Overview (Masterplots II: Christian Literature)
The seventh son of a wealthy wool merchant, Søren Kierkegaard resided all his life in the large family dwelling in central Copenhagen, where he was prominent as a literary figure. An unhappy love affair, quarrels with other writers, and, in his last years, disputes with the Church—all documented in lengthy journals—make up the story of his life. Graduated in theology, he put off taking orders (Lutheran); still, an overriding sense of what the Gospel can mean to those who embrace it with faith and love led him to sandwich between his various poetical and philosophical writings a number of “Edifying Discourses,” of which the present book is a memorable example.
Purity of Heart Is to Will One Thing is a penitential sermon intended to accompany the office of Confession. To be sure, it is an amplified sermon, not meant to be preached but to be read; still, it is a sermon, with a text, appropriate divisions, long, somnolent stretches, and a conclusion exhorting the reader to change his or her ways. The sermon, which enjoins holiness, deserves a place in the literature of Christian perfection. “Purity of heart,” Søren Kierkegaard’s name for holiness, is conceived as right willing, that is, willing the Good, or what God wills—“the one thing needful.” The text comes from James 4:8: “Draw nigh to God and He will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts ye double-minded.” “Double-minded” (Greek...
(The entire section is 2483 words.)
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