One of the more troubling cultural developments in our day is the movement to obscure the reality of sin. We’re getting to the point where even many self-professed Christians are uncomfortable with the traditional Christian teaching on sin. Malcolm Muggeridge made a good point when he observed that Original Sin is, at the same time, the least popular and yet most conspicuously obvious of Christian dogmas. We see today for example, in the arena of sexual ethics, that as long as the box of consent is checked, there really is no such thing as going too far. Consent is the infallible benchmark that allows one to do whatever he wants with or to his body. The belief that Christianity demands from the believer a willingness to recognize and resist something called “sin” is quickly fading.
Søren Kierkegaard’s, Training in Christianity offers the reader a striking and sorely needed reminder of the demands of Christianity. His observations are all the more timely in this world of designer Christianity, where people are acclimating themselves to the dangerous (and blasphemous) idea that Christianity is basically a paper doll religion, where one is free to accessorize it, dressing it up or down, depending on personal whim or passion. For an example of this, recall that the president used Christ’s command to love one’s neighbor as justification for his support for gay “marriage”. Christianity itself must be made to conform to the contemporary creeds of relativism and historicism. But the truth is that we don’t have line-item veto power when it comes to the expectations Christ places on us. We cannot cross out teachings that make us uncomfortable, or offend our modern understanding of personal freedom.
Addressing the Catholic youth of the world some years back, Pope Benedict XVI wrote:
This supplement to the catechism does not flatter you; it does not offer easy solutions; it calls for a new life on your part; it presents to you the message of the Gospel as the ‘precious pearl’ (Matthew 13:45) for which there is need to give everything . . .
Much like the Holy Father, Kierkegaard reminds the reader that true Christianity, far from being a religion of ease and comfort, places serious expectations and demands on the individual; demands which require sacrifice, renunciation and self-control. Man must change for God, not the other way around.
He [God] will not suffer Himself to be transformed by men and be a nice human God: He will transform men, and that He wills out of love. … Christianity came into the world as the absolute-not for consolation, humanly understood; on the contrary, it speaks again and again of the sufferings which a Christian must endure, or which a man must endure to become and to be a Christian, sufferings he can well avoid merely by refraining from being a Christian.
This is a far cry from the popular spin on Christianity today. Modernist Christianity, which really isn’t authentic Christianity at all, never talks about self-renunciation (what Kierkegaard calls “abandon” and “divine compassion”), and the daily trials and struggles against self will that lead us to perfection. To deny sufferings and not the self however, is to deny the cross, which is in essence, to deny Christianity.