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Religion & Theology
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Søren Kierkegaard's Conception of Faith (Essay Sample)


The paper looks at the concept of faith as described by Søren Kierkegaard.

Course Title:
Søren Kierkegaard’s Conception of Faith
For many years, theologians and philosophers have been debating the existence of God and the legitimacy of faith in a bid to justify religion through logic. Soren Kierkegaard is one of the philosophers of the Christian concept of God who researched extensively on the Christian concept. It seems that he was not an apologist, and even if he was one, his apologies must have been unconventional not only acknowledged the unbelievers’ claim that Christianity is irrational and improvable, but also accepted these claims. According to Anderson, Kierkegaard seems to suggest that religion is not something we can make sense of in the conventional sense. This appears quite literally irrational with the main problem being that people have a tendency to change religion into a set of doctrines and rules. This means that people try to intellectualize something that is simply beyond that scope. Indeed Faith encompasses a sphere of its own and this means that any misunderstanding of Christianity “may at once be recognized by its transforming it into a doctrine…” (Anderson 51). Kierkegaard aptly disregarded any fusion of logic with existence by asserting that existence cannot be described logically or objectively. According to him, the logical uncertainty of Christianity and an individual’s relation to it represents the highest truth for an existing person. This means that truth is subjectivity and faith does neither arise from scholarly deliberation, not does it come directly. Instead, within this objectivity one is bound to lose that personal, infinite and impassioned interestedness, which is essentially the condition of faith.
Philosophers have always been trying to determine to objective truth concerning the nature, though Kierkegaard seems to refute anything that is unjustifiable. This is probably because he had no interest in things that were universal. Rather, he believed that subjective things where far more important and intriguing. In fact, he centered his whole philosophy on action in such a way that he disregarded any form of objectivity. His main argument is that people use objectivity as a means to escape belief, decisions and actions. According to him, it is prudent that “every trace of an objective issue should be eliminated…” (Anderson 39). Kierkegaard believes that individuals need to take responsibility for their faith and acknowledges the fact believing in something is a choice. He clarifies that choice is the crux of human existence. He says, "The most tremendous thing which has been granted to man is: the choice, freedom." (Anderson 41).
Due to his persistence on choices, Kierkegaard seems to be an individualist; given that choices are personal hence they cannot be objective. According to him, the most important things are those that happen inside the individual. Therefore, the choice is made cannot be understood or even comprehended by outside sources. When an individual makes a choice on how he wants to live, the choice applies only to him alone. In Fear and Trembling, he elaborates the ethical, aesthetic, and religious ‘spheres of existence’ that people may chose to live in. They religious sphere appears to be the most difficult since it requires one to give up everything, including the universal good, and the ethical standards for him to live a life of devotion to God (Sarkissian 2).
Most people seem to perceive religion and ethics as two inextricably intertwined concepts and hence that which is considered ethical arises from religious perspectives such as religious sermons or texts. However, Kierkegaard believes that living for ethics and devotion to God are two different things. In the ethical perspective, the desires of the collective are put above everything else while in the religious sphere, one must place God above everything else. This makes the two domains completely incompatible. The other major difference between the religious and the ethical spheres is that not only is God placed higher than the universal, but the individual is also placed higher than the universal. This is why Kierkegaard notes that Faith is the paradox that a person “as the single individual is higher than the universal, is justified before it, not inferior to it but as superior” (Walter 268).
It is plausible that Kierkegaard's vision of religion might appear totally incomprehensible from an outsider’s perspective. It may not seem to make any sense but, paradoxically, this could be the main reason why Kierkegaard asserts that it works. Faith is thus the contradiction between the objective uncertainty and the innate passion of the individual’s inwardness. (Anderson 52). According to him, the human experience is that of making decisions; seeing something objectively does not necessarily require a commitment, hence it cannot really be termed existing. However, when uncertainty persists, the individual must take control of his/her life and to make a choice whether to believe or not. Essentially, “the greater the uncertainty - the greater the risk the believer takes in believing.” (Anderson 52). This means that when the paradox becomes paradoxical in itself, it intends to repel the individual by essence of its absurdity thus making faith the corresponding passion of inwardness. The question that arises here is what faith is actually made of. To answer this question, Kierkegaard applies the example of Abraham who was instructed by God to offer his son as a sacrifice. Scenes Abraham had faith, God spared Isaac. However, this does not alter the fact that Abraham had already raised the knife in preparation to do what God had instructed him to do. Yet, Abraham strongly believed that “God would not require Isaac" (Anderson 58). Even if God had allowed Isaac to be killed, Kierkegaard suggests that Abraham would not have despaired. Instead, he would have believed. Maybe God would have given him a new Isaac or even recall to life that who he had already sacrificed. This shows that Abraham believed by virtue of the absurd, probably because all human reckoning had already stopped to function. This leads Kierkegaard to conclude that Abraham proved that “it is greater to believe, more blessed to behold the believer.” (Kierkegaard 14).
Kierkegaard goes ahead to introduce other instances where fathers have been known to sacrifice their children. For example, Jephtha, Agamemnon, and Brutus are all tragic heroes who went at one time required to kill a child. They all agreed to do so thoug...
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