Training (Practice) in Christianity 1850



Militant not Triumphant, Thomas Fuller 1608-1661

Thomas Fuller 1841.jpgTriumphant perfection is not to be hoped for in the militant church; there will be in it many spots and wrinkles as long as it consisteth of sinful mortal men, the members thereof: it is Christ’s work, not man’s work, to make a perfect reformation. Such, therefore, are no good politicians who will make a sore to mend a spot, cause a wound to plain a wrinkle, do a great and certain mischief, when a small and uncertain benefit will thereby redound.
Good Thoughts: p. ii. 31 , Wise Words and Quaint Counsels of Thomas Fuller, p. 167

The Church triumphant in this world is an illusion, that in this world we can truthfully speak only of a militant Church. But the Church militant is related, feels itself drawn, to Christ in lowliness; the Church triumphant has taken the Church of Christ in vain. To make this clear is the task of this exposition, but it must be remembered that by a Church triumphant is always understood a Church that wants to be the Church triumphant here in this world, for a Church triumphant in eternity is entirely in order, corresponding to Christ’s being raised on high. How did the illusion of a Church triumphant ever arise, and what is to be understood by a Church triumphant?

As has already been pointed out, what has mainly contributed to the fallacy of the Church triumphant is that the truth of Christianity has been interpreted as the truth in which there is a difference between result and way, or the truth of Christianity has been interpreted as a result, something that in Danish would perhaps be called a remainder, as yield, for in regard to the truth as the way the emphasis is precisely on the fact that from the predecessor there is not remainder, no yield, no result for the successor.

In other words, if Christianity were the truth in that sense, then triumph would be altogether appropriate. Thus the human race is justified in celebrating triumphantly in connection with the invention of gunpowder and printing etc., in connection with the many achievements that have been made in the areas of science, art, etc., for here the truth is a result, here the emphasis is not on the way and on each individual who, responsible before God, must make his own decision whether he wants to walk along the way or not, indifferently, utterly indifferent, to whether no one or everyone is walking along the same way, indifferent, utterly indifferent, to whether no one or countless millions have walked along the same road.

No, here the emphasis is placed upon the truth, the yield, and on the race, human society, copartnership, “joint effort,” which takes over the truth as a matter of course, and it is accidental that a single individual has discovered it, invented it, thought it out, etc.

Thus if Christ had been, for example, a teacher of the truth, a thinker, who has made a discovery or thought out something that perhaps had cost him indescribable intellectual effort but also (because the way had only an accidental relation to the truth) could become a result, then it would have been altogether appropriate for the next generation to take a triumphal position toward it as a matter of course. The successors, who were exempted from these enormous intellectual efforts, these many, many years of exhausting work, could at most feel obliged to remember with gratitude him who had preserved it, but other wise there was nothing else to do but celebrate triumphantly.

This is why Christ’s teaching is infinitely superior to all the inventions of any and every age, an eternity older and an eternity higher than all systems, even the very newest, also even the one that in ten thousand years’ time is the very newest, for his teaching is the truth is the way, and as the God-man he himself is and remains the way, something that no human being, however zealously he professes that the truth is the way, would dare say of himself without blasphemy.

Soren Kierkegaard, Practice in Christianity, 1850 Hong p. 209-211


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