Leap of faith

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…Kierkegaard set forth…the “stages along life’s way”…. These stages appear throughout Kierkegaard’s dialectical writings and, though there are sometimes more than four, the most prominent designations are: the Aesthetic Stage, the Ethical Stage, Religiousness A, and Religiousness B. Since these stages are cumulative, the later stages include the features of the previous stages transformed by “the leap” that moves the individual from one stage to the next. Since the decisive turning point for Kierkegaard is between Religiousness A and Religiousness B (Christianity), we will focus this discussion on these two stages and “the leap of faith” that makes the transition from A to B.

Before proceeding further, we should remember that Kierkegaard’s dialectic…is not the Hegelian version in which thesis and antithesis move systematically into a synthesis of a higher order, including but transcending both foregoing thesis and antithesis. Kierkegaard recognizes the existential power of opposites in tension, but he insists that smooth transition to a high-order synthesis not only is a violation of the ontology of human nature, but is fundamentally contrary to Christianity. The opposites, in his view, must be held passionately in tension; indeed, authentic self-understanding short of faith—Religiousness A—consists in full recognition that the tension has broken and given way to a deep dichotomous condition which is pervasive throughout human nature. The French existentialists, such as J. P. Sartre and the early Camus, and to some extent the German philosopher Heidegger, have recognized the power of Kierkegaard’s claim and made this human anguish descriptive of all human existence. The French especially have elaborated the absurdity of existence (apart from Christ) very effectively. In and by itself, human existence is indeed absurd and full of despair. Even if one seeks an “eternal happiness” in this broken form of existence and posits a God, the only God that despair will allow is totally inaccessible. This aspect of Kierkegaard recognized in the early works of Barth led to Barth’s description of God as “wholly other.” Thus, for Kierkegaard, passionate unresolvable dialectical opposition is the given human condition. Furthermore, for one to become fully conscious of this condition before the radically inaccessible God generates the intense passion and profound humor of Religiousness A.

Only from the standpoint of this stage is the full import of the contradiction which the God-man poses for human nature evident. The contradiction is that, given the dialectical opposition between existence and eternity, it is a major offense to the anguish of this assumption that God, the eternal One, should take on the fullness of human nature and yet remain fully God. The offense is maximized when it is further claimed that this God-man not only exposes the dichotomy between eternity and existence (Religiousness A) as an ontological error about what it means to be human, but also proposes to bestow his nature upon the believer, if the believer would so choose or take “the leap of faith.” In Kierkegaard’s words, the contradiction is that one’s eternal blessedness in time may be based upon a relationship to something else in time that is simultaneously eternal.

Thus, for Kierkegaard, the fundamental issue in what it means to be human is drawn out clearly in the ultimate dichotomy between A and B. This issue is precisely the core of the relationship between human existence and the eternal when they are mutually distorting, as in despair (A), and when both are fully real and simultaneously present in a singular location (B). This later condition refers first to the historical singularity of the incarnation in Jesus Christ and, second, to the singularity of an individual when by faith the tensive unity between the existential and the eternal is restored.

(James Loder, The Knight’s Move, p. 92f)

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And this, friends, is the contradiction (which just is the space over which faith must leap) that open theists, while laying claim to a proposition about God’s ‘knowledge of the world’ which in itself is defensible and probably right, will not embrace, and in not embracing reject a far more consequential truth – the Christological nature (or better, the Christological content) of that contradiction which defines Christianity as faith. It is too “offensive” a leap (in the Kierkegaardian sense).

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