For with regard to the absolute there is but one time, viz. the present. He who is not contemporaneous with the absolute, for him it does not exist at all. And since Christ is the absolute, it is evident that in respect of him there is but one situation: contemporaneousness. The three, or seven, or fifteen, or seventeen, or eighteen hundred years which have elapsed since his death do not make the least difference, one way or the other. They neither change hin, nor reveal, either, who he was; for his real nature is revealed only to faith.
Christ, let me say so with the utmost seriousness, is not an actor; neither is he a merely historical personage since, being the paradox, he is an extremely unhistorical personage. But precisely this is the difference between poetry and reality: contemporaneousness. The difference between poetry and history is no doubt this, that history is what has really happened, and poetry, what is possible, the action which is supposed to have taken place, the life which has taken form in the poet’s imagination. But that which really happened (the past) is not necessarily reality, except in a certain sense, viz., in contrast with poetry. There is still lacking in it the criterion of truth (as inwardness) and of all religion, there is still lacking the criterion: the truth FOR YOU. That which is past is not a reality.for me, but only my time is. That which you are contemporaneous with, that is reality.for you. Thus every person has the choice to be contemporaneous with the age in which he is living.and also with one other period, with that of Christ’s life here on earth; for Christ’s life on earth, or Sacred History, stands by itself, outside of history.
History you may read and hear about as a matter of the past. Within its realm you can, if you so care, judge actions by their results. But in Christ’s life here on earth there is nothing past. It did not wait for the assistance of any subsequent results in its own time, 1800 years ago; neither does it now. Historic Christianity is sheer moonshine and un-Christian muddle-headedness. For those true Christians who in every generation live a life contemporaneous with that of Christ have nothing whatsoever to do with Christians of the preceding generation, but all the more with their contemporary, Christ. His life here on earth attends every generation, and every generation severally, as Sacred History; his life on earth is eternal contemporaneousness. For this reason all learned lecturing about Christianity, which has its haunt and hiding-place in the assumption that Christianity is something which belongs to the past and to the 1800 years of history, this lecturing is the most unChristian of heresies, as every one would readily recognize if he but tried to imagine the generation contemporeanous with Christ as.lecturing! No, we must ever keep in mind that every generation (of the faithful) is contemporaneous with him.
If you cannot master yourself so as to make yourself contemporaneous with him and thus become a Christian; or if he cannot, as your contemporary, draw you to himself, then you will never be a Christian. You may, if you please honor, praise, thank, and with all worldly goods reward him who deludes you into thinking that you are a Christian; nevertheless.he deceives you. You may count yourself happy that you were not contemporaneous with one who dared to assert this; or you may be exasperated to madness by the torment, like that of the gadfly, of being contemporaneous with one who says this to your face: in the first case you are deceived, whereas in the second you have least had a chance to hear the truth.
If you cannot bear this contemporaneousness, and not bear to see this sight in reality.if you cannot prevail upon yourself to go out into the street and behold! it is God in that loathsome procession; and if you cannot bear to think that this will be your condition also if you kneel and worship him: then you are not essentially a Christian. In that case, what you will have to do is to admit the fact unconditionally to yourself, so that you may, above all, preserve humility, and fear and trembling, when contemplating what it means really to be a Christian. For that way you must proceed, in order to learn and to practice how to flee to grace, so that you will not seek it in vain; but do not, for God’s sake, go to any one to be “consoled.” For to be sure it is written: “blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see,” which word the priests have on the tips of their tongues.curiously enough; at times, perhaps, even to defend a worldly finery which, if conterrporary with Christ, would be rather incongruous.as if these words had not been said solely about those contemporaries of his who believed. If his exaltation had been evident to the eyes so that every one without any trouble could have beheld it, why then it would be incorrect to say that Christ abased himself and assumed the guise of a servant, and it would be superflous to warn against being offended in him; for why in the world should one take offense in an exalted one arrayed in glory? And how in the world will you explain it that Christ fared so ill and that everybody failed to rush up admiringly to behold what was so plain? Ah no, “he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53, 2*) [*Kierkegaard’s own note.] ; and there was to all appearances nothing remarkable about him who in lowly guise, and by performing signs and wonders, constantly presented the possibility of offense, who claimed to be God.in lowly guise; which therefore expresses: in the first place, what God means by compassion, and by one’s self needing to be humble and poor if one wishes to be compassionate; and in the second place, what God means by the misery of mankind. Which, again, in both instances is extremely different from what men mean by these things and which every generation, to the end of time, has to learn over again from the beginning, and beginning in every respect at the same point where those who were contemporary with Christ had to start; that is, to practice these things as contemporaries of Christ. Human impatience and unruliness is, of course, of no avail whatsoever. No man will be able to tell you in how far you may succeed in becoming essentially a Christian. But neither will anxiety and fear and despair help one. Sincerity toward God is the first and the last condition, sincerity in confessing to one’s self just where one stands, sincerity before God in ever aiming at one’s task. However slowly one may proceed, and if it be but crawling.one is, at any rate, in the right position and is not misled and deceived by the trick of changing the nature of Christ who, instead of being God, is thereby made to represent that sentimental compassion which is man’s own invention; by which men, instead of being lifted up to heaven by Christianity, are delayed on their way and remain human and no more.