Christianity is the very opposite of speculation … it is the miraculous, the absurd, calling on the individual to exist in it and not waste time on speculatively understanding it. If there is to be speculation under this presupposition, its task will sooner be that of grasping ever more profoundly the impossibility of understanding Christianity speculatively, something described above as the task for the simple-minded wise man.
(2009-05-28). Kierkegaard: Concluding Unscientific Postscript (Cambridge Texts in the History of Philosophy) (pp. 317-318). Cambridge University Press. Kindle Edition.
What does this mean? What is the difference between the simple-minded person and the simple-minded wise person? Why is it important to grasp the impossibility ever more profoundly? If it’s impossible it’s impossible — what good is it to grasp it ever more profoundly? What would that even mean?
Imagine that Ambrose has hurt Bernard — betrayed him, actually — and the once close and loving friendship between Ambrose and Bernard has been ruptured. Ambrose asks Bernard to forgive him.
If Bernard is a simple-minded man and has love in his heart he will say “I forgive you, Ambrose!” And that’s good.
If Bernard is a sophisticated thinker, but not simple-minded, he will ask for arguments that Ambrose will never hurt him again. There are no such arguments, because who can know that a person will never hurt him again? So the miraculous, absurd possibility that calls upon Bernard to love his friend again will be unheard. Bernard will avoid the chance of ever getting his friend back if he wastes his time looking for proofs that he will never be hurt again.
The simple-minded wise Bernard will understand that there can be no proof that he will not be hurt again and forgive Ambrose anyway. He will open himself up to pain recognizing that it is real pain, and thereby heed the call to the miraculous rebirth of their friendship.
Why does Bernard the simple-minded wise man need to grasp the impossibility of proof more and more profoundly? Presumably because the more they talk the more Bernard will be tempted to think “I get this forgiving so well I’m really an expert at it. I understand why Ambrose deserves to be forgiven. I already can feel the old trustworthy Ambrose is back again.” And all these things Bernard is tempted to think, all these stories he tells himself, are wrong. If Bernard forgives Ambrose he can still be hurt again, but if he allows the miracle to call on him and opens his heart, he can forgive him even though that is the case.
It’s tempting to Bernard to think that he is a master of forgiveness, to imagine that he has cracked the forgiveness code. To realize that he is not — that there is no code to crack– and to keep realizing it but to forgive anyway — that is the task of the simple-minded wise man.