Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Limits of Faith

In Fear and Trembling, Kierkegaard, or rather his pseudonym, Johannes de Silentio, shares the idea of the individual as it deals with the universal. One of the main themes that consistently runs throughout Fear and Trembling is the theme of the universal versus the ethical. By telling and retelling the story of Abraham and Isaac, the author (or storyteller? narrator?) provides a variety of different ways of approaching this story of a Knight of Faith. While clearly it is an agonizing decision for Abraham to follow through with God’s plan, he knows that in the end, God will make sure that everything works out just fine. This ordeal truly is a test of faith, a leap of faith, if you will. Basically, it would seem that the overall moral of the story is that our biggest goal as an individual is to forgo our personal individuality, and to be able to reach out and connect with the universal. In doing so, one’s actions no longer are for personal immediate gratification, but for the greater good as it were. The personal type relationship with God, is actually considered to be individual for it is between the individual and God. The Knight of Faith, like Abraham, must be willing to deal with the absurd, the paradox, and the anxiety that comes with uncertainty in the relationship. As someone who has never had any type of major religious experience, especially not to a Biblical, Knight of Faith inspired extent, the idea that a single individual person can join with God in a personal, private, universal relationship fascinates me. I suppose, having gone to religious-based schools for a large portion of my educational career and having daily interactions with religious figures like nuns and priests I can appreciate the hard work and devotion that goes into forming this type of relationship. Even so, I still have a difficult time imagining having a relationship with God that is that intense, much less one that requires such a leap of faith, one that transcends the ethical. I had commented on another post and said that I would be interested in what a very religious person would say if a situation like Abraham and Isaac’s were to happen in present day. I can’t help but wonder if their similar faith would allow them to sympathize with the so-called criminal, or if they could just sympathize yet still have serious doubts about the action. I like the idea of being able to have such strong faith and trust in God, but if faced with the judgment of an individual like Abraham, I really can’t say whether or not my faith would be strong enough to keep me from punishing them.


  1. I'm not sure we're meant to reserve judgment on Abraham. In fact, I think Kierkegaard would say that being judged is part of the test of the knight of faith. It's hard enough for Abraham to deal with what he can't understand, let alone accept his challenge from god without this understanding, so I don't suppose an individual like Abraham would be shocked or even against being judged for his actions in the ethical realm. I think he knows that his actions would be considered wrong and deserve punishment; part of his trial is dealing with the judgment he puts on himself for such an action and trusting god through the process.

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