of Denmark. He is widely considered to be the first existentialist.

Much of his philosophical work deals with the issues of how one lives as a “single individual”, giving priority to concrete human reality over abstract thinking, and highlighting the importance of personal choice and commitment.

His theological work focuses on Christian ethics, institution of the Church, and on the difference between purely objective proofs of Christianity. He wrote of the individual’s subjective relationship to Jesus Christ, the God-Man, which comes through faith.

Carl Jung

“The seat of faith…is not consciousness but spontaneous religious experience, which brings the individual’s faith into immediate relation with God.” (The Undiscovered Self)

“To this question there is a positive answer only when the individual is willing to fulfil the demands of rigorous self-examination and self-knowledge. If he follows through his intention, he will not only discover some important truths about himself, but will also have gained a psychological advantage: he will have succeeded in deeming himself worthy of serious attention and sympathetic interest. He will have set his hand, as it were, to a declaration, of his own human dignity and taken the first step towards the foundations of his consciousness — that is, towards the unconscious, the only accessible source of religious experience.” (The Undiscovered Self)

This is certainly not to say that what we call the unconscious is identical with God or is set up in his place. It is the medium from which the religious experience seems to flow. As to what the further cause of such an experience may be, the answer to this lies beyond the range of human knowledge. Knowledge of God is a transcendental problem.” (The Undiscovered Self)

The Rev. Ed Hird, Anglican priest (Vancouver, B.C.) and writer, has argued that “One could say without overstatement that Carl Jung is the Father of Neo-Gnosticism and the New Age Movement” (Hird, “Carl Jung, Neo-Gnosticism, and the Meyers-Briggs Temperament Indicator (MBTI),” March 18, 1998; reprinted in Who’s Driving the Purpose Driven Church by James Sundquist).

From Wikipedia we learn that,

“Carl Gustav Jung …26 July 1875 – 6 June 1961) was a Swiss psychiatrist and the founder of Analytical Psychology. Jung is considered the first modern psychiatrist to view the human psyche as “by nature religious” and make it the focus of exploration.[1] Jung is one of the best known researchers in the field of dream analysis and symbolization. While he was a fully involved and practicing clinician, much of his life’s work was spent exploring tangential areas, including Eastern and Western philosophy, alchemy, astrology, and sociology, as well as literature and the arts.”

A Bonus Lesson Debunking the Monomyth: Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell, CS Lewis, Mircea Eliade, and Tom Wright, is available by clicking here.

Lutheran Satire:

Annoying Things To Do If You’re a False Prophet: Teach High School English

Super True Stories: Mary, Mary, Mary, Mary, Mary, and Mary

Things Your Lutheran Sister Totally Loves: Getting Asked Out by Seminarians

Quote for Your Consideration: “There is an expectancy that the whole world cannot take from me; it is the expectancy of faith, and this is victory. I am not deceived, since I did not believe that the world would keep the promise it seemed to be making to me, my expectancy was not in the world but in God.” (Soren Kierkegaard, from On the Concept of Irony with Continual Reference to Socrates, 1841)

Bible Verses for Reflection: Hebrews 2: 10; Matthew 19: 16-22; Hebrews 11: 6

Questions for Discussion:

1. Kierkegaard believed the “ethical reality” of the individual is the “only reality”. But how does one become an individual? What role do “choice”  and “personal decision” play in this process? How does “faith” become involved? Is Kierkegaard’s existentialism cloaking an approach we might term “Danish decisional regeneration” (recall Finney)?

2. “Christianity is not a doctrine” Kierkegaard asserted. What is it then for Kierkegaard? What role did the objective-subjective dualism play in his rejection of the traditional doctrinal approach to theologizing? The narrator mentions in this context Kierkegaard’s answer to the “how” rather than “what” distinction, and then contrasts Kierkegaard with Marx. What is he getting at?

3. Kierkegaard’s humanism is contrasted with Marx’s. How should we summarize their differing perspectives?

4. For Kierkegaard there was something worse for Christianity than heresy or heterodoxy? What was it? Why was it?

5. What is a mandala? What purpose do they serve? What connection do they have for Jung to the unconscious?

6. In the narrator’s extended quote from Jung’s writings on The Tower, his country home, do you detect any parallels to other theologies, perhaps non-Christian or heterodox Christian doctrines?

7. For Jung how do myths serve man in his spiritual life?

8. A student in your Sunday School class says “Folks, I have heard that Jung is big among the New Agers. I have some neighbors who keep talking about a letter, one they all have read, a letter Jung wrote to a friend in the 1940’s where he talks about the great temple of Karnak (yeah, long before Johnny Carson and his magician routine), and he talks about the Age of Aquarius – long before the song in Hair, the play you know, and the  5th Dimension hit– and Jung actually uses the phrase “New Age” in the letter. But I don’t feel confident in talking to these New Ager hippie types when they challenge me about Lutheran theology. What can I say to them that would make them aware of the shallowness of that stuff.” How will you respond?

To better answer Question #8 above, you may want to spend a couple of minutes listening to  the lyrics of the 5th Dimension’s greatest hit “The Age of Aquarius” from the musical “Hair”. (No need to put on your old tie-dyed wardrobe from the sixties first.)


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