From Despair to Faith

From Despair to Faith: The Spirituality of Soren Kierkegaard

Christopher B. Barnett
Copyright Date: 2014
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  • Book Info
    From Despair to Faith
    Book Description:

    Søren Kierkegaard has been called many things, from brooding genius and “melancholy Dane” to the father of existentialism. Yet, rather than clarify the nature of Kierkegaard’s writings, such labels have often obscured other important aspects of his authorship. Such, indeed, is the case with Kierkegaard’s standing as a spiritual author. In From Despair to Faith: The Spirituality of Søren Kierkegaard, Christopher B. Barnett endeavors to remedy this problem. He does so in two overarching ways. First, he orients the reader to Kierkegaard’s grounding in the Christian spiritual tradition, as well as to the Dane’s own authorial stress on themes such as upbuilding, spiritual journey, and faith. Second, Barnett maintains that Kierkegaard’s spirituality is best understood through the various “pictures” that populate his authorship. These pictures are deemed “icons of faith,” since Kierkegaard consistently recommends that the reader contemplate them. In this way, they both represent and communicate what Kierkegaard sees as the fulfillment of Christian existence. In the end, then, From Despair to Faith not only offers a new way of approaching Kierkegaard’s writings, but also shows how they might serve to illuminate and to deepen one's relationship with the divine.

    eISBN: 978-1-4514-8747-3
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Abbreviations for Kierkegaard’s Works
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xx)
    Christopher B. Barnett
  5. 1 Kierkegaard as Spiritual Writer
    (pp. 1-24)

    Books about Kierkegaard frequently open with a survey of his life. A number of reasons might account for this development, not least the fact that Kierkegaard’s biography contains drama worthy of Shakespeare. There are family secrets, unhappy love affairs, and public scandals, just to mention a few elements of his story. Moreover, Kierkegaard himself writes pointedly of these events, pouring over them in his journals and papers, but also alluding to them in his published writings. In this way, he not only leaves a great deal of material for his biographers, but also helps determine how they arrange and interpret...

  6. 2 Kierkegaard on God, Self, and the Spiritual Journey
    (pp. 25-62)

    While the goal of Chapter One was to establish Kierkegaard as a spiritual author, the purpose of this chapter is to examine the concepts that underlie his spiritual writings. Not surprisingly, this task must contend with the nature of God, but, just as importantly, it must involve the essence and structure of the human being. These emphases are hardly unique to Kierkegaard’s authorship. Many of the Christian tradition’s greatest theologians, including Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas, have recognized that the profession of God as creator has crucial ramifications for human nature. Likewise, the theme of a spiritual journey, so...

  7. 3 Kierkegaard and the Aesthetics of the Icon
    (pp. 63-86)

    The previous two chapters have established (i) that Kierkegaard was a kind of spiritual writer and (ii) that his theological anthropology, with its overarching theme of “exit and return,” treats human life as a journey back to God—a journey that culminates in faith, which grounds the human being in God and, in turn, brings fulfillment. Thus far, the analysis has been more descriptive than argumentative; however, this chapter will address one of the classic debates in Kierkegaard scholarship, namely, the degree to which Kierkegaard sought to drive a wedge between aesthetics and religion. In doing so, it will pave...

  8. 4 Icons of Faith: The Natural World
    (pp. 87-130)

    The Christian tradition has long held that the natural world communicates theological meaning. As the Apostle Paul famously writes, “Ever since the creation of the world [God’s] eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made” (Rom. 1:20). Many other Christian thinkers have expanded on Paul’s statement. The American Protestant theologian Jonathan Edwards (1703–58) describes the created order as a key part of God’s “instruction” of humanity, its majesty “painting … forth” spiritual realities that, in turn, harmonize with biblical teaching.¹ Similarly, the English Catholic poet Gerard Manley...

  9. 5 Icons of Faith: The Bible
    (pp. 131-186)

    Though typically thought of as a religion of the book, as a faith in the Word,¹ Christianity has long had a place for the image. The Eastern Church locates the origin of Christian iconography to the time of Jesus Christ himself. According to legend, King Abgar of Edessa sent one of his servants to Palestine in the hope of persuading Jesus to visit him. A leper, the king anticipated the Savior would be able to heal him. Jesus was unable to make the journey, but the servant did not return empty-handed. He brought the king a cloth that bore Jesus’...

  10. Works Cited
    (pp. 187-196)
  11. Index of Kierkegaard’s Works
    (pp. 197-200)
  12. Index of Names and Subjects
    (pp. 201-215)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 216-216)