How Would you Answer the Akedah? (Søren Kierkegaard)

Sketch of Søren Kierkegaard. Based on a sketch...
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Since it is way out of copyright dating (with Søren Kierkegaard publishing it in 1843) I could just post the entire thing, but I won’t. You can, however, find it here.

If a consciousness of the eternal were not implanted in man; if the basis of all that exists were but a confusedly fermenting element which, convulsed by obscure passions, Produced all, both the great and the insignificant; if under everything there lay a bottomless void never to be filled what else were life but despair? If it were thus, and if there were no sacred bonds between man and man; if one generation arose after another, as in the forest the leaves of one season succeed the leaves of another, or like the songs of birds which are taken up one after another; if the generations of man passed through the world like a ship passing through the sea and the wind over the desert—a fruitless and a vain thing; if eternal oblivion were ever greedily watching for its prey and there existed no power strong enough to wrest it from its clutches—how empty were life then, and how dismal! And therefore it is not thus; but, just as God created man and woman, he likewise called into being the hero and the poet or orator. The latter cannot perform the deeds of the hero—he can only admire and love him and rejoice in him. And yet he also is happy and not less so; for the hero is, as it were, his better self with which he has fallen in love, and he is glad he is not himself the hero, so that his love can express itself in admiration.

But, how would you answer Abraham’s call? Or any of the other ‘immoral’ acts asked for by God in the Old Testament? Could you so willingly bring your son to the altar – your only son, the son of your promise from God – with the full intention of murdering him for a God who had never once asked for a human sacrifice?

Anyway, read Kierkegaard…

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15 Replies to “How Would you Answer the Akedah? (Søren Kierkegaard)”

  1. “How did I get into the world? Why was I not asked about it and why was I not informed of the rules and regulations but just thrust into the ranks as if I had been bought by a peddling shanghaier of human beings? How did I get involved in this big enterprise called actuality? Why should I be involved? Isn’t it a matter of choice? And if I am compelled to be involved, where is the manager—I have something to say about this. Is there no manager? To whom shall I make my complaint?”
    — Søren Kierkegaard

  2. “I have just come from a party where I was the life and soul. Witticisms flows from my lips. Everyone laughed and admired me – but I left, yes, that dash should be as long as the radii of the earth’s orbit ———— and I wanted to shoot myself.”
    – Søren Kierkegaard, journal entry [cited by Alastair Hannay in Kierkegaard: a biography

  3. “No, I won’t leave the world–I’ll enter a lunatic asylum and see if the profundity of insanity reveals to me the riddles of life. Idiot, why didn’t I do that long ago, why has it taken me so long to understand what it means when the Indians honour the insane, step aside for them? Yes, a lunatic asylum–don’t you think I may end up there?”
    — Søren Kierkegaard

  4. “A strange thing happened to me in my dream. I was rapt into the Seventh Heaven. There sat all the gods assembled. As a special dispensation I was granted the favor to have one wish. “Do you wish for youth,” said Mercury, “or for beauty, or power, or a long life; or do you wish for the most beautiful woman, or any other of the many fine things we have in our treasure trove? Choose, but only one thing!” For a moment I was at a loss. Then I addressed the gods in this wise: “Most honorable contemporaries, I choose one thing — that I may always have the laughs on my side.” Not one god made answer, but all began to laugh. From this I concluded that my wish had been granted and thought that the gods knew how to express themselves with good taste: for it would surely have been inappropriate to answer gravely: your wish has been granted.”
    — Søren Kierkegaard

  5. “The matter is quite simple. The bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. How would I ever get on in the world? Herein lies the real place of Christian scholarship. Christian scholarship is the Church’s prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close. Oh, priceless scholarship, what would we do without you? Dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God. Yes it is even dreadful to be alone with the New Testament.”
    — Søren Kierkegaard

  6. “To defend something is always to discredit it. Let a man have a warehouse full of gold, let him be willing to give away a ducat to every one of the poor – but let him also be stupid enough to begin this charitable undertaking of his with a defense in which he offers three good reasons in justification; and it will almost come to the point of people finding it doubtful whether indeed he is doing something good. But now for Christianity. Yes, the person who defends that has never believed in it.”
    — Søren Kierkegaard (The Sickness Unto Death)

    C. S. Lewis said something similar:

    “I envy you not having to think any more about Christian apologetics. My correspondents force the subject on me again and again. It is very wearing, and not v. good for one’s own faith. A Christian doctrine never seems less real to me than when I have just (even if successfully) been defending it. It is particularly tormenting when those who were converted by my books begin to relapse and raise new difficulties.”
    — C. S. Lewis to Mary Van Deusen, June 18, 1956, The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Volume III, p. 762.

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