Soren Kierkegaard the Best Christian of All Time?

I'm reading up on his views on individualism and subjective experience.

He could probably be considered a religious thinker more than a philosopher.

Nope, Jesus was the best "christian" of all time ;-)

ha, Jesus was the founder and therefore the 'father' and model of what "it" means. His apostles were also Jewish and were called by others as "Christians" (in antioch first I believe)

770mdm -  Jesus was Jewish, not Christian.  


Anyone here read Kierkegaard?

IF so please share your opinions.

I don't believe Nazis existed in the 1830's.

I presume you are referring tp Joseph B. Soloveitchik, who lived from 1903 to 1993.

Soren Kierkegaard lived from 1815 to 1855.

I read him in college in an advanced philosphy course but don't remember much anymore about him.

this is what happens when 770 posts something that isn't a cut and paste

I did think you may have got the two mixed up.

Sickness Unto Death was awesome. There is finally a decent biography out on him now.

His thoughts were quite similar to Nietzsche in some regards.

That's why I like him.

Yet he was a Christian and all his writings were written to that end.

Kierkegaard's central problematic was how to become a Christian in Christendom. This question was difficult to answer, since the culture of the nineteenth-century tended to produce stereotyped members of "the crowd" rather than to allow for individuals to discover their own unique identities. Many cultural aspects affected how the individual lived as a Christian. At the onset of the Industrial Revolution, universal elementary education, large-scale migration from rural areas into cities, and greatly increased social mobility meant that the structure of society changed from a rigidly hierarchical one to a relatively horizontal one. In this social context it became increasingly difficult to "become who you are" and this topic challenged Kierkegaard.3

It was this intensive inner examination of self and society that resulted in Kierkegaard's diversified and profound writings, whose theme centered on the idea that truth is subjectivity. Kierkegaard reasoned that the important thing is not truth as objective fact but rather the individual's relationship to it. Thus it is not enough to believe in truth; one must also live it. Hence existentialism.4

Given the social environment in which he lived in, Kierkegaard realized that to convey his ideas in a stereotyped culture, a form of rhetoric was required which would force people back onto their own resources, to take responsibility for their own existential choices, and to become who they are beyond their socially imposed identities. In this undertaking Kierkegaard was inspired by the Greek philosopher Socrates, whose incessant irony undermined all knowledge claims that were taken for granted or unreflectively inherited from traditional culture. Because his readers were constantly forced to abandon their pat answers to Kierkegaard's questions, they had to think for themselves and to take individual responsibility for their own claims about knowledge and value. To achieve this, he used irony, parody, satire, humor, and deconstructive techniques to make established conventional forms of knowledge and value indefensible. Through a various textual devices in his writings, Kiekegaard set the responsibility for the existential significance squarely on the reader, instead of setting himself as the religious authority. He shifted the focus from himself to the reader in various ways, mainly by partitioning the texts into prefaces, forewords, interludes, postscripts, etc, using pseudonyms and publishing more than one book on the same day, where these books would contain strikingly contrasting perspectives.

In his writings, Kierkegaard asserted that systematic philosophy imposed a false perspective on human existence because it explained life in terms of logical necessity. Individuals, he believed, create their own natures through their choices, which must be made in the absence of universal, objective standards. The validity of a choice can only be determined subjectively. Kierkegaard's main opponent was his contemporary, the German philosopher G. W. F. Hegel. Hegel claimed to have achieved a complete rational understanding of human life and history and that through logic, one could have access to the mind of God. Kierkegaard, on the other hand, stressed the ambiguity and paradoxical nature of the human situation.5 The fundamental problems of life, he contended, defy rational, objective explanation and consequently truth is subjective. Kierkegaard's strategy against Hegel was simply to make everything more difficult and ambiguous, so that objective logic could not be used as a main access to understanding. Instead of seeing scientific knowledge as the means of human redemption, he regarded it as the greatest obstacle to redemption.6 So instead of attempting to make God and the Christian faith perfectly intelligible, Kierkegaard sought to emphasize the absolute transcendence of God, beyond human comprehension.

Kierkegaard had a profound influence on Protestant theology, mostly because of his radical statements asserting that existential beliefs are separate from objective reasons. Faith is not dependant on a rational belief nor does it contradict objective evidence because it is separate and independent. The separation which he proposed was founded on the statement that faith belongs to the sphere of inwardness or subjectivity. The validity of a faith is not how logical, intelligible or probable it is, but rather how the individual interacts and responds in his life to his faith. Faith is therefore the decision of the person to believe and it is founded and established solely on the individual's subjective existence.

