Sunday, April 28, 2013

A Different Kind of Christianity

(I am indebted to my friend, Ashley Burgy, for providing a thought provoking dialogue that led me to finally write about this topic.)

It could be said that one of the highest virtues of Christianity is faith. The word is mentioned numerous times in the Bible, and is the main topic of numerous Sunday morning sermons. Many different passages throughout the book deal with the necessity of faith. So ubiquitous is the theme that it seems unnecessary to provide examples.
Although, one example seems relevant for my task. The story of Abraham and Issac is a popular narrative that is used to discuss the relevance of faith within the Christian way of life. Kierkegaard held this episode with great importance. This is something that I wish to explain momentarily.

Before I address Kierkegaard conception of faith, it is useful to examine the use of faith within Christian teachings today. Churches teach that faith is something on par with truth, and that it is just as legitimate. Moreover, faith is not seen as something that is invoked when logical answers flee human reasoning. Christians start from the premise that faith is good and it is beneficial. Most of their minds are already "made up."

In contrast with today's modern view of faith, Kierkegaard viewed it in another light. Interestingly, and in starch difference from our current complacency, he did not have reasons for supporting his faith. Many times, he admits the absurdity of faith. Referring to the Abraham example, he writes in Fear and Trembling: "But Abraham had faith and did not doubt. He believed the absurd. If Abraham had doubted - then he would have done something else, something great and glorious; for how could Abraham have done other than what is great and glorious" (54)? What an optimistic view of humanity!

Perhaps this passage provides a better illustration of Kierkegaard's commentary of Abraham: "He mounted the ass, he rode slowly down the path. All along he had faith, he believed that God would not demand Isaac of him; while still he was willing to offer him if that was indeed what was demanded. He believed on the strength of the absurd, for there could be no question of human calculation, and it was indeed absurd that God who demanded this of him should in the next instant withdraw the demand. He climbed the mountain, even in that moment when the knife gleamed he believed - that God would not demand Isaac" (Ibid. 65). What an interesting elaboration. I must admit that it sounds as if Kierkegaard was one step away from abandoning his faith altogether.

So, it looks as if there is more than two ways of seeing faith in its context. One can look at it as either divine or erroneously mundane. However, Kierkegaard holds a third position: he sees it as absurd and mundane, yet chooses to go along with it. This position, as opposed to the position that faith is some God-given capacity, has its merits. It is brutally honest, and that is what Christianity lacks today. Christians could learn a lot from Kierkegaard.





2 comments:

  1. It's been a long time since I've read Kierkegaard, so I feel as though I can't particularly contribute past enjoying his rationale. Sometimes, in realizing that aspects of life aren't exactly logical, we can gain some sense of wisdom or perspective from it.

    Your journey and your writings have definitely inspired me for my summer readings, for I've been planning on digging into (and hopefully growing) my small library of philosophical writings. :)

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind words. If you need any suggestions for reading, let me know!

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