paradox of faith

I have been reading Fear and Trembling more. I am surprised (pleasantly) by the repeating of the phrase “paradox of faith” by SK. Ultimately for SK the issue is a question of right ordered relationship. Maybe in Augustinian terms, order love vs disordered love? For SK, the single individual stands before God alone without appeal to the universal (morality). The single individual’s relationship with God is absolute – there is nothing above it, nothing that defines it in terms of action.

So here is a quote:

The paradox of faith then is this, that the single individual is higher than the universal, that the single individual, to recall a now rather rare theological distinction, determines his relation to the universal by his relation to the absolute, not his relation to the absolute by his relation to the universal.

Fear and Trembling

Not by doing the right thing does one become a follower of Jesus but a follower of Jesus does the right thing. And that is the paradox of faith – to live in the tension of absolute relationship.

knight of faith

One of the books I often return to reading is SK’s Fear and Trembling. The first time I read it, like most of SK’s writings, it was confusing and seemed very repetitive. But on reflection, I think it has some great insights – also like most of SK’s writings.

One I have been thinking about is the Knight of Faith – especially the relationship between the Knight of Faith and the knight of infinite resignation. Or, to put it differently, the “double movement” of faith of surrender followed by “receiving”.

Many people get to Lent and wonder what they should “give up”. Few ask, “what should I open myself to receive?”

I have been thinking about that double movement in the context of religious life – a life of faith. People see the singleness, the “enclosure”, and the rules. “I could not give all that up”, many people think. What they do not see is the ”me”, the space, and the freedom that is received. And the person who returns into the world in Jesus’ secret service.

Anyway, enjoy the comic strip!

the paradox of the solitary

Thus the position of the monastic recluse had developed into a far more socially symbolic and responsible one: on the one hand he was now locked up within a cell deep within the monastery itself in order to concentrate wholly on God; on the other, the local community had access to that cell in order to receive his advice, counselling and accumulated wisdom.

It reminds me of the Kierkegaard quote:

Of this there is no doubt, our age and Protestantism in general may need the monastery again, or wish it were there. The “monastery” is an essential dialectical element in Christianity. We therefore need it out there like a navigation buoy at sea in order to see where we are, even though I myself would not enter it. But if there really is true Christianity in every generation, there must also be individuals who have this need . . .

am i a criminal?

In antiquity as well as in the Middle Ages there was an awareness of this longing for solitude and a respect for what [solitude] means; whereas in the constant sociality of our day we shrink from solitude to the point (what a capital epigram!) that no use for it is known other than as a punishment for criminals. But since it is a crime in our day to have spirit, it is indeed quite in order to classify such people, lovers of solitude, with criminals.


I was reminded of the above quote from Sickness unto Death. The analogue that SK draws is really interesting. And, maybe, even more true today.

I am just a criminal who needs to be locked up for loving Jesus. And that is my understanding of heaven – Jesus and me alone!

being me?

… the terms of salvation differ for every individual, ever single solitary human being. There is a general proclamation of Christianity, but far as the conditions of salvation are concerned every single individual must relate to God as a single individual.

Journals 1854

to think?

This, then, is the ultimate paradox of thought: to want to discover something that thought itself cannot think.


Augustine speaks about thinking about forgetting. We live with this paradox everyday.


The only way of coming to know and understand the divine, therefore, is by the god annulling the absolute difference in absolute equality in the absolute paradox of the incarnation.

Sylvia Walsh. Kierkegaard: Thinking Christianly in an Existential Mode

I have quoted the above previously on this blog. I was thinking about it in the broader context of my life. It does use “absolute” a lot but it is necessary. There is no room for a “god of the gaps” in Christianity. I like that it places the incarnation at the centre – or, maybe, it places Jesus at the centre – of all “Christian thinking”. Kierkegaard’s language, of placing Jesus as the absolute telos of our life.

Also: the “absolute difference”! In nature God is transcendent but “in love” is imminent. So the absolute paradox of the incarnation, of Jesus, is God’s act of love. Not to make us “loveable” but because God reaches out in love across the difference that we cannot bridge.

ALSO: the above is very much what Kierkegaard writes about monasticism and the problematic relationship he has with it. There is a way that Kierkegaard lives as a modern solitary.

But, seriously, what would I know?!

the crowd?

They were trying to bring him in and lay him before Jesus; but finding no way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the middle of the crowd in front of Jesus.

Luke 5:19

Today the reading at Morning Prayer was from Luke 5. I may have written about this before but I was struck by the people who cannot come near to Jesus “because of the crowd”. I wonder if the crowd here is not something like “Christendom”? Or, how often have I stopped people from seeing Jesus by being “religious”?

I have a tattoo that says, “the crowd is untruth”. Of course, it is from Kierkegaard’s “This Single Individual”. But I wonder, in the wider sense, if Kierkegaard is not making the same point as Luke? Sometimes the many can stop us from seeing Jesus clearly.