Kierkegaard’s False Inference: Abraham’s Faith

I recently read a very interesting essay on the effects of the philosophy of Existentialism on modern Christianity. Two particular points of interest which captured my attention was (a.) the Existentialist’s acceptance of the absurd or self-contradiction and the irrational[1], and (b.) Kierkegaard’s application of the absurd as most characteristic of faith as  illustrated in the life of Abraham.[2]

Assuming this is an accurate characterisation of Kierkegaard’s view, I find it marvellous how blatantly contradictory it is to the Scripture’s own description of Abraham’s faith.

Here’s what the scripture says in Hebrews 11:17-19 (ESV):

17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, 18 of whom it was said,“Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 19 He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.

In the NIV and other translations, the word rendered “considered” in verse 19 is also rendered reasoned. According to one free online source, this comes from the Greek word logizomai potentially meaning “to reckon, count, compute, calculate, count over, to reckon inward, count up or weigh the reasons, to deliberate; [or,] by reckoning up all the reasons, to gather or infer.”

Abraham’s faith was most certainly not an irrational one. It was not a leap in the dark. It was not an acceptance of the absurd.

Abraham, on the basis of what he knew to be true about God — His Promise, and His trustworthiness — went to make the sacrifice, and the Covenant was sealed by an act of extreme faith. Abraham acted on extreme love for and trust in God his Father. Like his wife, Sarah, Abraham “considered Him faithful who had promised” that, through Abraham, Abraham’s children, his nation and his family, would come, ultimately bringing blessing and salvation for all the nations of the earth through the arrival the ‘Messiah’ or ‘Seed’.

So I simply do not understand how Kierkegaard came to such a bogus conclusion about the nature of faith. It quite literally flies in the face of the biblical text. Faith isn’t a blind leap into the absurd. Faith is trusting someone for reasons, given what yo know to be true about them. Abraham knew God was wholly trustworthy because he walked with Him and knew Him. Therefore, he was willing to do whatever He asked of him.

According to Romans 4:12, we Christians are those who “also follow in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham”–or, to put it another way, we walk as children of faith in the same manner as Abraham did: “Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham… So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.” (Galatians 3:6, 9.)

So I reject Kierkegaard’s definition of faith. It is a false inference based on a faulty understanding about Abraham’s faith.

Quotations from essay:
[1] “He [the Existentialist] seeks after the absurd and embraces it, taking comfort in his experience though it contradicts what he knows to be logical.”
[2] “Abraham, against reasoning and ethics – agreed to offer up his son Isaac as a sacrifice to God. Kierkegaard argued that this was the ultimate display of irrational faith.” [Note 19: Schaeffer, Francis, The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer, ed. Francis Schaeffer, The God Who is There (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1990), p.15.]


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