The beginnings of a reverie – sermon on the sacrifice of Isaac by his father Abraham.
If a human being is originally able to understand the Truth, he thinks that God exists in and with his own existence. But if he is in error he must comprehend this fact in his thinking, and recollection will not be able to help him further than to think that, whether he is to advance beyond this point, the Moment must decide.
Sin means to be in despair at not willing to be oneself, or to be in despair at willing to be oneself. The lives of most men, being determined by a dialectic of indifference, are so remote from the good (that is, faith) that they are almost too spiritless to be called sinners, almost too spiritless to be called despairers.
In relation to the eternal, a man ages neither in the sense of time nor in the sense of an accumulation of past events. There is something eternal in a man, and the eternal must be able to exist and to be grasped within every change.
The three forms of despair: not being conscious of having a self, not willing to be oneself, but also despair at willing to be oneself. Despair is “sickness unto death.”
The man who wills the Good in truth must be willing to suffer all for the Good.
The sufferer who wills the Good sincerely, uses this cleverness to cut off evasions and hence to launch himself into the commitment and to escape the disillusionments of choosing the temporal way.
Kierkegaard asks the reader: “What kind of life do you live, do you will only one thing, and what is this one thing?
The author asks the reader: Do you live in such a way that you are conscious of being an individual?
It is not whether your work is great or mean, whether you are a king or only a laborer, nor earning a great deal of money or gaining power, prestige or fame. What is important is whether your occupation is great or mean. Do you dare think of your occupation it as a responsibility for eternity?
Only the individual can truthfully will the Good. For he is in touch with the demand that calls for purity of heart by willing only one thing.
A definition of faith: “By relating itself to its own self and by willing to be itself, the self is grounded transparently in the Power which constituted it.” This means we must not despair over despairing about our sins, nor must we abandon faith and instead substitute indifference.
The story of Abraham has the remarkable property that it is always glorious, however poorly one may understand it. The ethical expression for what Abraham did is that he would murder Isaac, and the religious expression is that he would sacrifice Isaac. Abraham had to live with this contradiction which could make a man sleepless. But Abraham is not what he is without this dread.
Remorse is a guide that calls out to the wanderer that he should take care. In confession one becomes at one with himself.
The cause of all suffering is love, precisely because God is not jealous for himself, but desires in love to be the equal of the humblest. It is only in love that the unequal can be made equal, and it is only in equality or unity that an understanding of God can be achieved.
A man’s life is wasted when he lives on, so deceived by the joys of life or by its sorrows, that he never becomes decisively conscious of himself as spirit, as self, that is, he never is aware in the deepest sense that there is a God.
In every instant a self exists and is in the process of becoming. The self does not actually “exist,” but is only that which it is to become. In so far as the self does not become itself, it is not its own self, and not to be one’s own self is despair.
To will one thing can only mean to will the good, because every other object is not a unity. The will that only wills that another object, therefore, must become double-minded.
The dialectical consequences in the story of Abraham are expressed here in the form of problemata in order to see what a tremendous paradox faith is, for this story presents the paradox which gives Isaac back to Abraham, which no thought can master, because faith begins precisely there where thinking leaves off.
One should not think slightingly of the paradoxical, for the paradox is the source of the thinker’s passion A thinker without paradox is like a lover without feeling — a paltry mediocrity.
If a man can will one thing, then he must will the Good, for the Good alone is one.
The knight of faith is obliged to rely upon himself alone, he feels the pain of not being able to make himself intelligible to others, but he feels no vain desire to guide others.
God’s presence is not accidental in relation to his teaching, but is essential to it. God’s presence in human form, in the humble form of a servant, is itself the teaching. Such a forerunner may then serve to arouse the learner’s attention, though nothing more.
If a man wills only the Good out of fear of being punished he does not will one thing. Such a man is double-minded.
Abraham’s conduct is indefensible for he paid no heed to the intermediate ethical determinants. But in the face of his concealment, we are in the presence of a paradox which cannot be mediated, for it rests on the fact that the individual is higher than the universal.
Consequences founded on a paradox are built over a yawning chasm, and their total content, which can be transmitted to the individual only with the express understanding that they rest upon a paradox, are not to be appropriated as a settled estate, for their entire value trembles in the balance.
If a man wills the Good and wills its victory out of self-centered willfulness he does not will one thing. He is double-minded.
The person who only wills the Good up to a certain degree is double-minded.
If a man wills the good in truth, then he must be willing to do all for the good or be willing to suffer all for the good.
The one who wills the Good puts cleverness to an inward use in order to prevent all evasions, and thereby to help him enter into and persist in the commitment.
Faith is the highest passion in a man. There are perhaps many in every generation who do not even reach it, but no one gets further. But for the man also who does not so much as reach faith, life has tasks enough, and if one loves them sincerely, life will by no means be wasted.
(ENTIRE BOOK) The great mid-nineteenth century Danish poet-philosopher, in this classic philosophical text, explores, through the story of Abraham and his willing sacrifice of his son Issac, the nature of belief. It is in this text that Kierkegaard most clearly reveals his philosophical “leap of faith.”
Is the past more necessary than the future? Or, when the possible becomes actual, is it thereby made more necessary than it was?
Only the Christian knows what is meant by the sickness unto death. As a Christian he acquires a courage which the natural man does not know. This courage he acquires by learning to fear the still more dreadful.
(ENTIRE BOOK) One of Kierkegaard’s most important works (published in English in 1936) in which he is principally concerned with the problem of how the Christian revelation, appearing in history, may be appropriated. He uses the pseudonym “Johannes Climacus.”
Despair is the sickness, not the cure. In Christian terminology death is the expression for the greatest spiritual sickness, and the cure is simply to die, to “die from” despair.
Kierkegaard, writing under a pseudonym (Johannes De Silentio), aims ironic criticism his own work. He claims the “writer” is nothing of a philosopher, has not understood “the System,” and does not know whether it actually exists.
Kierkegaard, writing under the pseudonym Johannes Climacus, explains his inadequacy in this task and the lack of his writing fitting the philosophical movements of his day.
A woman doing needlework on an altar cloth does not want the work admired or criticized, but rather that the intent of the work is that it be seen for its higher purpose. Kierkegaard desires his writing receive the same attention.
The story of Abraham is given a Kierkegaardian turn, full of paradoxes and inconsistencies. Abraham could not comprehend that it was a sin to be willing to offer to God the best thing he possessed — his own son Isaac.
(ENTIRE BOOK) In this devotional classic, Kierkegaard seeks to rescue the individual from “massification” by compelling him to stand alone before God.. This calls for a costly abandonment of the old securities and the building of new foundations for faith — to will one thing.
The purpose of this essay is to provide an introductory comparison of the writings of Søren Kierkegaard and René Girard. To my knowledge, a substantial secondary article or book has not been written on this subject. Girard’s writings themselves contain only a handful of references to Kierkegaard. This deficiency is unfortunate, since, as I hope …
(ENTIRE BOOK) A classic written by one of the nineteenth century’s greatest theologians. Christian must think dauntlessly about everything both earthly and worldly, including death and its relation to living an authentic life.
A helpful summary of Kierketaard’s basic positions, written by an outstanding scholar of his work. Douglass Steere was Professor of philosophy at Haverford College.