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Webster's Dictionary defines Existentialism to be, "the philosophical movement centering on analysis of individual existence in an unfathomable universe and the plight of the individual who must assume ultimate responsibility for his acts of free will without any certain knowledge of what is right or wrong or good or bad." This seems to be the very antithesis of Christian
doctrines in that it asserts the autonomy and independence of man rather than views them as subjects to a supreme being, however, Existentialism
and Christianity can coexist. When they do coexist, they form the philosophy we know to be Christian Existentialism.
Christian Existentialism is centered around the individual and his relationship with God. A Christian Existentialist believes that the individual's view of God is self-defined and different for everyone. This concept is the basis for one of the major themes of Christian Existentialism, which is that the self is reliant on God, but also the individual's concept of God is reliant on the self. Faith is very important to Christian Existentialism also. This is because God's existence cannot be proven scientifically, so it must be taken on faith. Christians believe that we are saved through our faith in God. Existentialists believe that we are saved through our own self-reliance. Christian Existentialists believe that our faith in God is self-reliant, so our salvation is self-reliant and based on our faith.
A number of Christian Existentialists have used the arts and literature to convey their thoughts and philosophies. These novels, plays, and other art are often very popular because they deal with real problems and speak of real human conditions. Fyodor Dostoyevsky
is one of the most prominent Christian Existentialist writers. His novels, such as Crime and Punishment, view human nature as unpredictable and self-destructive. In Crime and Punishment, we learn that only Christian love can save humanity from itself, but this love cannot be explained philosophically. Raskolnikov learns this lesson when he realizes that his philosophies on the superman are all wrong.
While it seems that Christianity and Existentialism are two very different philosophies, they can coexist and still make sense. Christian Existentialists stress the importance of passionate individual action in deciding questions of morality and truth as well as finding salvation through one's own individual view and faith in God.
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