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Mark Tietjen: Kierkegaard: A Christian Missionary to Christians

Mark A. Tietjen, Kierkegaard: A Christian Missionary to Christians (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2016), 169 pages, ISBN 9780830840977.

An article in the August/September 2016 issue of Philosophy Now asks, “Is Kierkegaard Still Relevant Today?”[1] Author Mark A. Tietjen, who teaches at the Stony Brook School in New York and is the author of Kierkegaard, Communication, and Virtue: Authorship as Edification, makes a solid argument that Kierkegaard is indeed relevant today.

In this present volume Tietjen begins chapter one as follows, “My goal is to convince Christians as I have been convinced that Soren Kierkegaard is a voice that should be sought and heard for the edification of the church” (p. 25). Kierkegaard’s aim was to reintroduce Christianity into Christendom, hence the title of the book, A Christian Missionary to Christians.

Tietjen writes most convincingly as to whether a Christian should be suspicious of philosophy in general and Kierkegaard in particular. He puts to rest any fears one may have about philosophy by first citing its usefulness from noted Christians such as Clement and Augustine. Tietjen writes, “… Clement and Augustine might have viewed philosophy not as a threat but as a worthwhile pursuit.” (p. 34)

He alleviates any fears or suspicions about Kierkegaard that one may have by revealing his faith in God and theology. Tietjen records the following:

If one trolls around Kierkegaard’s work long enough, particularly his own voluminous collection of journals, worries about Kierkegaard’s own Christian faith dissipate rather quickly … there is no reason to think his personal Christian beliefs were outside the parameters of classic Reformed, Lutheran orthodoxy … in the very least one can rest assured that Kierkegaard’s intentions are themselves consistent with Christian faith (p. 36).

Mark A. Tietjen

Without these explanations one might discontinue reading Tietjen’s work and miss out on a clear and scholarly critique of Kierkegaard’s writings.

Tietjen tackles most adeptly and in great detail the writings of Kierkegaard on the subjects in chapters entitled “Jesus Christ”, “The Human Self”, “Christian Witness”, and “The Life of Christian Love.”

In the chapter entitled Jesus Christ, Tietjen writes, “Jesus did not come to be admired but to get followers, to be imitated… a Christian strives to be like Jesus, while an admirer does not.” (p. 73)

And he reminds us of the many people that Kierkegaard alluded to that Jesus reaches out to and gives the invitation to come to him—the lonely, poor, physically ill and disabled, those who experience emotional suffering, the abused, the suicidal and despairing, those in relational pain, and of course, the sinner (pp. 79-80).

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Category: Church History, Summer 2018

About the Author: Larry Russi, M.A. in Urban Ministry (Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary), is the Senior Pastor at Glendale Christian Lighthouse Church in Everett, Massachusetts. In ministry for over 40 years, he is the coordinator for the New England region of the American Evangelical Christian Churches (AECC) and also a member of the denomination's advisory board. Facebook

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