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God de re et de dicto: Kierkegaard, faith and religious diversity

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 May 2021

Paul K. Moser*
Affiliation:
Loyola University Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA
*
*Corresponding author. Email: pmoser@luc.edu

Abstract

In his Concluding Unscientific Postscript, Kierkegaard, writing as Johannes Climacus, famously distinguishes two kinds of religiousness, kind A and kind B. He claims that, even though kind A is basic to kind B, including as represented in Christian religious commitment, kind A both has God ‘in its ground’ and ‘can be present in paganism’ that is atheist or agnostic. This apparent conflict calls for a resolution, if kind A is to be coherent. This article offers a new resolution with a familiar distinction between God de re and God de dicto, even though interpreters have overlooked the importance of this distinction for understanding Kierkegaard. In addition, the article contends that this distinction is supportable from Kierkegaard's own writings, even though he himself did not draw it explicitly. The article also explains the importance of the distinction for understanding Kierkegaard on religious diversity in intellectual content. It proposes that it enables Kierkegaard to offer a compelling position on such diversity, given his understanding of God's perfectly good character and activity.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press

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References

1 Kierkegaard, Søren, Concluding Unscientific Postscript (hereafter CUP), ed. and trans. Hong, Howard V. and Hong, Edna H. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992), vol. 1, p. 298Google Scholar.

2 Lowrie, Walter, ‘Translator's Preface’, in Kierkegaard, Søren, The Concept of Dread, 2nd edn, trans. Lowrie, Walter (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1957), p. viiiGoogle Scholar.

3 Kierkegaard, CUP, p. 556.

4 Ibid., p. 574.

5 Ibid., p. 200.

6 Ibid., pp. 243, 245.

7 Ibid., 243. For Kierkegaard on self-denial, see Lippitt, John, Kierkegaard and the Problem of Self-Love (Cambridge: CUP, 2013), pp. 110–35CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Walsh, Sylvia, Kierkegaard and Religion (Cambridge: CUP, 2018), pp. 131–8CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

8 Kierkegaard, CUP, p. 246.

9 On the centrality of repentance to the religious sphere, see Kierkegaard, CUP, pp. 524–5.

10 Ibid., p. 247.

11 Ibid., p. 557.

12 Ibid., p. 204.

13 Kierkegaard, CUP, pp. 560–1. In agreement with Howard V. and Edna H. Hong, Alistair Hannay translates with ‘God is in the ground’, adding in a note: ‘I Grunden, in the foundation’. See Kierkegaard, Søren, Concluding Unscientific Postscript, ed. and trans. Hannay, Alastair (Cambridge: CUP, 2009), p. 469Google Scholar. David F. Swenson and Walter Lowrie translate, instead of ‘God is in the ground’, ‘God is the basis’, whereas Arnold B. Come translates ‘God is the foundation’. See Kierkegaard, Søren, Concluding Unscientific Postscript, trans. Swenson, David F. and Lowrie, Walter (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1941), p. 498Google Scholar; Come, Arnold B., Kierkegaard as Humanist: Discovering my Self (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1995), p. 294Google Scholar.

14 See Kierkegaard, CUP, pp. 387, 389, 426, 427.

15 Ibid., p. 394.

16 Ibid., p. 428.

17 Kierkegaard, Søren, ‘Every Good Gift and Every Perfect Gift is from Above’ (hereafter EGG), in Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, ed. and trans. Hong, Howard V. and Hong, Edna H. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990), pp. 133–4Google Scholar.

18 Kierkegaard, Søren, Practice in Christianity (hereafter PIC), ed. and trans. Hong, Howard V. and Hong, Edna H. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991), pp. 127–32Google Scholar.

19 Ibid., p. 129.

20 Kierkegaard, CUP, p. 613.

21 Ibid., pp. 613–14, footnote.

22 The next section of the article returns to the nature of faith in God, in connection with religious diversity.

23 Kierkegaard, EGG, p. 135

24 Kierkegaard, CUP, pp. 388–9, 560, first footnote; on the role of suffering in inwardness, ibid., pp. 436–7.

25 Ibid., p. 556.

26 Ibid., p. 217; cf. pp. 209, 610–11.

27 Ibid., p. 210.

28 Ibid., p. 211.

29 Ibid., p. 557.

30 Ibid., p. 556.

31 Ibid., p. 557.

32 Ibid., p. 66; cf. p. 78.

33 For support, see Come, Kierkegaard as Humanist, pp. 335–40. See also Kierkegaard, Søren, The Book on Adler (hereafter BA), ed. and trans. Hong, Howard V. and Hong, Edna H. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998), pp. 113–16Google Scholar.

34 Kierkegaard, Søren, For Self-Examination and Judge for Yourself (hereafter JFY), ed. and trans. Hong, Howard V. and Hong, Edna H. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990), p. 98Google Scholar.

35 Ibid., p. 79.

36 Ibid., pp. 99–100.

37 Kierkegaard, CUP, p. 326.

38 Kierkegaard, Søren, Three Discourses on Imagined Occasions, ed. and trans. Hong, Howard V. and Hong, Edna H. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993), p. 38Google Scholar. See also Walsh, Kierkegaard and Religion, pp. 5–12.

39 Søren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling and Repetition (hereafter FT), ed. and trans. Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983), p. 36; cf. pp. 35, 37.

40 Ibid., p. 36.

41 In CUP, p. 500 (footnote), Kierkegaard clarifies the role of the ‘knight of faith’ in FT, but his remark does not challenge Abraham's having faith in God.

42 Torrance, Andrew B., The Freedom to Become a Christian: A Kierkegaardian Account of Human Transformation in Relationship with God (London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2016), p. 101Google Scholar.

43 See Kierkegaard, CUP, p. 326.

44 Søren Kierkegaard, Works of Love (hereafter WL), ed. and trans. Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995), p. 150.

45 Ibid., p. 215. For relevant discussion, see Ferreira, M. Jamie, Love's Grateful Striving (Oxford: OUP, 2001), pp. 138–42CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Walsh, Kierkegaard and Religion, pp. 126–7.

46 Kierkegaard, WL, p. 216.

47 Ibid., p. 355.

48 For elaboration on the role of religious experience and divine elusiveness in this redemptive project, see Moser, Paul K., Understanding Religious Experience (Cambridge: CUP, 2020), chs 7–8Google Scholar.

49 See Kierkegaard, CUP, pp. 129, 193, 203, 221–2, 224.

50 Kierkegaard, Søren, The Point of View, ed. and trans. Hong, Howard V. and Hong, Edna H. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998), p. 47Google Scholar; cf. pp. 91, 97.

51 Kierkegaard, Søren, Journals and Papers, ed. and trans. Hong, Howard V. and Hong, Edna H. (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1975), vol. 4, pp. 295–6Google Scholar, 4454; X1 A 134 n.d. 1849.

52 Kierkegaard, PIC, p. 87; cf. CUP, p. 585.

53 Kierkegaard, BA, pp. 114–15.

54 Cf. Kierkegaard, CUP, p. 556 on specificity in religiousness. For Kierkegaard on the distinctive human consciousness of sin arising in Religiousness B, see CUP, pp. 583–5; cf. PIC, pp. 68, 155. See also Come, Arnold B., Kierkegaard as Theologian: Recovering My Self (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1997), pp. 267–77Google Scholar.

55 Kierkegaard, CUP, pp. 566–8.

56 Ibid., pp. 564–6.

57 I thank referees for the Scottish Journal of Theology for helpful comments.

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