Contemporary with Christ
Kierkegaard and Second-Personal Spirituality
280 pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in
- Published: July 2020
The Christian life, concerned with both spirituality and doctrine, aims not at rationally defensible truth but at life-transforming love. Greater understanding of the truth will not settle the restlessness in a human spirit; only the redemptive power of relationship with God can calm the soul. The crux of Kierkegaard’s presentation of Christianity is not that doctrine is unimportant, but that it is ultimately insufficient for a life lived in relationship with God.
In Contemporary with Christ, Joshua Cockayne explores the Christian spiritual life with Søren Kierkegaard (in the guise of his various pseudonyms) as his guide and analytic theology as his key tool of engagement. Cockayne contends that the Christian life is second-personal: it seeks encounter with a personal God. As Kierkegaard describes, God invites us to "live on the most intimate terms with God." Cockayne argues that this vision of Christian spirituality is deeply practical because it advocates for a certain way of acting and existing. This approach to the Christian life moves from first-reflection, whereby one acquires objective knowledge, to second-reflection, whereby one attains deeper self-understanding, which fortifies one’s relationship with God.
Individuals encounter Christ through traditional practices: prayer, the Eucharist, and the reading of Scripture. However, experiences of suffering and mortality that mirror Christ’s own passion also enliven this life of encounter. Spiritual progress comes through a reorientation of one’s will, desire, and self-knowledge. Such progress must ultimately serve the goal of drawing close to God through Christ’s presence. Engaging philosophy, theology, and psychology, Cockayne invites us to join in a conversation with Kierkegaard and explore how the spiritual disciplines provide opportunities for relationship with God by becoming contemporary with Christ.
Part 1. A Second-Personal Framework for the Spiritual Life
1 Knowing God
2 Understanding God
3 Becoming Contemporary with Christ
4 Willing Closeness with God
5 Becoming an Imitator of Christ
Part 2. Spiritual Growth and the Practice of the Spiritual Life
6 Prayer and Self-Knowledge
7 Engaging with Scripture and the Mirror of the Word
8 Communion and the Remission of Sin
9 Spiritual Growth in Suffering
10 Spiritual Growth in Confronting Death
In this scholarly and spirited study, Joshua Cockayne has given us a new reading of Kierkegaard, showing how central themes in his thought can be newly understood following recent developments in philosophy and psychology. Through an array of persuasive examples and carefully honed distinctions, he has also given us a new reading of the Christian life, including prayer, study of the Bible, and the Eucharist—showing how each constitutes a form of relationship to Christ. This is a book that will speak powerfully to theoreticians and also practitioners of the spiritual life.~Mark Wynn, Nolloth Professor of the Philosophy of the Christian Religion, University of Oxford
Very few books are philosophically sophisticated, theologically rich, and meticulous in their reading of a tradition. By succeeding on all these fronts, Contemporary with Christ is not only an exemplary piece of analytic theology but also a groundbreaking work in Kierkegaard studies. It will be hard for any theologian to come away from this book without a profound appreciation for its Kierkegaardian vision of spirituality—one that, to paraphrase Kierkegaard, is grounded in the kinship that God establishes with us in time. By bringing new light to this vision, Joshua Cockayne has done an enormous service to the theological world.~Andrew Torrance, Senior Lecturer in Theology, University of St Andrews
Contemporary with Christ is a remarkable book on many levels. Here Cockayne provides a clear and convincing account of Kierkegaard’s work while giving a profound and provocative account of the spiritual life. He shows that Kierkegaard’s voice is one that needs to be heard by contemporary analytic theologians. This book brings Kierkegaard into fruitful conversation with a host of thinkers; even more important, it will bring Kierkegaard’s thought into the heart of the reader’s life.~C. Stephen Evans, University Professor of Philosophy and Humanities, Baylor University
Joshua Cockayne undertakes in this volume the thoroughly Kierkegaardian project of seeking to understand what it means for Christianity to be lived. Christian existence, Cockayne explains, is a life lived in relationship with the God who comes to us in Jesus Christ. As Kierkegaard himself makes clear, such a life is nourished through prayer, participation in the Eucharist, the reading of Scripture, and through the daily effort to follow Christ through the trials and tribulations of life. Cockayne is a sure and perceptive guide to this great theme that lies at the heart of Kierkegaard’s authorship.~Murray Rae, Professor of Theology, University of Otago