Kierkegaards View on Faith Essay

Kierkegaards View on Faith Essay

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Kierkegaards View on Faith


Kierkegaard was a Danish philosopher in the mid 1800s. He is known to be the father of existentialism and was at least 70 years ahead of his time. Kierkegaard set out to attack Kant’s rational ethics and make attacks on the Christianity of our day. He poses the question, how do we understand faith? He states that faith equals the absurd. In “Fear and Trembling”, he uses the story of Abraham and his son Isaac to show an example of faith as the absurd. The story of God asking Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac signifies a break in the theory that ethics and religion go hand in hand. He shows how the ethical and the religious can be completely different. “I by no means conclude that faith is something inferior but rather that it is the highest, also that it is dishonest of philosophy to give something else in its place and to disparage faith” (Fear and Trembling, 12).

     To Kierkegaard, the whole biblical story is a paradox. “Thinking about Abraham is another matter, however; then I am shattered. I am constantly aware of the prodigious paradox that is the content of Abraham’s life, I am constantly repelled, and, despite all its passion, my thought cannot penetrate it, cannot get ahead by a hairsbreadth” (Fear and Trembling, 12). Faith to Kierkegaard is even paradoxical. “Precisely because resignation is antecedent, faith is no esthetic emotion but something far higher; it is not the spontaneous inclination of the heart but the paradox of existence” (Fear and Trembling, 19). Under the ethical, Abraham was going to commit murder. Kierkegaard uses an example of a preacher going to him after the murder and screaming, “You despicable man, you scum of society, what devil has so possessed you that you want to murder your son” (Fear and Trembling, 10). He knows that murder cannot be ethically disclosed and wonders how that can be faith. Under the absurdity of faith, Abraham’s crime of murder becomes a merited duty to his Creator. “The ethical expression for what Abraham did is that he meant to murder Isaac; the religious expression is that he meant to sacrifice Isaac” (Fear and Trembling, 11). Abraham had to suspend his duty to the universal, or the ethical in order to carry out his duty to God. The Christian must make an existential leap out of the universal to acquire faith. This ultimately means that faith is higher than the un...


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...f Pure Reason, 616). Kant places religion within the rational realm. He starts with the rational individual which is living in an absolute moral society. The moral law is based upon religion. “...and I maintain, consequently, that unless moral laws are laid at the basis or used as a guide, there can be no theology of reason at all” (Critique of Pure Reason, 613). To Kant, a society’s commitment to absolute morality, moral law, and the church was the rational world’s meaning for religion.

     Kierkegaard argued against Kant that rationalism was lacking where religion was concerned. Kierkegaard fought that religion had nothing to do with rationalism, but everything to do with an individual relationship with God. The individual is free to maintain an intimate relationship with God which comes with faith as the absurd. Unlike Kant, Kierkegaard sees moral rationalism in society, but religion has nothing to do with it. It is a completely different subject that cannot be mixed with moral reason. He states that religion belongs only to the person seeking religion and overpowers all things rational. Kierkegaard places religious philosophy beyond the context of rationalism completely.

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