The implications of this reasoning were revolutionary to Christian theology. Until then, throughout most of Christian history, intellectuals had been undertaking to justify the content of the Christian faith to themselves and others as worthy of belief. They recognized that intellectual assent was not sufficient to salvation, but they also knew that it is an important and crucial part of faith.

Kierkegaard however, saw the danger in attempting to rationalize the Christian faith and instead of focusing on the impersonal universal reason, he turned to the inner life of the individual. He focused on the radical difference between the two and made a distinction between objective truth and subjective truth, where the objective truth dealt only with objects and universals, while subjective truth is concerned with subjects and individuals. Because of this, subjective truth is totally independent of objective truth and is therefore incapable of being verified objectively. He also stated the superior importance of subjective truth, since it is more relevant to the actual existence of the individual. It is this complete disparity between subjective certitude and objective uncertainty that is the central idea of the paradox which Kierkegaard addresses.

So how does one shift from basing one's faith on the objective acceptance of the truths of reason to basing it on one's subjective existence and belief in God? Kierkegaard skillfully answered this question by stating that the only way is by a leap, a decision of the whole person centering in the will. This leap of faith is not however a simple decision of the mind to accept subjectively an impersonal belief. Rather this leap is a decision to believe and live in subjective certitude, to a real way of living, rather than for the mere intellectual entertainment of an opinion. That which is believed in is not God if it is not of infinite personal concern. 7

This line of reasoning was of extreme importance to Christian theology because of the paradox of Christ - God becoming man. The doctrine of Christ's deity is absolutely absurd and irrational to man. It confronts man with an absolute either/or. Either man must believe that Jesus was God or else he must reject it. Objectively, one could remain indecisive intellectually between the two opinions. But subjectively, in real existence, one must answer this because it is of infinite personal concern. Eternal destiny is at stake and hinges on one's decision, one that must be made by the individual alone, apart from any objective reasoning.

Kierkegaard again points out the parallel disproportion of subjective belief and objective reason to Christian existence and worldly cultural suppositions. Just as he had attacked the theological accommodation to objective evidence, he also attacked personal accommodation to what is socially acceptable by a worldly culture. Being from a Lutheran background, Kierkegaard accepted the inherited teaching of the church, but he vehemently criticized its hypocrisy and complacency. 8

Kierkegaard's analysis of human existence and proposition of existentialism are rich in the transforming significance for the doctrines of faith, sin, repentance, justification, and sanctification. 9 Modern theologies have been greatly influenced by him because of this, mainly through the formulation of Christian doctrine based on the subjective existential analysis of believing.

In conclusion, we see how Kierkegaard influenced both philosophy and theology. His ideas became the main source of philosophical existentialism by focusing on the separation between objectivity and subjectivity and demonstrating the possibility of dealing with subjectivity with clarity without employing the restrictive boundaries of objectivity. Kierkegaard also contributed three principles which played a prominent role in modern theology. First, he expressed that God is radically beyond the grasp of reason and can only be known by faith, stating that Christian theology does not require philosophical affirmation. 9 Secondly, he stressed that the Christian faith rests on the paradox of Christ's deity and that one must show how it affects existence rather than trying to justify or explain it. Thirdly, he disassociated faith from the communal and sacramental life in the church and affirmed it rather on the relationship between the individual and God.

Ridgeback -  Joe Ray,

If you like Kierkegaard I think you would like the French philosopher Jacques Ellul.  He has a number of books translated into English

Kierkegaard was wedded to the aristocratic pre-industrial hierarchial form of society that preceded the modern egalitarian democratic age and was concerned about the effect of the 'crowd' upon the individual, in particular his capacity to experience the subjective 'truth' neccessary for a proper Christian faith in the face of an objective moral order that the 'crowd' posits as the ultimate truth.

This was also a concern for Nietzsche, except he was concerned with the effect this would have on the creative instincts of man.

Both are concerned about the suppression of the irrational side of man, which Kierkegaard sees as the wellspring of religious faith and Nietzsche as the source of artistic creativity.

From what I have just read on the web about Jacques Ellul he appears to be a Christian anarchist so I'm not sure if my time would be well spent reading him. He appears to be on the side of the 'crowd' denounced by Kierkegaard(or the 'herd' denounced by Nietzsche).

Irrationality = the source of the dionysian.

I think in that sense he was concerned about its' suppression.

thirdleg - Instinct

Yes. Although I'm not sure if Kierkegaard would characterize it as so.