Kierkegaard's "Catch 22". The Idea of Faith by Virtue of the Absurd and the Double-Movement of Faith in "Fear and Trembling": A Study on the Relation Between Faith and Reason

Dissertation, Westminster Theological Seminary (1999)
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Abstract

This dissertation is a study of the idea of "faith by virtue of the absurd" in Fear and Trembling. The goal is to provide some insight into the issue of Kierkegaard's ideas regarding the relation between faith and reason. The author's contention is that, far from advocating an irrationalist religiousness or theology, Kierkegaard developed in Fear and Trembling an understanding of the relationship between faith and reason that, in spite of its freshness and insight, is in line with the orthodox Christian theological tradition. A number of views with which the author disagrees are discussed, including those that relate Kierkegaard to subsequent thinkers such as Karl Barth and Jean Paul Sartre. It is argued that Kierkegaard is better understood as a religious writer in the Protestant tradition, as a thinker greatly influenced by pietism, and very akin to the contemporary evangelical mind. It is argued that there are similarities between Kierkegaard's thought and Reformed philosophical and apologetical thought. An overview of the different ways in which Fear and Trembling has been interpreted is offered, as well as a study of the book's biblical motif, Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac . Finally, an extended analysis of the book's content is offered, from the title to the epilogue, focusing on the issue of the relationship of faith and reason. The reader is provided with a detailed study of all passages of Fear and Trembling that spell out the phrase, "faith by virtue of the absurd." This dissertation suggests that Kierkegaard was dialoguing with the new theological trends arriving at that time in Copenhagen, and that the category of the absurd became important for Kierkegaard as the ideal polemical instrument in this context. Old Christian traditions are accessed from which the author believes Kierkegaard took his ideas of paradox and of the absurd. It is suggested that Kierkegaard, rather than being a typical irrationalist, used these ideas to counterbalance the excessive rationalism predominant in the theological thought of the day. It is argued that the notion of the double-movement of faith indicates that Kierkegaard never intended a complete dismissal of the use of reason in theology but rather a submission of any rational, theological enterprise to the primacy of faith

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