Climacus on the Uniqueness of Christianity as a Transcendent Religion
Johannes Climacus, whose view often overlaps with Kierkegaard’s own view yet is never to be simply identified with the latter, emphasizes Christianity as a transcendent religion. By this he doesn’t mean to suggest that there is no continuity whatsoever between nature and grace or that grace destroys nature. Rather, his point is to stress the uniqueness of Christianity in comparison with what he calls “immanent” religions, religions that do not require any kind of divine revelation but which arise from the human mind itself and are, as you might guess, obtainable by unaided human reason or via religious experience. Because Climacus believes that human beings in their current state “lack the truth” due to sin and that this condition causes them to be prideful and to proclaim their own self-sufficiency, Climacus points to humanity’s need for “the God” to become man, for the eternal to enter into time and reconfigure all of history. Given these beliefs, Climacus draws attention to the Incarnate Christ as the object of the Christian’s faith; thus, according to his account, the historicity of the incarnation is a non-negotiable. Commenting on Climacus’ view, C. Stephen Evans observes,
If Jesus’ life is merely a collection of stories or myths, or if Jesus is merely a creation of the early church (so that it is considered unimportant whether or not what the early Christians believed is literally true), then Christianity is essentially transformed into its opposite, and no “advance” on Socrates has been made at all. For in such a case Jesus’ life would merely represent a possibility that man must be assumed to be able to know. What distinguishes Christianity, according to Climacus, is that man is assumed to really lack the truth, and therefore must acquire it in existence in a genuinely historical relation to the God as he actually appeared (Kierkegaard’s Fragments and Postscript, p. 249).