Ruling Elder, Agros Church
Christian Existentialism and the Biblical Worldview
This brief exposition serves to give a summary of Kierkegaard’s worldview and the Biblical worldview in light of what he posited.
Christian Existentialism, largely pioneered by the Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, teaches fundamentally that the Christian worldview cannot be objectively captured, but rather is a subjective experience founded entirely on faith. He makes the distinction between belief and faith, belief being thoughts that one can invest confidence in based on empirical evidence, and faith being that which requires an abandon of logic and reason - a commitment of the heart rather than a commitment of the mind. His flagship ideology is that God cannot be believed in, and that the faith of the believer is founded on intellectual abandon - an extreme stance on living by faith rather than by sight.
Morality and Christian Existentialism
Kierkegaard further implicates man as the ultimate being responsible for ethics, and that God does not create human morality. Rather, it is up to the individual to create moral and ethical values. The Christian believer, however, is responsible for abandoning this moral reality and must commit himself to divine command, outside of the boundaries of reason. Kierkegaard labels this stance as the “Teleological suspension of the ethical”. He uses the story of Abraham to proof his ideology, calling Abraham a, “Knight of Faith”, meaning one who has placed complete faith in himself and in God and can act independently from the world. The Danish philosopher details this concept in his works, “Fear and Trembling” and, “Repetition” under the Pseudonym Johannes de Silentio.
Kierkegaard posits that the individual is nothing but the individual, without any sort of commitment to any code but that which is his. The knight of faith is a particular individual who can accept the world in which the only road to happiness or satisfaction is faith, not belief. Further, he details how man is divided into three parts: The Aesthetic, The Ethical, and The Religious. All three of these divisions allow the man to enjoy each part of their existence separately. Kierkegaard illustrates this through Abraham, who distinguishes his religious commitments from his ethical and aesthetical obligations to his family when he intends to sacrifice his son Isaac to God. The knight of faith is ultimately one who abandons his selfish desires of this life for the desires of the next life. The paradox of Abraham is that his faith defies his ethic and reason in order to carry out a divine command of sacrificing his son. Under the umbrella of these three divisions we find a distinct division between logic, ethics, and faith.
Kierkegaard’s Ultimate Commitment
Kierkegaard believed that faith is a passion, and without passion, there is no meaning. He makes a clear distinction that one cannot argue for meaning using reason and logic.
Kierkegaard and the Biblical Worldview
Christ and Ethical Commitments
The Biblical worldview posits this: that in order to have knowledge, one must fear God (Proverbs 1:7). The fear of God described here is not just an emotion, but rather a commitment to revering God’s law and character. Further, the Bible goes on to say that the fullness of knowledge is found in Christ (Colossians 2:2-3). This requires the believer to have an understanding of who Christ is, that being the eternal Word of God(John 1:1-3; Genesis 1:1-3). Since Christ Himself claims to be the truth(John 14:6), the Christian must submit to the fact that truth is objective and is found in the person of Christ in creation(Romans 1:20). Christ’s claim on objective and ultimate truth has severe implications for all men, not just those who recognize that they are bound by ethical obligations given in the creation of the world(Genesis 1). This is in stark opposition to Kierkegaard’s “knight of faith” paradox.
Neutrality and the Gospel
The Bible clearly states that man cannot separate himself from the obligations of holiness sewn into every human in their creation(Romans 1:20), all mankind will be held accountable for their works on Earth, despite their position on morality(Romans 3:23). In other words, one cannot take a Kierkegaardian stance on morality and also make a rational claim that they believe in the God of the Bible.
A God-Glorifying Defense of the Faith
The Christian is held to a particular standard in apologetics that honors God and ultimately leaves the audience with one path to righteousness(1 Peter 3:15). If a Christian is to argue teleologically(that is, a means to an end) for the existence of God, they are fundamentally violating Peter’s instructions in defending the faith(1 Peter 3:15). The biblical approach to apologetics must hold to an objective standard of morality that presupposes that God created all things in a specific and purposeful way(covenant shape of reality and objective moral creation).
The Danger of Applying a Philosophical Approach to Theology
In order to argue a Kierkegaardian stance on the world, one must step off, even if only for a moment, the Biblical worldview in order to justify the Biblical worldview. This is, in essence, to say, “I don’t believe the Bible contains enough information to reliably defend God”. This is opposed to Timothy’s teachings in 2 Timothy 3:16 and Peter’s teachings in 1 Peter 3:15.
If we are confident in scripture and what it says about God(2 Timothy 3:16), then we should not be afraid to stand confidently on the Bible in our apologetic method, which is as follows:
Do Not Be Afraid to Stand on Scripture
The Bible says that scripture is living and active, sharper than a two edged sword(Hebrews 4:12), and the Christian cannot be timid to wield this weapon. If we are to be consistent in our apologetic, we cannot falter in our trust of the Word of God. Ultimately, it is God who saves, so have faith in His power, not your own intellectual prowess(1 Corinthians 1:18).
For more information on covenantal apologetics, refer to the books, “Presuppositional Apologetics” by Greg Bahnsen, “The Defense of the Faith” by Cornelius Van Til, and “Notes From the Tilt-A-Whirl” by N.D. Wilson.
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