Brief Notes on the Orthodoxy of Sřren
Kierkegaard According to Historic Creeds of Christianity
"Kierkegaard's debts to the Bible are so great
that Paul Minear and Paul Morimoto, in the first extensive
English-language translation of Kierkegaard's use of the Bible,
boldly claimed that 'we do not hesitate to that coming
generations will increasingly reckon with him not so much as a
philosopher, as a poet, as a theologian, or as a rebel against
Christianity, but as an expositor of Scripture." (The
Oxford Handbook of Kierkegaard, p. 150)
Note: I did the following research at the request of a
brother in Christ who was interested in whether Kierkegaard was
an orthodox Christian. The following is my letter to him.
When I mentioned to you of Soren Kierkegaard’s
“orthodoxy” and agreed to send you evidence of that claim, I did
not realize the effort that it would take.
Not that I have in any way changed my mind about what I
said, but trying to summarize SK is not an easy task.
The totality of his writing (in 14 years) totals about
one-third to one-half the shelf space of Calvin’s Commentaries.
But I agreed to try, so here goes.
(1) SK never disparaged Scripture, as many of
the more recent Christian existentialists (CE) do.
He never talked about anything like Scripture being an
“encounter” or its being truth for each individual, as he sees
it. He always spoke
of Scripture as having a clear message and commonly referred to
it as truth.
(A) I have included a short paper that I wrote
on SK in a class that I took on him: “Kierkegaard’s Leap of
Faith: Finding Objectivity in his Subjectivity!”
(B) A quote from SK. “In the New Testament the
Savior of the world, our Lord Jesus Christ, represents the
situation thus: “The way that leads unto life is straightened,
the gate narrow—few be they that find it.”
Most CEs prefer the “broader gate.”
(C) Of the idea of a State Church, SK said:
“The most dreadful sort of blasphemy is that of which
‘Christendom’ (the idea of everyone who is a citizen is a
Christian) is guilt: that of transforming God of Spirit into
ludicrous… twaddle (his ellipsis).
And the most “spiritless” divine worship, more stupid
than anything that is or was to be found in paganism…. (my
ellipsis) Under the assumed conditions, the New Testament
neither is nor can be a guide for Christians…”
(2) To “What Christ’s judgment about official
Christianity” is, he answers with Matthew 23:29-33!
His “official Christianity” was the dead state-sponsored
Lutheran Church of his time.
That is a powerful indictment that I don’t think can be
found of other CEs who embrace virtually anything with the name
“Christian” except Biblical Christianity. (AoC,
(3) For me, perhaps the strongest argument for
SKs orthodoxy was his clear belief that one could not become a
Christian unless God brought about the transformation.
In fact, his “leap” was not a leap at all, but a movement
to faith that could
only be caused by God.
(Incidentally, he nowhere, ever uses the phrase “leap of
faith.” He only
uses “leap” as a noun without object, as he was quoting Lessing,
a contemporary philosopher. An example of how he has been so
He was overtly anti-Pelagian! (Sickness
Unto Death (SUD), 81.
“What do you think of Christ,” is actually the most
crucial of all questions.”
“A great man is great because he is a chosen
instrument in the hand of God.”
Concerning God’s Providence, he uses the words
He describes God’s Providence as “unending
pageantry of life with its motley display of colors and its
infinite variety” (AKA,
God must make “the first movement of faith” (AKA,
118) “Faith … is a
movement that I am unable to make” (AKA,
128) “But the
next thing astonishes me, it makes my head swim, for after
making the movement of resignation (fully committing oneself to
the ethical life by my
own effort), to get everything, to get the wish (the
fullness of human development) whole and uncurtailed—that is
beyond human power.”
This idea of finite man not being able to attain the
infinite on his own pervades SK’s writing.
While the idea is embedded within everything else that he
says, it is clearly and without question present.
In a university class that I took on SK, it was obvious
that the nonchristians in the class could not grasp this idea
because they could not understand how man could not come to
faith in his own understanding.
(4) How’s this for rejecting evolution?
“The world has stood now for 6000 years” (stated twice in
this context). (A
Kierkgaard Anthology, 201)
There is no doubt that SK over-emphasized the individual.
He had no
idea of the church as a corporate body—the unique individual as
a building block of the body of Christ and the bride of Christ.
He wrote at great length on “truth as subjectivity.”
