“Faith” In Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling, Part IV

Final section of my short series on Kierkegaard and his concept of faith. Feel free to comment, I’d always love to hear your thoughts.

As I mentioned at the very onset of my paper, despite the fact that Johannes does not desire to be a biblical exegete he is interpreting Scripture and if he does so in a faulty manner he will arrive at a faulty definition of faith. Perhaps his only mistake, which proves to be fatal, in his exegesis is that he seems to forget the greater context of the passage. This is also perhaps the strongest point in favor of my definition of faith. Consider the greater context, the story of Abraham and Isaac takes place in chapter 22 of Genesis. In chapter 12 of Genesis G-d makes a covenant with Abraham. For the next ten chapters G-d leads Abraham through foreign countries and remains faithful the promise he made to Abraham. We would do well to remember that these are not small trials that G-d protects Abraham through either. In the ten chapters G-d leads Abraham through Egypt and keeps his family safe from Pharaoh. G-d blesses the land in which Abraham entered after Lot chose what appeared to be the more fruitful land. G-d protects Abraham in his pursuit of his nephew and gives the king of Sodom into Abraham’s hand. G-d grants Abraham a son long after childbearing years for either he or his wife. G-d delivers Abraham again as he passes through foreign lands. Than, after all this G-d does the unthinkable and asks Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, his only son, the one through whom the promised nation was to come. Considered in this light, is Abraham’s obedience really unintelligible? Is not Abraham acting on what is an established trustworthy authority? Cease to examine the Abraham story and look instead at the broader context and Scripture and one will notice that all those who exercised faith were indeed acting on a trustworthy authority. One objection that has been raised to this statement is that Rahab did not have any past experiences with G-d and perhaps did not act on this definition of faith. But again, did not Rahab hear of the countless surprising victories racked up by the Israelites prior to their arrival outsider her city? Is it not likely that her faith was based on the witness of those bearing the stories of the Israelites victories? From their trusted witness she chose to place faith in the Israelites G-d who was clearly more powerful than the gods of her land? As earnest and honest as Johannes is, it seems that his definition of faith does not properly interpret what is actually going on in the Abraham story.

The main problem for Johannes’ definition is that it does not sufficiently emphasize that faith is based on, not identical to, trustworthy authority. His definition and account is compelling, but given his slight misinterpretation of the biblical text, his definition of faith lacks any basis in reason. My definition places a healthy emphasis on the reasonable basis for faith as well sufficiently explaining what occurs in the biblical text, particularly in light of its context. Johannes’ definition is useful but is a dangerous one to embrace, simply because it results in an irrational, unintelligible kind of faith. So in conclusion I submit my definition of faith is more sufficient because it is grounded in a certain amount of reasonability, that reasonability based in a witness or experience found to be a trustworthy authority.

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