Monday, May 5, 2008

Followers, Not Admirers

I'm becoming more and more a fan of the late scholar Soren Kierkegaard, who seemed to act in a prophetic role to the Church in his own generation. His words still have application to us today, particularly, to those of in America who claim to follow Christ. Are we really following? Or perhaps we just admire Him as we sit comfortably in our affluence. I don't type these words as judgment on anyone other than myself. But, I'll invite you to listen closely to Kierkegaard through the following thoughts, and, more importantly, listen to the Holy Spirit speaking through Him to you. What will it be for you: follow or admire?

(Soren Kierkegaard, Excerpted from Provocations, available FREE in e-book format)

"It is well known that Christ consistently used the expression 'follower.' He never asks for admirers, worshippers, or adherents. No, he calls disciples. It is not adherents of a teaching but followers of a life Christ is looking for.

Christ understood that being a 'disciple' was in innermost and deepest harmony with what he said about himself. Christ claimed to be the way and the truth and the life (Jn. 14:6). For this reason, he could never be satisfied with adherents who accepted his teaching - especially with those who in their lives ignored it or let things take their usual course. His whole life on earth, from beginning to end, was destined solely to have followers and to make admirers impossible.

Christ came into the world with the purpose of saving, not instructing it. At the same time - as is implied in his saving work - he came to be the pattern, to leave footprints for the person who would join him, who would become a follower. This is why Christ was born and lived and died in lowliness. It is absolutely impossible for anyone to sneak away from the Pattern with excuse and evasion on the basis that It, after all, possessed earthly and worldly advantages that he did not have. In that sense, to admire Christ is the false invention of a later age, aided by the presumption of 'loftiness.' No, there is absolutely nothing to admire in Jesus, unless you want to admire poverty, misery, and contempt.

What then, is the difference between an admirer and a follower? A follower is or strives to be what he admires. An admirer, however, keeps himself personally detached. He fails to see that what is admired involves a claim upon him, and thus he fails to be or strive to be what he admires.

To want to admire instead of to follow Christ is not necessarily an invention by bad people. No, it is more an invention by those who spinelessly keep themselves detached, who keep themselves at a safe distance. Admirers are related to the admired only through the excitement of the imagination. To them he is like an actor on the stage except that, this being real life, the effect he produces is somewhat stronger. But for their part, admirers make the same demands that are made in the theater: to sit safe and calm. Admirers are only all too willing to serve Christ as long as proper caution is exercised, lest one personally come in contact with danger. As such, they refuse to accept that Christ's life is a demand. In actual fact, they are offended at him. His radical, bizarre character so offends them that when they honestly see Christ for who he is, they are no longer able to experience the tranquillity they so much seek after. They know full well that to associate with him too closely amounts to being up for examination. Even though he 'says nothing' against them personally, they know that his life tacitly judges theirs.

And Christ's life indeed makes it manifest, terrifyingly manifest, what dreadful untruth it is to admire the truth instead of following it. When there is no danger, when there is a dead calm, when everything is favorable to our Christianity, it is all too easy to confuse an admirer with a follower. And this can happen very quietly. The admirer can be in the delusion that the position he takes is the true one, when all he is doing is playing it safe. Give heed, therefore, to the call of discipleship!

If you have any knowledge at all of human nature, who can doubt that Judas was an admirer of Christ!"


heather b said...


I too have been an admirer of Mr. Kierkegaard since the early 90's. He had interesting things to say for his time regarding women clergy in the church....good stuff...

Mark Bradshaw said...

Thanks for the pointer to the ebook. I'll check it out. I think I've mostly been an admirer, and not a follower, sadly, but I guess a good first step is recognition of that fact. Now, to change....

Byron Haflich said...


I have beenpondering your comments since I read them last week. The sermon this week is the on the Great Go. Matt 28 16-20 and I am giving the prayer of thanks, bread and cup. Your comments on the difference of being a follower and admirer will be the central theme of that prayer.