Kierkegaard and the Self before God
Anatomy of the Abyss
Publication Year: 2011
Simon D. Podmore claims that becoming a self before God is both a divine gift and an anxious obligation. Before we can know God, or ourselves, we must come to a moment of recognition. How this comes to be, as well as the terms of such acknowledgment, are worked out in Podmore's powerful new reading of Kierkegaard. As he gives full consideration to Kierkegaard's writings, Podmore explores themes such as despair, anxiety, melancholy, and spiritual trial, and how they are broken by the triumph of faith, forgiveness, and the love of God. He confronts the abyss between the self and the divine in order to understand how we can come to know ourselves in relation to a God who is apparently so wholly Other.
Published by: Indiana University Press
I wish to begin by confessing that this project commenced under the belief that the meaning of Kierkegaard’s “infinite, radical, qualitative difference” (uendelig svælgende qualitativ Foskjel) between humanity and God was essentially sin. Mercifully, it concluded with the conviction that the true meaning of the infinite qualitative difference between God and humanity is expressed ...
I was fortunate to have the wonderful guidance of Dr. Murray Rae, who managed to pull me out of the more abyssal moments of my research and writing and remains an inspiration to me. During my time at King’s College the Research Institute in Systematic Theology was thriving under the leadership of the esteemed Prof. Colin Gunton. The passing of this great British...
List of Abbreviations
1. Introduction: Anatomy of the Abyss
This striking assertion, from the pen of Kierkegaard and the perspective of Johannes Climacus, could be claimed as the sacred motto for the “anatomy of the abyss” that will follow in this work. Human nature, Johannes Climacus (and elsewhere Kierkegaard) claims, is most legitimately expressed through an absolute expression of our difference from the divine. In other words, it ...
2. The Inner Abyss
Kierkegaard’s anatomization of the despair and redemption of the self, as it is unveiled before God, is a composition of both negative and positive attitudes toward the modern passion for self-knowledge. Kierkegaard, as a distinctively modern thinker, makes an impassioned plea on behalf of the struggle for...
3. The Abyss of Melancholy
As explored in the previous chapter, the call of the eternal resonates with both a presence and an absence within the self. The self is destined to become itself before God; but, through the call of the eternal, it also knows that it is not yet a self, not yet spirit. Furthermore, the self knows that between itself and God—and hence between itself and its self—there lies an infinite qualitative ...
4. The Melancholy Theophany
Indeed, what else would life be but despair if beneath existence there were nothing but a formless deep, if there were no God lying “beyond” that originary abyss? And yet, the previous chapter concluded with the notion that even the desire to behold this God is not entirely free from the melancholic feeling of an abyss between self and God. By referring to a “melancholy theophany” in...
5. The Allegory of Yisra’el
“The present age is the age of despair,” Kierkegaard pronounces in his Journals, “the age of the wandering Jew (many reforming Jews)” (JP 1:737 / Pap. I A 181). According to Kierkegaard, it is the melancholic trope of Israel in exile, the Wandering Jew, that haunts the modern Western consciousness as a symbolic expression of its God-forsakenness, nihilism, and...
6. The Anatomy of Spiritual Trial
While also evoking the vertiginous anxiety that is characteristic of sublime experience, spiritual trial in Luther (Gn. Anfechtung) and Kierkegaard (Dn. Anfægtelse) is most clearly defined in relation to the self ’s harrowing sense of paralysis or captivity before God. As Martin J. Heinecken describes it in The Moment Before God, spiritual trial...
7. The Gaze of the Abyss
The previous chapter concluded with the notion that the self-surrender of spiritual trial—as expressed by the silent prayer of faith in divine possibility—opens the wounded self to the possibility of becoming itself before God: a relation that, as this chapter will elaborate, transcends and transfigures the infinite qualitative difference to the point of proposing a heterogeneous ...
8. Conclusions: The (Im)possible and the (Un)forgivable
In this concluding chapter, the ultimate meaning of the infinite qualitative difference as forgiveness is employed as a lens through which to view the relation between our being forgiven by God and the possibility of our forgiving “the other.” In this exploration, the key notion of the “impossible possibility” of divine forgiveness is read as a model for the “suspension” of offence by ...