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God is Never a Third Party

I have had a bookmark on a particular page in Kierkegaard for a couple weeks because I didn’t want to lose that page until I had made a note on it. Today I am making that note, then reading on. I’m not sure I’ve got everything out of it yet, probably not, but at least I am writing this post about it and so there will be a record of the quote and my thoughts and response to it.

The page in question is in Søren Kierkegaard’s Concluding Unscientific Postscript as translated by Donald F. Swenson and Walter Lowrie, very bottom line of page 61 and top of 62. Here’s what I read there:

As for God, he is never a third party when he is present in the religious consciousness; this is precisely the secret of the religious consciousness.

First of all, I’m going to encourage you not to be put off by the phrase “religious consciousness”. Religious consciousness is not a special kind of consciousness or even a special interest; it is normal human consciousness. Everyone’s consciousness is religious because everyone wants to love and be loved and God is the source of love.

My interest is piqued and excited by this passage because it reminds me of God’s closeness. “He is closer to me than I am to myself.” (An essay here) He is not third party in my consciousness, which is my relationship with myself. And He is not third party in community, which is my relationship with other people.

Years ago there was a popular tune, “From a Distance,” by Bette Midler. It’s a beautiful anthem and I could enjoy the truth it points up … until the point in the song where it said, “God is watching us from a distance.” That made no sense to me whatsever. A god who watches from a distance is a third-party god, an arms-length god, a distant god.

God is with us. Jesus Christ, His Son, showed us He is close, not far. Ramifications? There are lots of them, and one of them is that we need never be alone because we are never alone. But how to be sure? and how to live it out? The same way we have always known. We relate to God by faith. And we relate to others and ourselves by faith.

God is with us—why do we act as if He were not? Because we would rather not believe it. Why?


  1. Joyce wrote:

    Hi, this is a girl from Beijing,China.
    I was occasionly to be here.
    It must be God who led me here.
    I know God,Iknow God loves me.
    Thanks for your passage, I love them so much, and now I am feeling that I am much closer to God.
    Thanks for God!
    Hoping to be friend with you and your family.
    God bless you!

    Friday, February 17, 2006 at 1:57 pm | Permalink
  2. Joel wrote:

    I also enjoy “From a Distance” up to the same point. I used to feel the same way about the “from a distance” idea. As you know, I now doubt the “God is watching us” idea. But I can guess the lyricist was commenting on an apparent lack of intervention by any deity in our world.

    Maybe this offers another answer to your question of why we act as if God were not with us: we don’t see him.

    Wednesday, February 22, 2006 at 7:05 pm | Permalink