Sunday, April 11, 2010

Modern Faith?

Our study of Kierkegaard has undoubtedly provided us with a stronger, if not better case for faith. For me, accepting faith is made easiest when presented from an existential point of view. Clearly this is what Kierkegaard does so well, as he emphasizes the individual importance of faith. Additionally, what’s better is how faith can now be understood for what it is, and not for what we make it be. Meaning faith, as we read in Kierkegaard, is no longer limited to be only a part of the religious experience, but rather a religious experience itself (I don’t mean religious as something affiliated with a certain denomination or practice, but rather as Kierkegaard intended by that which supersedes the universal).

However, in closing our study of Kierkegaard, I’ve discovered a personal concern that I find impelled to expresses. What is modern faith and more importantly what does modern faith look like? This is something that poses a big concern for me, as my refined understanding of faith (thanks to Kierkegaard) lacks a modern application of faith (thanks to Kierkegaard). Fortunately Kierkegaard provides us with an appropriate story of true faith in Fear and Trembling (i.e. Abraham and Isaac), but unfortunately, I don’t know of another case where true faith is exemplified, at least according to Kiekegaardian faith. This leads me to question then how true faith manifest itself today? If my understanding of faith is on par with Kierkegaard’s, then I want to believe someone who says God told him/her to murder his/her only child, yet obviously I cannot and I would even question whether or not that person indeed experienced an act of faith.

One of the common arguments against Kierkegaard’s conception of faith is that faith is limited only to the one experiencing it. In part this leaves all others excluded from that one persons act of faith. Thus because of faith’s high relativity, it cannot be accepted as something sound and worthwhile. Yet this is exactly what Kierkegaard is refuting by saying that faith is purely relative and not meant to be understood within the confines of humankind’s universal conception of ethics or morality.

Although Kierkegaard’s argument for faith is highly compelling, its frustrating to find a modern application (i.e. not biblical) of faith. My point is not to discredit faith, but find a legitimate starting point in pursing faith. Yet is this possible in a society where faith is so frowned upon for its relative nature. Perhaps, I’m more confused with faith than I am convinced.


  1. I think I understand your concern, but I am not sure it is necessary. One quick point, I don’t mean to split hairs but in your last paragraph you mentioned how faith was relativistic. I don’t believe this is the case, it only appears relative because it cannot be understood by anyone other than the one experiencing it. As to your concern as to how it applies current times, I would argue that nothing has changed. Society must operate as if faith doesn’t exist because society can never know when it truly occurs. If someone were to kill their son today, and claim it was done in faith per God’s instructions, it would still be society’s obligation to imprison that person whether or not God did actually tell them to do so. Society can never differentiate between those who kill (or do anything that opposes the universal) on God’s instruction, and those who do it for whatever other reason.

  2. Yeah Kyle, I wonder what modern faith looks like. I suppose I agree with Paul that it is exactly the same as described in Kierkegaard: hidden from our understanding. The fact of that matter is that none of us will "get it" until we are called upon and burdened as such. Furthermore, it is difficult to conceptualize a truth that we cannot know, but I suppose that that is the challenge.


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