September 8: Søren Kierkegaard; Teacher and Philosopher, 1855
September 8, 2010 13 Comments
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About this commemoration
One of the most influential philosophers of the nineteenth century, Søren Kierkegaard, the son of a devout Lutheran, spent most of his life in Copenhagen. As a young man, he studied Latin, history, and theology, though he was particularly drawn to philosophy and literature, and his works are remarkable in part for his deft blending and treatment of theological, literary, and philosophical themes.
In 1841 he proposed to Regine Olsen, but self-doubt about his suitability for marriage led him to break off the engagement. The event was greatly influential on his life and his works. From 1843 until his death in 1855, Kierkegaard was a prolific writer. Sometimes referred to as the “Father of Existentialism,” Kierkegaard is known for his concept of “the leap of faith,” his understanding of how a person’s beliefs and actions are based not on evidence, of which there can never be enough, but on the willingness to take the leap despite that lack of evidence. He explored this theme in works such as Fear and Trembling, Repetition, and Stages on Life’s Way.
For most of his life, Kierkegaard was critical of established religion, which he felt substituted human desire for God’s law. In 1854, he published several articles which attacked what he saw as the selfishness of many leaders of the institutional church. His criticism of the church as an institution, however, should not be confused with the absence of faith or the lack of trust in the ethical teachings of the Christian Gospel.
His religious and theological works, such as Practice in Christianity and Christian Discourses, though sometimes overlooked, show his profound understanding of the significance of the teaching and sacrificial death of Jesus Christ and of the human call to live in imitation of the selfless, sacrificial life of Jesus. His work was influential on philosophers such as Martin Heidegger and on theologians such as Karl Barth. His challenges to the Church remain powerful reminders of the institution’s call to pattern its common life according the teaching of its founder, Jesus Christ.
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 liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
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, you are always with us, that with your 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 you have prepared for those who love you; through the same Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
1 Timothy 1:12–17
Preface of a Saint (2)
Text From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.
We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?
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