"Why is faith paradoxical according to Kierkegaard?"
In this essay I will be examining Kierkegaard’s ‘Fear and Trembling’. I will aim to show why, according to Kierkegaard, the book of Genesis story of Abraham and Isaac illustrates the paradoxical nature of faith. I will define particular terms, which are key to my understanding of the text. ‘Faith’ for Kierkegaard is a personal and subjective obligation to follow God’s words above all else. This involves making a leap from complying with what would be deemed as ‘rational’ or ‘ethical’ and accepting the ‘absurd’. By ‘paradox’, Kierkegaard is referring to tension, which exists between two points.
In ‘Fear and Trembling’, Kierkegaard uses the biblical story of Abraham’s sacrifice of his son Isaac to demonstrate the absurdity that is required for one to consider himself as having religious faith. According to Kierkegaard faith is paradoxical as a result of the tension, which exists between the two focal points of Abraham’s act of sacrifice. On one hand Abraham could be perceived to be a murderer and is committing a great sin as he is going against the commandment that ‘Thou shall not kill’. On the other hand, Abraham may be considered as he is by Kierkegaard as the “Father of Faith” by following God’s commandment to sacrifice his only son. Kierkegaard believes, Abraham is deserving of such a title as he is suspending the universal and ethical principle ‘Thou shall not kill’, in order to show his unwavering “absolute duty to God”. The true holder of faith according to Kierkegaard is he who realizes that our obligation is ultimately not to ethical, moral and universal law but to a religious and higher authority. Kierkegaard makes a distinction between the ethical sphere and religious sphere. The ethical sphere uses reason, is universal and is concerned with morality. The religious sphere is particular and is therefore paradoxical. To have religious faith Kierkegaard believes, there must be “a teleological...
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