Søren Kierkegaard(1813-1855) is a Danish philosopher who is also considered as the“father of existentialism.” However, after 1848, Kierkegaardshifted his writing from philosophical to religion nature. Most ofhis writing assaults against Christendom that is, Christianity as asocial and political entity. His theology focuses on a singleindividual, God. Most of his writings targeted the Danish StateChurch and the Christendom, Denmark. According to Kierkegaard,Christendom makes people lazy in their religion. He urges that mostpeople are Christians, but they have no idea what it is to be aChristian. One of his writing’s primary purposes is to awaken theChristians to be committed to the religious activities. This essaydiscusses Kierkegaard, his religion, writings, and beliefs.
Kierkegaardwas born in a Lutheran Protestant family. However, his family waspoor. One day, Michael Pederson, Kierkegaard father, climbed themountain, cursed God, and questioned Him about his suffering (Grøn,26).Unfortunately, God was not happy, and he cursed Pederson family andits generations. None of the children born in this family lived afull life. Instead, most children died at an early age, ranging fromchildbirth to twenty-five years. Actually, only Kierkegaard andPeter, his brother, survived past twenty-five years. BeforeKierkegaard father died, he asked him to become a pastor so that hewould spread the word of God. Due to the death occurrences at hisfamily, Kierkegaard felt obligated to fulfil his father’s wish. Hepursued a degree in theology to be eligible for a pastor position.
Kierkegaardbelieved that above anything in the world, everyone has an absoluteduty to God. Kierkegaard defines three mode existence based on theomnipotence and existence of God. They include aesthetic, ethical,and religious (Evans,Søren, and Sylvia, 56).The aesthetic mode is whereby an individual acts according to his orher desire, and there is no judgement by objective standards. Thisstage is mainly for self-gratification whereby the aesthetic enjoysmusic, literature, and art. The ethical mode is whereby an individualacts are judged based on the universal law. On the other hand, thereligious mode is whereby an individual acts are judged based on theGod’s will. An example of religious mode is portrayed in the BibleAbraham was willing to sacrifice his son, Isaac. In this case,Abraham action should not be judged based on the ethical mode. Theethical mode will judge him as a murderer. However, this act can onlybe judged based on religious mode, whereby the actions are judgedwhether they compile with God’s will or not. Kierkegaard urges thatthe highest mode of existence is the religious mode. He believes thatacting according to God’s will makes an individual more significantthat a whole community (Watts96).He compares the relationship of a knight of infinite resignation andknight of faith of which the two can exist outside the aestheticmode. However, knight of faith is much further beyond ethical modebecause an individual is more willing to act according to God’swill. In addition, the knight of faith can make a double movement. Itcan show an act of passion and illogicality through faith, and at thesame time, it can sacrifice the finite for infinite. As a result, itcreates paradox within a person. On the other hand, the knight ofinfinite resignation does not allow an individual to fit in thereligious mode. Considering Abraham case, his intention to sacrificea human being is immoral though he is acting according to God’swill, which create fear and trembling.
Kierkegaardattacked all Christendom, and he referred Christianity as a socialand political entity. During his era, most Denmark citizensworshipped at Danish State Church. However, Kierkegaard felt thatthis church distorted the true significance of Christianity hence,unacceptable. He attacked the church by arguing the churchcongregations are meaningless. He stressed that Christianity is anindividual, but not a group of people. Secondly, Kierkegaard urgedthat Christendom had become more political and secularised thanspiritual. The state managed and controlled the Danish State Church(DSC). Kierkegaard felt that the state’s primary goal was toincrease the number of church members, as well as oversee theirwelfare. In addition, people associated high number of members withmore powers of clergymen, and church officials. AccordingKierkegaard, this was a corrupt ideal. It is against the Christianitytrue doctrine that focuses the significance of an individual ratherthan a group or people. Furthermore, Kierkegaard felt thatChristianity was becoming an empty religion. Stewart(56), states that any Denmark citizen was eligible to become aChristian even without knowing the true definition of a Christian.The church had turned to be a political structure for the politiciansto air their views and idea. However, this is detrimental andoffensive to an individual who knew the meaning of “Christianity.”In addition, this reduced Christianity to just a mere traditionfollowed by unbelievers. Kierkegaard believed religious activitiesshould only be served religiously and not politically. In his book“The eighteen up building Discourses,” he discussed Christian’sdoctrine: patience, love, hope, equity, faith, and hope. As aChristian, he believed that Christ is the founder of these doctrines.
