A Prayer for the (Provisional) Feast Day of Søren Kierkegaard

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Heavenly Father, whose beloved Son Jesus Christ felt sorrow and dread in the Garden of Gethsemane: Help us to remember that though we walk through the valley of the shadow, thou art always with us, that with thy philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, we may believe what we have not seen and trust where we cannot test, and so come at length to the eternal joy which thou hast prepared for those who love thee; through the same Jesus Christ our Savior, who livest and reignest with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch HistorySpirituality/Prayer* Culture-WatchPhilosophy* International News & CommentaryEuropeDenmark

Posted September 8, 2010 at 5:29 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Terry Tee wrote:

Umm ... at first I thought this was a spoof.  I am still not entirely sure.  The respectful prayer language makes me think it is genuine.  But Kierkegaard?  Is he now lifted to the pantheon of the Episcopal Church?  Can anyone out there enlighten me?  Some people think the Great Dane was the father of existentialism who turned angst into the foundation of the life of faith.  Others think he was simply very, very depressed.

September 8, 7:41 am | [comment link]
2. J. Champlin wrote:

I am a minor league Kierkegaard fan.  He is first and foremost a theologian; it’s an historical accident that he becomes the father of existentialism (as a professor of mine said, retroactive paternity is a little odd).  Terry Tee, in Kierkegaard angst is not the foundation of faith.  It follows from the decision to embrace the objective uncertainty of faith with a “passionate” subjectivity—with myself, entirely, nothing held back.  Angst, but joy is a result as well; so is suffering.  Kierkegaard is no more depressed than anyone who preaches the cross.  However, after that mouthful, I really wonder about creating a calendar observance.  If we’re going to observe Kierkegaard, why not Schleiermacher, or Hegel, or Kant?  Why not Tillich, or Reinhold Niebuhr, or Barth (actually, you could make a pretty good case for those last two)?  We should commemorate theologians whose lives are fundamentally engaged with the church; who write in and for the church.  Thus, correctly, Bonhoeffer; as much as Kierkegaard is brilliant, often deeply moving, and a good spiritual guide, I’m not sure he rises to that level.

September 8, 1:42 pm | [comment link]
3. Terry Tee wrote:

Dear J Champlin:  Admittedly there are parts of Kierkegaard that speak powerfully to us today.  For example, his typology of aesthetic Christianity fits perfectly a stream of ‘cultural Christianity’ which loves the ceremonies, the architecture, the tradition, but takes a pass on the doctrine.  We can also admire his skewering of the Hegelian optimism of his times (which was more or less finished off by the First World War) because it reminds us that any metatheology that does not take sin seriously is dangerously deficient.  However, it is always difficult to read Kierkegaard without taking into account the biography.  It is always tricky to argue ad hominem but what can you say about a man who, engaged to a good woman, breaks her heart and finishes off all possibility of his own happiness by ending the engagement for no good reason?  Or who thinks that a single episode of cursing God may have doomed him?  These episodes point to a deeper problem with depression which coloured his thinking too much.

I am with you on Bonhoeffer and Barth.  Sorry, no Tillich (again, ad hominem factors and no Reihhold Niebuhr (does not transcend his national culture).

September 8, 2:08 pm | [comment link]
4. J. Champlin wrote:

Terry Tee—thanks for your good response.  The list of names was actually an argument against commemorating Kierkegaard—much as I love Tillich as an historian of philosophy and theology, I’d have a real hard time making a case for a commemoration of him for the reasons you alluded to.

September 8, 2:40 pm | [comment link]
5. A Senior Priest wrote:

I’m just grateful that there’s no provision for formal canonization a la the RCs and Orthodox. Then it would be worse. Anglicans have terribly low standards in general I guess, but it always surprises and saddens me.

September 8, 7:48 pm | [comment link]
6. justinmartyr wrote:

Senior Priest, have you read much Kierkergaard?

September 8, 8:12 pm | [comment link]
7. A Senior Priest wrote:

Yes. I went to TEC seminary and he was inescapable. Undoubtedly a major thinker at a certain time and place. I was merely pointing out that the standards for canonization are generally way lower in Anglican circles than in RC and Orthodoxy. These days where is heroic sanctity as a necessity for addition?  The RCs have people like Mother Teresa and Orthodox have John Maximovich, as recent examples. TEC in particular adds a big bunch of politically correct and affirmative action candidates to their calendar, along with anyone they want to from other confessions… RC, Danish Lutheran (in this instance), you name it and they imperialistically add ‘em to their calendar.

September 9, 1:11 am | [comment link]
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