Kierkegaard and Fundamentalist Christians

Back in a previous post, I mentioned that a possible paper topic I could write about was pertaining to Kierkegaard and Fundamentalist Christians.  Well, I’ve been thinking more about that lately.  What would Kierkegaard think about the Fundamentalist Christians?

Here’s what I’m thinking: Kierkegaard is a fideist, which basically mean faith comes first and reason is second priority.  Well, part of Kierkegaard’s philosophy is that:

1.  Faith creates its own justification.

2.  If you have faith and you give reasons why you have faith, then that’s not faith.

3.  Real religious faith is always going to have risk. And it’s a scary risk.

Now in Kierkegaard’s day, and even in our own day, we see many people that claim to be Christian but they sure don’t act like it. People assumed they were Christian because they were born of Christian parents, and they were raised in a Christian society, they went to church once a week, they learned the prayers, and the understood the doctrines. So then to be born a Christian seems to give the presumption that one is a Christian and Kierkegaard says that this is totally insufficient. People think they’re Christians because of certain beliefs. In fact, if you ask certain Christians what they believed, they would find most of the doctrines incomprehensible. So just because you say you believe, or you assent to believe isn’t enough to be a Christian.

If you are to be a certain person, then you must take the whole package. If you truly believed that a certain action is sinful, then your life must reflect that belief. Otherwise, Kierkegaard would call you a hypocrite. But then again, Kierkegaard thought everyone was acting like this. Thus, everyone’s a hypocrite.
You must believe in it, not just merely believe it.  So people thought that just being a Christian meant going to a sermon and listening to the leaders and that’s that.

People have lacked passion.  Indeed, Kierkegaard says that it’s easier to become a Christian if you aren’t one already than if you were born a Christian. It’s a commitment; it’s not something to be taken for granted. So people aren’t true Christians just because they were raised that way or because they spout off certain beliefs. Kierkegaard would consider them as hypocrites. Their beliefs are empty. These people see themselves as part of a banal membership. They belong to a church; they hang out together claiming to be part of a group, but it has nothing to do with Christianity. They are sanctimonious – pretending to be holy. What’s going on is that Kierkegaard would say that it’s false Christianity; that it’s inauthentic Christianity.

Most Christians are part of the herd mentality. People assert what other people believe. They don’t think about it, but most importantly they don’t feel about it. People go to church for rituals and social belonging. But being a Christian is more of an individual passionate commitment.

He really concentrated on the individual saying that philosophy will never capture what the individual is all about.

So based on this, I can see Kierkegaard agreeing with the Fundamentalists.  However, here are some things that he would disagree:  Having faith then doesn’t come from what you hear, or what you’ve grown up with, or what you’ve been influenced by; it’s based on your own solitude alone and no one can make that choice except you.

Kierkegaard regarded Abraham from the Bible as having true faith, a religious life.
The story is that Abraham has been longing for a child and he finally gets it. And now, God tells Abraham to sacrifice his only son. In the name of faith, Abraham sees what Kierkegaard wants to point out: killing your son doesn’t make it morally right, but it’s something that Abraham must do. From any perspective, what Abraham did was absurd. He made that choice through a paradox, there were no grounds to justify his choice and-this is important-he knew it. He couldn’t go to Sarah and ask “What do you think?” or his fellow tribesmen. He knew in advance what they’d say. He can’t justify his actions to other people, but he also can’t justify these actions to himself. He had to face this alone. But there is one perspective where in a weird way, it does make sense: faith. He has to face this alone. All that’s left is a felt commitment to God. When Abraham made his choice, it wasn’t an easy choice. It was agonizing, full of despair, anxiety, and it was hard.

So all of the preachers, the bishops, the chaplains, and rabbis, and the priests. They all talk about Abraham and they say that you just have to have faith like Abraham like it’s the easiest thing in the world. But they’re just taking him for granted, as if it was the easiest thing in the world. Having faith-being like Abraham-is actually hard work. It’s not easy. Thus, religious faith is not easy. Proper religious faith can only be achieved with great difficulty. The Religious life is this: to truly become “a subject”, you must somehow take on this paradox: to obey God while admitting at the same time that you will never know for sure that you are obeying God. You must paradoxically know that you don’t know. Does this make sense? Not really, but Kierkegaard isn’t trying to make sense, he’s trying to edify us. But only faith makes you an authentic, existing self.

So this is where he would say that the Fundamentalists are not authentic Christians because they don’t have this true faith because faith for Kierkegaard is filled with anxiety, disappointment, dispair, and it’s hard.

However, could the Fundamentalists be closer to the religious life then common Christians?

About shaunmiller

I have just completed a visiting position as an assistant professor at Dalhousie University. My ideas are not associated with my employer; they are expressions of my own thoughts and ideas. Some of them are just musings while others could be serious discussions that could turn into a bigger project. Besides philosophy, I enjoy martial arts (Kuk Sool Won), playing my violin, enjoying coffee around town, and experimenting with new food.
This entry was posted in Existentialism, Kierkegaard, Paper Topic, Religion. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Kierkegaard and Fundamentalist Christians

  1. Katch says:

    3. Real religious faith is always going to have risk. And it’s a scary risk.
    I think this is very true, Faith can for sure be a scary risk. I likes the blog my friend.. I added a link to your blog on my blog!

  2. Cherish says:

    Somehow i missed the point. Probably lost in translation 🙂 Anyway … nice blog to visit.

    cheers, Cherish!!

  3. Pingback: “Herd” Believers « Shaun Miller’s Weblog

  4. Marc White says:

    I think that more needs to be nuanced regarding the distinction between Christianity and Christendom. Kierkegaard made this dynamic distinction in his Attack Upon Christendom. Great post and it gives me a lot to think about. I grew up Fundamentalist and am currently working through all of his works seeing if I can fuse aspects of Kierkegaard’s beliefs into the American Protestant movement today. Blessings.

Leave a Reply to shaunmiller Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s