No Massing of Men with God–A Thought on MacDonald and Kierkegaard

Here’s an important reminder from George MacDonald:

There is no massing of men with God.  When he speaks of gathered men, it is as a spiritual body, not a mass.

I have Orthodox friends who attack Kierkegaard’s individualism.  Perhaps there is something to attack there, perhaps not, but all too often their attack is that Kierkegaard’s overemphasis on the individual obscures our ties to one another and makes nonsense of Christian ecclesiology.  But I say, briefly, bearing MacDonald in mind, that Kierkegaard is not making nonsense of ecclesiology, but rather preparing the way for it, by making sure that we understand that there is no massing of men with God–and that the church is not a mass, but a spiritual body:  a qualitatively different thing.

The deep similarities between MacDonald and Kierkegaard deserve study.

3 responses

  1. thanks for introducing me to GM, I read SK as writing against the association/identification of being a Christian with being a citizen and the kind of practical atheism that John Wesley encountered in the Church of his day and that Stanley Hauerwas works against in the US today.

    • I agree. When I teach this part of K, I always ask the students to read The Pericope Adulterae (in John 8?) and ask them to consider Christ’s directive: “Let him who is without sin first cast a stone.” The directive unmasses those who have brought the woman to Christ–it individualizes. It brings home to each his own relationship to God, and makes it impossible to focus only on the woman’s relationship to God. That is what I take K to be doing as well, it is why his work is written to That Individual, etc.

      • yes and perhaps an aspect of anti-clericalism in the sense that someone else can’t do the (impossible?) work of being a Christian for you, and I think like Emerson’s divinity school address wants to avoid replacing a living Spirit with the tyranny of the means of a Church Inc.

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