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A Kierkegaard Anthology

by Soren Kierkegaard

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Review

Francis Schaeffer described Soren Kierkegaard as the first man below the line of despair. Schaeffer explains that after Kierkegaard, “if rationalistic man wants to deal with the really important things of human life (such as purpose, significance, the validity of love), he must discard rational thought about them and make a gigantic, nonrational leap of faith.” This attitude, for Schaeffer, necessarily leads to despair.

It scares me to disagree with Schaeffer on any point, but I think he places too much blame on Kierkegaard. As students read Training in Christianity and some of the sermons in this Kierkegaard Anthology, they will find a devout Christian man who fully understands the nature of God and the nature of man.

Kierkegaard certainly wrote some provocative things, and it might be fair to describe him as the father of existentialism. But we have to remember that Kierkegaard chose a very strange method of instruction, often writing under a pen name and using that freedom to posit philosophical ideas that were at odds with scripture. The modern equivalent, I suppose, would be Charles Colson writing a book under the pseudonym “Karlus Marxus” where he argued for a coherent Marxist worldview to demonstrate the obvious flaws within that worldview.

The only writings of Kierkegaard that completely represent his position, I believe, are the writings to which he assigns his own name, like Training in Christianity (technically, this work was published under the name “Anti-Climacus,” but only because Kierkegaard failed to tell the printer in time to change the name). In this work, Kierkegaard’s favorite, he takes care to point out what an offence Christianity is to our flesh, including our reason. When he imagines someone asking him how anyone could “get the idea of accepting” Christianity since it is such an offence, he responds:

“[O]nly the consciousness of sin can force one into this dreadful situation—the power on the other side being grace. And in that very instant the Christian life transforms itself and is sheer gentleness, grace, loving-kindness, and compassion. Looked at from any other point of view Christianity is and must be a sort of madness or the greatest horror. Only through the consciousness of sin is there entrance to it, and the wish to enter in by any other way is the crime of lese-majeste against Christianity.”

I think Schaeffer would agree with this. Christianity is an offence to our fallen reason. This doesn’t mean that Christianity is unreasonable—once we have become new creatures in Christ we may see the coherence and consistency of the Christian worldview. But no man can reason to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

by Jeff Baldwin

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