Kierkegaard begins this chapter with an obvious tension: shall the person and work of Christ be separated from his teaching? Is it possible to revere Christ’s teaching but not the God-man?
But in our day everything is made abstract and everything personal is abolished: we take Christ’s teaching – and abolish Christ. This is to abolish Christianity, for Christ is a person and is a teacher who is more important than the teaching. Just as Christ’s life, the fact that he has lived, is vastly more important that all the results of his life, so also is Christ infinitely more important than his teaching. – p. 123-124
It is important to remember the context of Kierkegaard’s philosophy: he is opposed to Hegelian philosophy which he believed left no room for the individual (existential) in philosophy, and he also opposed the Danish Lutheran Church for its formalism and deadness of Christianity in Denmark. Thus, Kierkegaard’s central preoccupation is the question of how one becomes a Christian.
Keeping this in mind, Kierkegaard speaks of Christ’s personhood as being both recognizable and unrecognizable. How is it that some recognized Christ when they saw him and some did not? Clearly, according to Kierkegaard, there is an existential imparting (by the Holy Spirit) to the individual to recognize Christ.
The majority of people living in Christendom today no doubt live in the illusion that if they had been contemporary with Christ they would have recognized him immediately despite his unrecognizability. They utterly fail to see how they betray that they do not know themselves; it totally escapes them that this conviction they have, whereby they presumably think to glorify Christ, is blasphemy, contained in the nonsensical – undialectical climax of clerical roaning: to such a degree was Christ God that one could immediately and directly perceive it, instead of: he was true God, and therefore to such a degree God that we was unrecognizable – thus it was not flesh and blood but the opposite of flesh and blood that inspired Peter to recognize him. – p.128
What I find continually fascinating about Kierkegaard is his orthodoxy given the competing philosophical perspectives of his day. He affirms the traditional doctrines of the church and has a high view of Scripture’s authority, but I have yet to see his complete rest in both the person and the work of Christ (such as the atonement, resurrection, and ascension). In my view, this affirmation of both Christ’s person and work is necessary to give Kierkegaard the peace he is vehemently pursuing.