As a student of Philosophy, and an observer of the various ways others think and act, I mostly pay attention to two things: Coffee and Kierkegaard. The former is for obvious reasons, sometimes for taste but mostly for necessity. The latter because, well, he is the thinker I mostly attach my current faith-awakening to.
It is not that I didn’t have a faith that worked before I read Fear And Trembling, but once I began the intentional study of Philosophy through the ages – from the Pre-Socratics to the Meta-Modernists – it all seemed so difficult to find my bearings, until I read Kierkegaard.
Born on 1813, in Copenhagen, Denmark, Søren Kierkegaard was influenced heavily by the likes of Hegel and Kant, but ultimately rejected their assumptions about reality, especially the likes of Hegel. Kierkegaard found the pursuit of objective forms of reality to be ludicrous, and would only serve to frustrate the inquirer to the point of existential numbness. Of course, the seeker could live her life, but the issue seemed to be not ‘if’ one could live, but ‘how’ one lives.
Kierkegaard was a Christian, dedicated to the notion of Discipleship (see: Training In Christianity). And in spite of what many would like to think about him, when he wrote books from the perspective of the one who could not make the leap of faith, it was a position he empathized with, but was not an actual defining characteristic of his actual life.
He believed that out of all world religions, Christianity was the most absurd. Every religion was absurd in its own way, but Christianity had the unique qualification of being the most absurd in every category. Some have done him a disservice by saying that he believed all religion to be absurd, as if that was the final point, but fail to complete the thought: Christianity is the most absurd, thus the religion that is worth pursuing membership within.
It may sound crazy, but…
Christianity says there is a God, and simultaneously says there is no God. Meaning: when we affirm we worship the God revealed in Jesus, the life of Jesus is so distinct that it necessarily destroys the image of the idol, whether that be material or sacrificial.
It was the person of Abraham in his book Fear and Trembling which he would use as a case study for the life of faith. According to Kierkegaard, telling the ending before the beginning is a way of protecting people from the total anxiety and agony of obeying God when it seems our modern ethical sensibilities would disapprove. The attempted sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham is considering a Sunday school classic, but have we forgotten the actual test the man went through to pull up the knife with the intent of killing his only high-born (Game of Thrones reference) son?
How else are we supposed to use the lives of the saints to shape the moral character of church members if we tell them that, “it’s all going to be fine, just wait..”
Honestly, paying attention to the ending before dealing with the beginning or the middle can get one in a lot of trouble, so people go to church and hear that everything that happens in their lives have a purpose from God. And when you are a middle-class student whose worst day is a bad school grade, this theology works for you. But when your God-fearing mother dies of large tumors surrounding her brain, this explanation doesn’t seem to work anymore.
I want to argue that this has occurred in the form of additional bracketing that I think is beautiful but cause us to read the final scene of the first historically recorded gospel the early church was handed in written form. This occurs in Mark 16.
Now, I’m not going to go into all of the details as to how this massive chunk of scripture got imported to the end of Mark 16, mainly because I am not necessarily a biblical scholar or strong historian. I may be a more well-read individuals as compared to some of my peers, but I am not the expert. My interest is within the text, which we must unearth from the burial of interpretation.
To be continued.