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Preliminary Thoughts On Kierkegaard

8/23/15, by Clement Pulaski


The website Faith and Heritage recently published an article by Jan Stadler on The Heliand, or the Anglo-Saxon Gospel. According to Stadler:

Much in the same way the Gospel of St. Mark was written to accommodate a Greek audience, and the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Luke to accommodate Hebrew audiences, the Heliand was written to adapt Christianity to people who had very little connection with the Mediterranean world. This text is beginning to experience a revival as of late among dissident right-wingers seeking a way to better understand folkish religion...

Many unbelievers, sadly, become discouraged away from Christianity thanks to the effeminate and uninspiring nature of modern evangelicalism and Catholicism. The Heliand helps us give light to a world that not only proves the historical irrelevancy of modern evangelicalism and mainstream Christianity, but also gives us the ability to communicate a vibrant, active faith of warriors that can inspire men to transcend the languishing within modern effeminate “Christianity.”

Stadler is right to point out these problems of contemporary Christianity and the intellectual and emotional weakness that today's Christians often display. I hope that Stadler is proven correct in his suggestion that exposing unbelieving right-wingers to such material as The Heliand will bear fruit.

Along similar lines, I hope that promoting the work of Soren Kierkegaard could be helpful in the same way. This post is entitled "Preliminary Thoughts On Kierkegaard", because I have only just begun exploring the work of this philosopher. There is nothing that I have seen from his writings that strays from Biblical orthodoxy, but I am not yet familiar enough with his thought to offer a full endorsement (Kierkegaard wrote in a several different personas, so it is sometimes difficult to pin down his personal belief). What I have read so far, however, is very exciting, and I feel compelled to share it.

The best way that I could describe Kierkegaard would be as a "Christian fundamentalist Nietzsche". This term must be explained carefully. I do not mean to suggest that the conclusions of Nietzsche's philosophy have any value or can be somehow synthesized with Christianity. They cannot. But Kierkegaard and Nietzsche were both reacting to the same problems. They both saw the vanity of 19th century European civilization, especially in its optimistic-progressivism. But while Nietzsche sought the solution to this vanity in materialism in nihilism, Kierkegaard knew that the only real solution is found in faith in Jesus Christ. I say that Kierkegaard was a Christian fundamentalist because he viciously attacked the state churches of his day, expressed support for credobaptism, and stressed the absolute, immediate faith relationship between God and the believer. Like Nietzsche, his writing is biting and poetic. He does not shy away from the more challenging passages of Scripture that often make believers uncomfortable. For example, his book "Fear and Trembling" focuses exclusively on Abraham's near sacrifice of his son Isaac. Rather than quickly explaining this episode as "just a test", Kierkegaard explores it with a depth that I have not seen from any Christian theologian.

Nietzsche is popular because many of those on the far right are disgusted by the complacency and smugness of the vapid bourgeoisie, as they should be. But the philosophy of Nietzsche is a dark and hopeless morass that will drag souls down to damnation just as surely as any other branch of materialism. Those Christians who seek friendship with the world make the Gospel appear effeminate and bourgeois, and therefore unattractive to many on the far right, but it is not so. In Kierkegaard the Gospel is revealed as the burning and uncompromising light that it is.

In closing, I include a passage from the above mentioned book "Fear and Trembling". Given the name of this website, this passage is quite fitting, as it extols Abraham, not as the father of the Jews, but as the father of faith:

It was by faith that Abraham could leave the land of his fathers to become a stranger in the land of promise. He left one thing behind, took another with him. He left behind his worldly understanding and took with him his faith. Otherwise he would surely not have gone; certainly it would have been senseless to do so. It was by his faith that he could be a stranger in the promised land; there was nothing to remind him of what was dear, but the novelty of everything tempted his soul to sad longing. And yet he was God's chosen, in whom the Lord was well pleased! Yes, indeed! If only he had been disowned, cast out from God's grace, he would have understood it better. As it was it looked more like a mockery of himself and his faith. There was once another who lived in exile from the beloved land of his fathers. He is not forgotten, nor his songs of lament in which in sorrow he sought and found what he had lost. From Abraham we have no song of lament. It is human to complain, human to weep with one who weeps, but it is greater to have faith and more blessed to behold the believer.

It was faith that made Abraham accept the promise that all nations of the earth should be blessed in his seed. Time went by, the possibility was still there, and Abraham had faith; time went by, it became unlikely, and Abraham had faith. There was once another who held out an expectation. Time went by, the evening drew near, he was not so pitiful as to forget his expectation; therefore he too should not be forgotten. Then he sorrowed, and the sorrow did not deceive him as life had done; it did all it could for him and in the sweetness of sorrow he possessed his disappointed expectation. It is human to sorrow with the sorrower, but greater to have faith and more blessed to behold the believer. From Abraham we have no song of sorrow. As time went by he did not mournfully count the days, he did not cast suspicious glances at Sarah, fearing she was growing old; he did not stay the march of the sun, so that Sarah should not grow old and with her his expectation; he did not soothingly sing to Sarah his mournful lay. Abraham became old and Sarah was mocked in the land, and still he was God's chosen and heir to the promise that in his seed all nations of the earth would be blessed. Would it not be better, then, were he not God's chosen? What is it to be God's chosen? Is it to be denied in youth one's youthful desire in order to have it fulfilled in great travail in old age? But Abraham believed and held firm the promise. Had Abraham wavered he would have renounced it. He would have said to God: 'So perhaps after all it is not your will that it should happen; then I will give up my desire, it was my only desire, my blessed joy. My soul is upright, I bear no secret grudge because you refused it.' He would not have been forgotten, he would have saved many by his example, yet he would not have become the father of faith; for it is great to give up one's desire, but greater to stick to it after having given it up; it is great to grasp hold of the eternal but greater to stick to the temporal after having given it up. But then came the fullness of time. Had Abraham not had faith, then Sarah would surely have died of sorrow, and Abraham, dull with grief, instead of understanding the fulfilment, would have smiled at it as at a youthful dream. But Abraham believed, and therefore he was young; for he who always hopes for the best becomes old, deceived by life, and he who is always prepared for the worst becomes old prematurely; but he who has faith retains eternal youth. All praise then to that tale! For Sarah, though stricken in years, was young enough to covet the pleasure of motherhood; and Abraham, though grey of head, was young enough to want to be a father. Outwardly the wonder of faith is in Abraham and Sarah's being young enough for it to happened according to their expectations; in a deeper sense the wonder of faith lies in Abraham and Sarah's being young enough to wish, and in faith's having preserved their wish and through it their youthfulness. He accepted the fulfilment of the promise, he accepted it in faith, and it happened according to expectation and according to faith; for Moses struck the rock with his rod but he did not believe.

So there was rejoicing in Abraham's house when Sarah was bride on their golden-wedding day.




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