"Thanks and thanks again to Him who offers to the man whom the sorrows of life have assaulted and left naked–offers to him the fig leaf of the Word with which he can cover his wretchedness." -Søren Kierkegaard

Kierkegaard and the Nature of Faith…I Think

Posted in Philosophical, Stuff I'm Reading, Theological by matt on Saturday, April 26, 2008

I’ll admit, anytime I hear someone say “God told me” I get a little skeptical. I mean technically God has “told” people a lot of things – at least according to them. He told some people to fly airplanes into buildings, others to get this or that job in this or that city, a few to drink the kool-aid, some to marry a guy or break up with a girl, He told some which school they should go to or which classes they should take, and He told One to die on a cross.

Don’t get me wrong I believe God desires to communicate with us, but I refuse to believe everyone is hearing what they say they’re hearing. I don’t think God tells people to fly planes into buildings…but I also wouldn’t think God wants people to murder their children, and we all know the story of Abraham on Moriah…

Faith is a scary thing. It’s a scary thing because it can’t be completely proven or completely denied, it has to be worked out in fear and trembling.

Most of us have heard the story so many times we’re deadened to it, but try to be there: you’re following Abraham into Moriah, up the mountain, and – hidden from view – looking on in horror as he raises the knife to kill his kid. From a moral standpoint this is horrible right? Yet this is sung about at VBS and remembered by many as an act of incredible faith. My point is that faith isn’t as simple as intellectually assenting to a specific set of values or to some ethical framework. Faith is often irrational, maybe even always irrational.

Just to clear up that previous statement, I don’t believe the men who flew planes into buildings were faithless, but I also don’t believe their faith was from God or in God. But I do think God calls us to do weird things. Things that are in opposition to governing authorities, the Law of Moses, and, like Abraham, even in opposition to a promise He had previously made. Otherwise we’re just following the system, right? That’s no relationship! In part, Abraham’s faith was great because he had no system to follow, he only had God’s personal promises to trust. Abraham was great because he believed anything God told him – even the crazy stuff. Referring to Abraham in Fear and Trembling, Kierkegaard says it much better:

“No! No one shall be forgotten who was great in this world; but everyone was great in his own way, and everyone in proportion to the greatness of what he loved. For he who loved himself became great in himself, and he who loved others became great through his devotion, but he who loved God became greater than all. They shall all be remembered, but everyone became great in proportion to his expectancy. One became great through expecting the possible, another by expecting the eternal; but he who expected the impossible became greater than all.”

These are just a few thoughts I’ve had while reading this book. Kierkegaard believed God calls His followers to a higher law than just the moral law (Teleological Suspension of the Ethical). Sometimes, in order to test, preserve, and strengthen our faith, God commands us to do something that seems contradictory.

So, if this is true and we can’t always determine faith by morality, how can we know ‘true faith’ from ‘false faith’? How do we know whether or not someone is right when they say “God told me”?

I obviously need to keep reading, but I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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