Kierkegaard’sfaith hailed though his religious and philosophical thoughts.However, he does not give the definition of faith or the procedure ofobtain it. He categorised faith into two: knight of faith and leap offaith. According to him, faith was not just an intellectualunderstanding but a personal matter and no one can approve ordisapprove it. Contrary to the objective reasoning that focuses onreflection, faith is concerned with passion. Hannay(89), states that most people portray their faith when faced withuncertainty. Therefore, faith is a commitment to uncertainty, and thelower the uncertainty, the lower the faith, and vice versa.Kierkegaard referred Christian’s faith as the belief in theimpossible. In addition, he urged that Christianity is absurd andparadox in claiming that God word. Therefore, Christians requires aleap of faith. In fear and trembling, Kierkegaard gives an example ofAbraham, who was very faithful to God. Due to his faith, Abraham waswilling to fulfil his ethical duties. Most Christians questionAbraham decision to sacrifice his son as murder or faith. However,Kierkegaard judges this action as an action of faith. Due to Abrahamfaith, God provided an animal for him to sacrifice instead of hisson.
Kierkegaardalso gave five elements of anxiety and the relationship with sin.Firstly, anxiety is not a sin. Kierkegaard defines it as naturalreaction of the soul whenever an individual is faced with a void offreedom. In Adam’s case, anxiety preceded sin. The awful dilemma offreedom results to sin. Secondly, as much as freedom causes anxiety,it is not a sin neither does it lead to sin (Evanset. al., 36).Therefore, Kierkegaard emphasises that an individual is free to sin,as well as not to sin. He or she makes a choice. Thirdly, a personalsin is grounded for his or her sinfulness. Adam’s sin brought himsinfulness, and in similar way, it happens to an individual who sins.Fourthly, sin brings anxiety. Specifically, anxiety can lead anindividual to turn away from God, his Creator, and the one who givesfreedom. Therefore, an individual can only be saved from anxietythrough faith. Fifthly, the first Adam’s sin is a qualitative leap,so do an individual first sin. It leaps out freedom into a sin,though it is not necessitated by existence, but can be explained by aleap. According to Hannay(102),all individual are born with same anxiety and freedom. People do notsin because they are sinners, but they become sinners through theirfreedom that leap to sin. On the other hand, Kierkegaard defineddespair as a form of anxiety. He states that a self is a freedom tocreate choices. According to Kierkegaard view, when an individual’sspirit constitute his or her relationship with God, then he or shebecome less consciousness of him or herself. In this state, a personis said to be despair. Despair, similar to sin, also separates anindividual with God.
Religionis the central to Kierkegaard’s philosophies. During his era, hediscovers many challenges within Christian religion. Most of hiswritings are religiously based though he mostly criticises Christianswith less or no faith. He believes God is the greatest, and the onlyway to reach him is through faith. Until today, Kierkegaardremembered for his religious and philosophical writings. Pastor andchurch ministers still refer to his book for references, and theyhave adopted his theory in their learning.
Evans,C S, Søren Kierkegaard, and Sylvia Walsh. Fearand Trembling.Cambridge [u.a.: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2006. Print.
Grøn,Arne. TheConcept of Anxiety in Søren Kierkegaard.Macon, Ga: Mercer University Press, 2008. Print.
Hannay,Alastair. Kierkegaard:A Biography.Cambridge, UK [u.a.: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Print.
Stewart,Jon. Kierkegaardand Existentialism.Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate, 2011. Print.
Watts,Michael. Kierkegaard.Oxford: Oneworld, 2003. Print.