By Brian Nixon, Special to ASSIST News Service
ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO (ANS – August 25, 2016) — The first time I remember hearing the name Kierkegaard was in high school. A fellow student tossed out his name, trying to sound informed. I slightly remember that I found the name odd. The student said something to the effect that Kierkegaard was one the greatest philosophers of all time and was the father of existentialism. I probably just scratched my head.
Fast-forward several years.
While attending membership classes for the Church of the Brethren, my friend and pastor, Jeff Newman-Lee, mentioned he was reading Kierkegaard and that one of the Brethren’s notable author’s, Vernard Eller, was a Kierkegaard scholar, having penned the book Kierkegaard and Radical Discipleship. It was here that I took notice, wanting to learn more of this man with an interesting name. While at Jeff’s house one day, he gave me a copy of Fear and Trembling. I tried to read it; but didn’t finish it.
Kierkegaard lay dormant for years.
It wasn’t until I bought an abridged version of his essential works that I began to read his thoughts. I was fascinated by his critique of the three “c’s” (as I summarized them): church, culture, and conscience.
And a couple of years ago I began writing a novella using ideas fronted by Kierkegaard in Fear and Trembling, asking, “What is faith?” To say the least, the Dane—his life and witness, intrigues me.
Soren Aabye Kierkegaard was born on May 5th, 1813 in Copenhagen, Denmark. He died on November 11, 1855. In his short life he wrote philosophical treatises, poetry, novellas, books on ethics, commentaries, and — what we’d call today — psychology, most of the time under various pseudonyms. Because his works are dense, many folks either ignore him or easily characterize him as the “Father of Existentialism” — as I heard in high school, college, and even seminary.
Fortunately, there are a few new books that help set the record straight. True, they show his disdain for fake Christianity (maybe a message we need to hear today), but they also show his humanity and brilliance — as a man who above all loved Christ.
Here’s three of the newest books on Kierkegaard, recommended reading for those interested in learning more about Kierkegaard life, thought, and ministry:
Kierkegaard: A Single Life (Zondervan, 2016) by Stephen Backhouse. The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, writes concerning the book, “Stephen Backhouse has given us a wonderfully lively and sympathetic portrait of one of the greatest minds of the nineteenth century, sparing us nothing of Kierkegaard’s abrasive, contrarian personality, but also illuminating the extraordinary courage and spiritual depth of the man. We have waited a long time for such an accessible introduction, growing out of deep study of the abundant original sources and bringing them alive with a light and sure touch.”
Kierkegaard: A Christian Missionary to Christians (IVP, 2016) by Mark A Tietjen. Baylor University professor, C. Stephen Evans, writes concerning the book, “Kierkegaard famously described his task as ‘reintroducing Christianity into Christendom.’ In this wonderfully rich and clearly written book Mark Tietjen helps us understand what Kierkegaard meant by this, and thereby helps us see how vital it is for the contemporary church to encounter Kierkegaard’s thought. Kierkegaard’s message will pull us away from complacency and help us understand anew what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Kierkegaard shows us that this is a task for a lifetime; we never ‘arrive’ short of death, but we can go ever deeper in faith, hope and love.”
Kierkegaard’s Existentialism: The Theological Self and the Existential Self by George Leone, PhD (iUniverse Press, 2014). Dr. Leone obtained a Doctor of Theology degree with a dissertation on Kierkegaard’s existential theology. He is a professor of counseling at New Mexico Highlands University, Las Vegas, New Mexico. The book describes “Kierkegaard’s…concern to examine what it meant to be a self within the Christianity of his day.”
And one old-y, but good-y — as mentioned above (but it is difficult to find):
Kierkegaard and Radical Discipleship: A New Perspective by Vernard Eller (Princeton University Press, 1968). Paul Gustafson wrote concerning the book, “Professor Vernard Eller’s book has the merit of treating fairly and tellingly such a complex author as Soren Kierkegaard. Though it may seem faint praise, the merit of this book is that Kierkegaard speaks without being pruned, excised, and misshapen by anything cheaply professorial or in such a way as to appear socially and professionally approved.”
And low-and-behold (but not surprising) Hollywood is getting in on the Kierkegaard craze. In 2017, director Laurtis Munch-Peteren is completing a new movie based on Kierkegaard’s novel, Seducer’s Diary , a book of love, seduction and, as one critic said, “painful ironies.”
But more than just reading about Kierkegaard experience the real deal: get some coffee (or tea), a big chair, and ample time and read one of Kierkegaard’s essential works released by Princeton University Press . For what the Dane said concerning life, can be said concerning himself: “Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.”
Photo captions: 1) Kierkegaard. (Artwork by Stephanie Roberts). 2) Kierkegaard: A Single Life. 3) Kierkegaard: A Christian Missionary to Christians. 3) Movie still from the forthcoming drama, Seducer’s Diary. 4) Brian Nixon
About the writer: Brian Nixon is a writer, musician, and minister. He’s a graduate of California State University, Stanislaus (BA) and is a Fellow at Oxford Graduate School (D.Phil.). To learn more, click here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brian_Nixon.
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