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Kierkegaard and the Catholic Tradition

Conflict and Dialogue

Jack Mulder, Jr.

Publication Year: 2010

Although Søren Kierkegaard, considered one of the most passionate Christian writers of the modern age, was a Lutheran, he was deeply dissatisfied with the Lutheran establishment of his day. Some scholars have said that he pushed his faith toward Catholicism. Placing Kierkegaard in sustained dialogue with the Catholic tradition, Jack Mulder, Jr., does not simply review Catholic reactions to or interpretations of Kierkegaard, but rather provides an extended look into convergences and differences on issues such as natural theology, natural moral law, Christian love, apostolic authority, the doctrine of hell, contrition for sins, the doctrine of purgatory, and the communion of saints. Through his analysis of Kierkegaard's philosophy of religion, Mulder presents deeper possibilities for engagements between Protestantism and Catholicism.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Series: Indiana Series in the Philosophy of Religion


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

I must of course thank my wife, Melissa, and my young daughter, Maria, for encouragement and support on this work (though Maria is too young to have known about it). Certainly, I thank my families, Mulders and Manchesters, for support as well. After that, I must thank Nick Engel and Robin Litscher for much help with the early stages of the manuscript. ...

List of Abbreviations and Frequently Cited Works

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pp. xiii-xvi

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pp. 1-9

The purpose of this book is to stage a conversation between the work of the Danish philosopher and theologian Søren Kierkegaard and the Catholic tradition on the issues where such a conversation would bear the most fruit. The more ecumenical tone that has prevailed in post–Vatican II Catholic thought often refers to Kierkegaard...

Part 1 Nature and Grace

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1 Kierkegaard and Natural Reason: A Catholic Encounter

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pp. 13-36

For many people, if they know anything about Kierkegaard at all, they “know” that he is a fideist, or someone who relies entirely on the deliverances of faith for religious knowledge, often at the expense of reason itself. This charge, that Kierkegaard is a fideist, is a very common one.1 Indeed, many have gone so far as to argue that Kierkegaard is an irrationalist...

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2 Is Abraham a Hero? The Natural Law and a Problem in Fear and Trembling

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pp. 37-66

One of the things that Kierkegaard does better than anyone else is to take a problem that so many others have considered from a purely theoretical point of view and to consider it for its real-life implications. In Kierke-gaard’s famous work Fear and Trembling, the pseudonym Johannes de Silentio takes this approach to the near-sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham. ...

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3 The Order of Love: The Love of Preference in Kierkegaard and the Catholic Tradition

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pp. 67-97

In considering where the ultimate difference between Kierkegaard and the Thomistic tradition in Catholicism lies on the question of the love of our fellow human beings, we begin with the Christian command to “love your neighbor as yourself.” When Jesus confirms it (Lk 10:25–37) to a “scholar of the law,” the scholar asks him a question, which Kierkegaard ...

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4 The Catholic Moment? Apostolic Authority in Kierkegaard and the Catholic Tradition

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pp. 98-121

The Catholic conception of authority is one at which many in our age bristle. The hierarchy in the Church is a source of scandal to many, and Luther’s leveling of this hierarchy in his famous doctrine of the priesthood of all believers is often warmly received.1 Curiously, this is one area where Kierkegaard’s reception of Luther is...

Part 2 Sin, Justification, and Community

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5 Must All Be Saved? A Kierkegaardian-Catholic Response to Theological Universalism

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pp. 125-152

In my experience, many people who react strongly to what they perceive to be authoritarianism in the Catholic tradition are often surprised to learn that the tone of its theologians and even of its popes on the issues of hell and damnation has been quite gentle of late. Indeed, as we shall see in what follows here,...

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6 On Being Afraid of Hell: Kierkegaard and Catholicism on Imperfect Contrition

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pp. 153-177

Confessing one’s sins out of love for God above all things is called contrition, or “perfect contrition” in the Catholic tradition. Confessing out of the fear of the damnation or for other reasons than the pure love of God is called attrition, or “imperfect contrition.” The foregoing act clearly suggests that the former is better...

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7 The Sickness unto Life: Justification in Kierkegaard and the Question of Purgatory

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pp. 178-199

In his essay “The Babylonian Captivity of the Church,” Luther argued, among many other things, that penance was not the “second plank” after baptism (as the Catholic Church contends), but that the Christian’s “whole life should be baptism.”1 The significance of this is easy to overlook. Since baptism,...

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8 Kierkegaard and the Communion of Saints

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pp. 200-222

Can Balthasar’s accusation above be sustained with justice?1 Is it the case that Kierkegaard is an individualist of the sort that Silentio’s pseudonymous passage would seem to suggest he is, or does Kierkegaard himself have more to say on this question than does his pseudonym? The nascent or “buried” faith Benedict XVI...

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pp. 223-225

In this book I have tried to bring about dialogue between Kierkegaard and the Catholic tradition. Clearly, Kierkegaard is no crypto-Catholic. His work bears all the marks of an authentically Protestant and predominantly Lutheran origin. At the same time, he is deeply dissatisfied with the way the Lutheran establishment of his day fused Church and ...


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pp. 227-265


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pp. 267-276


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pp. 277-283

E-ISBN-13: 9780253004802
E-ISBN-10: 0253004802
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253355362

Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: Indiana Series in the Philosophy of Religion