The existential dimension of faith

Sharon Krishek*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Our existence is pervaded with sorrow. Loss – the painful absence of what one values – is silently present everywhere. The evident cases of loss – death, harsh diseases, horrors of war – are easy to discern, but all around we also find less conspicuous instances of loss. The hug of a young couple betrays the future challenges threatening their love; a new mother’s gaze reflects the sorrow over her inevitable separation from the grown child; the smile of an elderly man expresses his recollection of years past and his sad acknowledgment of the approaching end. Confronted with loss, then, either evident or unnoticeable, one’s existence may seem like a source of endless pain. Ephemeral, frail, doomed to extinction – can one nevertheless affirm life while suffering loss? This chapter claims that Kierkegaard’s analysis of Abraham’s faith in Fear and Trembling offers a positive answer to this question. This may sound a little strange. After all, can Abraham’s strikingly unusual and terrifying experience have anything in common with a range of experiences that, at least in their less severe forms, are the lot of every human being? What is the connection between Abraham’s experience on Mount Moriah (that does not seem to bear even the most remote resemblance to one’s ordinary experience) and the intimate and familiar experience of loss? As I shall attempt to show, Kierkegaard’s analysis of faith turns the story of the Binding into a tale of the human condition. Without making God’s demand any less dreadful, and without making Abraham’s response to that demand any less exceptional, Kierkegaard nevertheless retells the story in a manner that makes it relevant to every human being. Abraham’s trial becomes an expression (albeit an exceptional one) of the ‘existential drama’ involved in temporal, ephemeral, and finite human life. Accordingly, Abraham’s faith becomes an inspiring model: A “guiding star that rescues the anguished” (FT 18/SKS 4, 117), a guiding star for all. My claim is that Abraham’s faith manifests a desirable existential position: It exemplifies a unique way of approaching the loss that living in time entails.

Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationKierkegaard's Fear and Trembling
Subtitle of host publicationA Critical Guide
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9781139540834
ISBN (Print)9781107034617
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Cambridge University Press 2015.


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