But within the context of the whole of his writing and
the powerful, almost suffocating influence of Kant, Hegel, and
others in European culture of that time, his hyperbole can be
of us has not engaged in such exaggeration to make our points?
Further, there is a real truth with which to
be reckoned here.
The individual, not the Church, will stand before Christ.
The individual is regenerated and embraces the truth of
Scripture by the Holy Spirit.
There are no two individuals, even with the most
conservative of Christian beliefs, who agree “jot and tittle”
about every matter.
Hilton Terrell and I worked together for 30 years, and the
agreement of our minds was nothing short of phenomenal, but we
differed on a few things.
In SK’s Concluding
Unscientific Postscripts (the title itself
complete, scientific, unamendable, final triumph of Reason), he
actually devotes the first, shorter section to an argument for
Finally, the “truth” that he wanted the
“subject” to embrace was the truth of Scripture, Jesus Christ,
and what Christ would have us “do.”
His final aim of the “religious” person was one who
(virtually without consciousness) lived the Christlike life—his
explicit example being a “tax collector” whom he called a
“knight of faith.”
SK would never have endorsed the nebulous “subjectivity” of more
recent Christian existentialists.
Reading further, I found that his “individuality” was a
stepping stone to “an objective faith” found in the church. (AKA,
For sure SK writes is a style that is
difficult to understand.
Neither does he write in evangelical language.
While he does have certain insights into some Biblical
truths, these have to be ferreted out with some effort.
I am not advocating him
as a “must-read” for a Christian, but I do think that his
philosophy has forced many philosophers after him to read and
study the Christianity that drove him to write as he did.
Paul said “In every way, whether in pretense or in truth,
Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.”
That is no question in my mind that in his
core beliefs, he was orthodox in the historical creedal sense,
and possibly even orthodox in the strict Lutheran sense.
I started my study in this class with virtually a closed
mind to his Christianity.
But once I saw his orthodoxy underneath his panoply of
terms, his passion to stir the Christians of Denmark, and his
publically scathing attack on the sterile state-priesthood, his
orthodoxy comes though clearly, even if not overt.
He has confused many people writing most of
his works under pseudonyms, such as “Johannes Climacus”, a
non-Christian critiquing Christianity, when he wrote of the
passion of a pagan and citizen-Christian at prayer that has been
Later, he wrote under “Anti-Climacus,” a Christian at a greater
level than SK though that he could attain.
My few remarks and quotes may not persuade
you, but I said that I would send you some notes.
I am enclosing my class paper mentioned above and another
paper which is an Introduction to a book on SK—you need only
read 4-5 pages. On
page 5, he briefly discusses how Francis Schaeffer misread SK
and set many Christians against him.
Blessings in Christ,
after letter was sent...
Kierkegaard styled himself above all as
a religious poet.
The religion to which he sought to relate his readers is
Christianity. The type of Christianity that underlies his
writings is a very
serious strain of Lutheran pietism informed by the dour
values of sin, guilt,
suffering, and individual responsibility.
For Kierkegaard Christian faith is not a
matter of regurgitating church dogma. It is a matter of
individual subjective passion,
which cannot be mediated
by the clergy or by human artifacts.
Faith is the
most important task to be achieved by a human being, because
only on the basis of faith does an individual have a chance to
become a true self.
This self is the life-work which
God judges for eternity.
There is no mediation between the
individual self and God by priest or by logical system (contra
Catholicism and Hegelianism respectively).
Christian dogma, according to Kierkegaard, embodies
paradoxes which are
offensive to reason. The central paradox is the assertion that
the eternal, infinite, transcendent God simultaneously became
incarnated as a temporal, finite, human being (Jesus). There
are two possible attitudes we can adapt to this assertion, viz.
we can have faith,
or we can take offense.
What we cannot do, according to Kierkegaard, is believe by
virtue of reason. If we choose faith we must suspend our reason
in order to believe in something higher than reason. In fact we
must believe by virtue of the absurd.
Much of Kierkegaard's authorship explores the
notion of the absurd….
See text for specifics…
According to Johannes Climacus,
faith is a miracle,
a gift from God whereby eternal truth enters time in the
… we must realize that we are
always in sin. This
is the condition for faith, and must be given by God.
The idea of sin cannot
evolve from purely human origins. Rather, it must have been
introduced into the world from a transcendent source.