The Possibility of Offense

In The Sickness Unto Death, Anti-Climacus discusses the possibility of offense at the proposition of the individual before God. The possibility or the existence of this offense in the individual is precisely what Anti-Climacus would identify as sin. He goes on to make an example of the clergy in his contemporary Christianity, questioning the presence of true faith in their "calling." In his questioning, Anti-Climacus presents a complex point concerning the defense of Christianity, especially as expressed among the clergy. His arguments, revolving around these two essential points, lead the reader to question the assumptions of faith; assumptions that take the form of something as seemingly simple as the defense of Christianity, or the more involved question concerning the origin and knowledge of sin. "It lies in this, that a human being should have this reality [Realitet]: that as an individual human being a person is directly before God and consequently, as a corollary, that a person's sin should be of concern to God" (p. 83). According to Anti-Climacus, there are many who do not believe that sins are against God. Few, even pagans, as Anti-Climacus points out, would deny the existence of sin, but they take offense at the idea that sin necessitates a defiance of God. Anti-Climacus argues that this, in itself is sin, and that there exits no sin that is not before God. He uses the analogy of the emperor and the day laborer to describe the prevailing feeling concerning the nature of sin. Anti-Climacus argues that the day laborer, when confronted with the request to become the emperor's son-in-law, would take offense and perceive it to be some ruse by the emperor to embarrass him: The person lacking this courage would be offended; to him the extraordinary would sound like a gibe at him. He would then perhaps honestly and forthrightly confess: Such a thing is too high for me, I cannot grasp it; to be perfectly blunt, it is a piece of folly. (p. 85) According to Anti-Climacus, sin can only be known as revealed through the divine. Thus, all sin is against God, and offense at this, the belief that this raises the human being to too lofty a position, is sin in itself. From this point, Anti-Climacus forms an eloquent argument concerning the clergy. Too often, pastor is nothing more than a name for a career. Anti-Climacus argues that the true clergy should be only those who have faith. The strongest evidence for their lack of faith comes in the form of a defense of Christianity. Anti-Climacus maintains that the pastor should be a lover of Christianity, instead of as he finds him more often than not, a mere shadow of his true calling. "What a priceless anticlimax—that something that passes all understanding—is proved by three reasons, which, if they do anything at all, presumably do not pass all understanding, for 'reasons,' after all, lie in the realm of the understanding" (p. 103). Since many clergy do not act in faith, they sin, and continue to sin so long as they are without faith. In reading Anti-Climacus' ideas concerning sin, it becomes apparent that sin is not merely an act of evil or error against a fellow man, or even that there exists a distinction between sins against God and sins against others, but that all sins are against God. Since, according to Anti-Climacus, and Climacus before him, man does not know truth because he exists in untruth, the only possible way for man to come to know his error, and therefore, to come to know sin is through divine revelation. Without God, there can be no sin, and therefore all sin must be against God. Those who know this are closer to faith, and the clergy, who supposedly have faith should be lovers, and not defenders of religion.