September 8: Søren Kierkegaard; Teacher and Philosopher, 1855

Welcome to the Holy Women, Holy Men blog! We invite you to read about this commemoration, use the collect and lessons in prayer, whether individually or in corporate worship, and then tell us what you think. For more information about this project, click here.

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.

COLLECTS

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.

Lessons

Exodus 33:14–23

1 Timothy 1:12–17

Matthew 9:20–22

Psalm 22:1–11

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?

If you’d like to participate in the official online trial use survey, click here. For more information about the survey, click here.

To post a comment, your first and last name and email address are required. Your name will be published; your email address will not. The first time you post, a moderator will need to approve your submission; after that, your comments will appear automatically

13 Responses to September 8: Søren Kierkegaard; Teacher and Philosopher, 1855

  1. Michael Hartney says:

    New Gospel: It is just 3 verses re: the healing of the woman with hemorrhages. Does this really fit this commemoration?

    Bio: When was he born? And, ‘He died in 1855.’ could be added.

    Paired today with Nikolai Grundtvig raises the oft-repeated question on the blog … why are we observing two persons on one day? Yes, you can pick which one you want to observe. But if both persons have equal value to be included in HWHM it invariably means that one will be short-changed. Let’s go back to one a day. That’s my opinion.

  2. I’ve been wondering about the choice of date for Kierkegaard for quite a while; he’s one of my favorites and I’m not sure why Sep. 8 was picked. The date of his failed engagement?

  3. Suzanne Sauter says:

    I was going to hold by tongue but I just cannot. It is Soren Kierkegaard’s birth date which is not mentioned, not even his birth year, 1819. He was still quite young when he died.

    I see no links between Kierkegaard and Grundtvig besides being Danes. Kierkegaard rejected the state Lutheran church and Grundtvig seems to have been a hymnwriter for the official church. If their commemorations are retained, should these two men not have different days?

  4. Steve Lusk says:

    Why Kierkegaard, but not Schleiermacher, Kant, Hegel, or looking back a bit farther, Origen, John Scotus Erigena, John Duns Scotus, Abelard, Heloise, Okham, or Tillotson? I think you can make a case that almost any of those had a greater impact on Anglican thought than Kierkegaard, although I will admit he’s funnier than most of the others.
    And please no double feasts unless those honored were in fact equal collaborators on some great project or won the crown of martyrdom as “X and her companions.” Gilbert and Sullivan can share a date, but not Bach and Purcell.
    (And, no, I’m not advocating adding the Savoyards to the calendar — although I find their music and lyrics far more inspirational than Bach, Handel, and Purcell’s — just using them as an example of the sort of collaboration that I think justifies a shared date.)

    • Michael Hartney says:

      Steve.

      You had me until you dissed the music and lyrics of Bach, Handel and Purcell. 😦
      But over, please know that I agree.🙂

  5. Randall Warren says:

    I am thrilled to have Kierkegaard among our commemorations. Those of us who have been influenced by existentialism and phenomenology deeply appreciate his inclusion.

    It would be nice to have a brief explanation of Kierkegaard in his biography. Perhaps what James Kiefer wrote on his page could be edited and used, Kiefer wrote: “Traditional philosophers (sometimes called “essentialists” to distinguish them from Kierkegaard and other “existentialists”) are like a man sitting in an upper window overlooking the street and watching a parade go by, and undertaking to describe the parade, noting the various components of the parade and how they interact. But man is not really like a bystander watching a parade. He is like someone who, not by his own choice, is marching in the parade. And this is crucial to his experience of the parade. One cannot distinguish the observer from the observed, subject from object.”

  6. Nigel Renton says:

    After “Kierkegaard” in line 2 of the first paragraph, add “born in 1813”.

    The two works listed in the fourth paragraph should be reversed, to put them in datal order. (1848 and 1850 respectively.)

    Add the word “to” after “according” in the last line of the fourth paragraph.

  7. Tom Broad says:

    I too am thrilled to see Søren Kierkegaard in MWMH and hope that if days are shuffled that he will remain.

    Only one comment on the commentary. It ends: “His challenges to the Church remain powerful reminders of the institution’s call to pattern its common life according to the teaching of its founder, Jesus Christ.” Perhaps a more accurate ending would be “… according to the teachings of Jesus Christ.”

  8. Pingback: September 8: Søren Kierkegaard; Teacher and Philosopher, 1855

  9. celindascott says:

    Why is he being omitted from the calendar?

    • Ruth Meyers says:

      While Kierkegaard is an admirable figure and has a certain importance for current theological thought, the commission was concerned that adding him would require the addition of a large number of other philosophers equally significant to theology past and present.

  10. celindascott says:

    Thanks, Dr. Meyers. Makes sense. About current theological thought–I “met” Kierkegaard 60 years ago, when I first heard about the difference between “essentialism/Platonism” and “existentialism” and identified with Christian existentialism. Does “current” mean post-17th century, which I think–in some contexts–“modern” means?

    Personal note: we have a Danish daughter-in-law and their first son (now 24) named Søren. I was thrilled when they named him because of Kierkegaard. We happened to be in Denmark for Kierkegaard’s bicentennial because our son and daughter-in-law celebrated their 25th anniversary there.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: