Speaking of faith with Kierkegaard
Kierkegaard: A Brief Overview of the Life and Writings of Soren Kierkegaard. Albert Anderson. Minneapolis: Lutheran University Press. Theology for Life Series. 2010. Perfectbound. 100 pages. $15.00. www.lutheranpress.org.
Reidar Thomte came into his “Kierkegaard” class one afternoon at Concordia College, Moorhead, Minnesota, shortly after the college’s announcement that he was the most recent recipient of a prestigious honor. After watching the smoke curl upward from his pipe in his left hand (“an offering to the gods”), he lifted his right hand and said “Soli Deo Gloria” (“to God alone the glory”) — followed by a long pause before lifting his left hand — “Award?”
As I began reading Albert Anderson’s Kierkegaard, this scene came back vividly to me, as did the recollection of being overwhelmed by the intricacies of Kierkegaard’s thoughts. Continuing through the book, I remembered the challenge and joy in that class of learning to think about myself in new ways, and I experienced a fresh respect for the work of the recognized founder of Existentialism and an appreciation for Anderson’s relevant and helpful overview.
This amazingly concise book (less than 100 pages) is indeed “seductive.” The first chapters describe the setting of, and influences in, the early life of the philosopher, acknowledging his father’s thirst for knowledge, his conflicted love for Regine, his respect for Socrates, and even a nod to the biblical book of Job. This introduction sets the stage for displaying an overview of his thoughts and writing. The major themes and their integration with and through Kierkegaard’s understanding of the “modes” of life are identified with clarity.
Anderson’s overview serves both as an accessible introduction to the thoughts and writings of Kierkegaard (“not for the faint of heart”) and as a brief but thorough review of the themes, purpose, and timing of the books and essays Kierkegaard wrote under several pen names.
In summation, this book stirred in me a desire to search the storeroom for my box of Kierkegaard books in order to reread them. In the search for ways to speak of faith and church in a post-modern culture with its own recognition of the power of language and experience in defining the individual, Kierkegaard’s words may be heard anew.
Dan Heath is pastor at Zion Lutheran Church in Blackduck, and Our Savior’s in Kelliher, both in Minnesota.