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Fear and Trembling

November 11, 2020

“Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Philippians 2:12-13

Had Greta Jane been a boy, we would have named her Søren Zackary Lyle. Zackary for Zack Greinke, erstwhile hurler for the Kansas City Royals, and Søren for Søren Kierkegaard, the Danish existential theologian, philosopher, and poet. Today the church remembers Kierkegaard on the anniversary of his death in 1855.

While we moved on from Søren as a baby name (could Anders be other than Anders?), I’ve not moved on from the influence of his thought. His focus on faith in the hidden side of life is powerful. His work also criticized the church for its over-intellectualization, its complacency, and its desire to be seen as acceptable by the world.

He wrote of anxiety and dread, making his work eternally relevant (and perhaps more so today). Writing under pseudonyms such as Johannes de silento (John of the Silence), he explored the individual’s subjective relationship to God in Christ, which comes only through faith. For Kierkegaard, faith is not the simple belief that all would be well. Rather, faith is a double movement. The first is infinite resignation, the giving up of everything held dear and reconciling oneself to this loss. Only then can one make the second move, that of a faith that takes place by virtue of the absurd through which, in Christ, everything lost is regained.

Kierkegaard teaches us that even when everything seems lost, even when everything is lost, we cling to God in faith. The gospel is nothing if not absurd. And it is exactly here that we find our hope.

Be well, friends. You are loved.

God of hope, we thank you for those who have taught us the delightful absurdity of the faith. In this world of loss and suffering, give us the grace to let go of everything and, having released it all, find all that we need in you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Image: Søren Kierkegaard at his High Desk, Luplau Janssen, early nineteenth century (public domain).

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