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An Old Coot Teaches Kierkegaard to Youngsters

I am almost **.5 years old, and my students are in their teens.  Some of their parents are younger than my sons.  In my post “On Aging” ( I mentioned discussing the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard with them. That experience resulted in a conjunction of theological truth with the spiritual life, being a lifelong learner, and the high and dread calling of the teacher.

Kierkegaard contends that when Christ speaks it is with the single eye of divine authority that “constrains the person addressed to see who is talking with him and then fastens its piercing look on him and says with this glance, ‘It is you to whom this is said’.”[1] The frankly terrifying belief that God speaks so directly and authoritatively to each of us is based upon who God is and thus who we are.  Because God is the creator, our first existence is “in God.”[2]   This existence, our primary existence, means that every human being “belongs to God in every thought, the most hidden, in every feeling, the most private, in every motion, the most inward.”[3] As the Psalmist asks, “Where shall I flee from your presence?”[4] In this way Kierkegaard relates God’s authoritative address to us as individuals to his ownership of us as our creator.  Therefore, Christ, as God, speaks to us with divine authority.

I am in agreement with Kierkegaard’s insight about God’s authoritative address to us as individuals as our creator. However, after meditating on what he wrote and discussing it with my students, the relevance of another teaching about God came to my mind. Traditionally, Christian theology has taught that God is omnipresent, meaning that he is fully present everywhere.  The doctrine of God’s omnipresence has been criticized as mere abstract philosophical speculation.  But clearly it is not.  Because he is omnipresent, God can simultaneously speak to everyone and to each of us individually.  When I am in a congregation listening to a sermon based upon the Scriptures, the divinely inspired word, God is speaking both to me and to everyone there individually. In all our manifold sins and needs each of us is being addressed directly and personally by God.

Now, I’ve taught a long while, have a Ph.D. in theology, and yet this connection between God’s omnipresence and the spiritual life had never been made so clearly to me.  Teaching others can and should cause us to continue thinking and growing spiritually. I am grateful that I have that opportunity.

That opportunity comes because I teach at Cair Paravel Latin School, a classical Christian school, which, by the way, is not responsible in any way for my personal ramblings.  The school’s mission statement is “to cultivate classically trained, lifelong learners, committed to the lordship of Jesus Christ, who will enrich their community and God’s kingdom” (  What we teachers must remember, and as I was so vividly reminded in teaching Kierkegaard again, is that to cultivate students who are lifelong learners, we too must be lifelong learners.  The students and I are together in the presence of God, the great teacher who speaks to all of us and each of us at the same time.

Being in the presence of God as a lifelong learner with my students brings to the fore a crucial reality of the teaching profession.  I am not just teaching a subject to future workers and consumers.  I am teaching immortal souls, made in the image of God, and I am one of them.  In the company of great writers, together we are being shaped by the master hands of our creator.  It is our calling, our challenge, and a blessing with eternal rewards.
























[1] Works of Love, trans Howard Hong (New York: Harper & Row, 1962), p. 104.

[2] Ibid., p. 121.

[3] Ibid., p. 119.

[4] Psalm 139:7 (ESV).

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