The Danger

Existentialists consider a conscious decision about the meaning of life as essential to a creditable existence.  Sören Kierkegaard framed that decision as the choice for or against Christ.

He reasons that the message of Christ is so opposite to the attitudes most of the world lives by, it allows no legitimate alternative but for us to accept and attempt to apply the message with all we have, or reject and go our own way.

In a journal Kierkegaard wrote: “Imagine a kind of medicine that possesses in full dosage a laxative effect but in a half dose a constipating effect. Suppose someone is suffering from constipation. But – for some reason or other, perhaps because there is not enough for a full dose or because it is feared that such a large amount might be too much – in order to do something, he is given, with the best of intentions, a half dose: ‘After all, it is at least something.’ What a tragedy!

“So it is with today’s Christianity. As with everything qualified by an either/or – the half has the very opposite effect from the whole. But we Christians go right on practicing this well-intentioned half-hearted act from generation to generation. We produce Christians by the millions, are proud of it – yet have no inkling that we are doing just exactly the opposite of what we intend to do.

“It takes a physician to understand that a half dose can have the opposite effect to that of a full dose. Common sense, cool- minded mediocrity never catches on. It undeviatingly continues to say of the half-dosage: ‘After all, it is something; even if it doesn’t work very well, it is still something.’ But that it should have an opposite effect – no, mediocrity does not grasp that.

“The greatest danger to Christianity is, I contend, not heresies, heterodoxies, not atheists, not profane secularism – no, but the kind of orthodoxy which is cordial drivel, mediocrity served up sweet.” (1)

If a middle ground, a partial acceptance and application of Christ’s message, is so perverse, people of integrity must choose, when they come face to face with Christ, to either pick up the cross and follow or, whether with a laugh, shrug, or shudder, pass on by.

Christ’s message is so radical, it lies outside any possibility of compromise. The whole of his message invites us to reject and betray our very natures. We are deeply selfish creatures.  Jesus would have us turn our selfishness inside out, and concern ourselves exclusively with the good of whomever we encounter.  He commands us to love without distinction.

He draws a line.  On the one side is self-concern.  On the other side is love.  To straddle the line is like paddling into a wave with the right foot on one surfboard, the left foot on another.

(1) For those who care to read on, at the risk of copyright infringement, I have posted an entire chapter reprinted in Provocations, on my website, at: