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Christian existentialism is a theo-philosophical movement which takes an existentialist approach to Christian theology. The school of thought is often traced back to the work of the Danish philosopher and theologian Søren Kierkegaard (1813–1855).
The existential approach to Christian theology has a long and diverse history including Augustine, Aquinas, Pascal, Marcel, Tillich, and Maritain.
Christian existentialism relies on Kierkegaard's understanding of Christianity. Kierkegaard argued that the universe is fundamentally paradoxical, and that its greatest paradox is the transcendent union of God and humans in the person of Jesus Christ. He also posited having a personal relationship with God that supersedes all prescribed moralities, social structures and communal norms, [ citation needed ]since he asserted that following social conventions is essentially a personal aesthetic choice made by individuals.
Kierkegaard proposed that each person must make independent choices, which then constitute their existence. Each person suffers from the anguish of indecision (whether knowingly or unknowingly) until they commit to a particular choice about the way to live. Kierkegaard also proposed three rubrics with which to understand the conditions that issue from distinct life choices: the aesthetic, the ethical, and the religious.
One of the major premises of Kierkegaardian Christian existentialism entails calling the masses back to a more genuine form of Christianity. This form is often identified with some notion of Early Christianity, which mostly existed during the first three centuries after Christ's crucifixion. Beginning with the Edict of Milan, which was issued by Roman Emperor Constantine I in AD 313, Christianity enjoyed a level of popularity among Romans and later among other Europeans. And yet Kierkegaard asserted that by the 19th century, the ultimate meaning of New Testament Christianity (love, cf. agape, mercy and loving-kindness) had become perverted, and Christianity had deviated considerably from its original threefold message of grace, humility, and love.
Another major premise of Kierkegaardian Christian existentialism involves Kierkegaard's conception of God and Love. For the most part, Kierkegaard equates God with Love.Thus, when a person engages in the act of loving, he is in effect achieving an aspect of the divine. Kierkegaard also viewed the individual as a necessary synthesis of both finite and infinite elements. Therefore, when an individual does not come to a full realization of his infinite side, he is said to be in despair. For many contemporary Christian theologians, the notion of despair can be viewed as sin. However, to Kierkegaard, a man sinned when he was exposed to this idea of despair and chose a path other than one in accordance with God's will.
A final major premise of Kierkegaardian Christian existentialism entails the systematic undoing of evil acts. Kierkegaard asserted that once an action had been completed, it should be evaluated in the face of God, for holding oneself up to divine scrutiny was the only way to judge one's actions. Because actions constitute the manner in which something is deemed good or bad, one must be constantly conscious of the potential consequences of his actions. Kierkegaard believed that the choice for goodness ultimately came down to each individual. Yet Kierkegaard also foresaw the potential limiting of choices for individuals who fell into despair.
Christian Existentialism often refers to what it calls the indirect style of Christ's teachings, which it considers to be a distinctive and important aspect of his ministry. Christ's point, it says, is often left unsaid in any particular parable or saying, to permit each individual to confront the truth on his own.This is particularly evident in (but is certainly not limited to) his parables; for example in the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 18:21-35). A good example of indirect communication in the Old Testament is the story of David and Nathan in 2 Samuel 12:1-14.
An existential reading of the Bible demands that the reader recognize that he is an existing subject, studying the words that God communicates to him personally. This is in contrast to looking at a collection of "truths" which are outside and unrelated to the reader.Such a reader is not obligated to follow the commandments as if an external agent is forcing them upon him, but as though they are inside him and guiding him internally. This is the task Kierkegaard takes up when he asks: "Who has the more difficult task: the teacher who lectures on earnest things a meteor's distance from everyday life, or the learner who should put it to use?" Existentially speaking, the Bible doesn't become an authority in a person's life until he permits the Bible to be his personal authority.
Christian existentialists include German Protestant theologians Paul Tillich and Rudolf Bultmann, American existential psychologist Rollo May (who introduced much of Tillich's thought to a general American readership), British Anglican theologian John Macquarrie, American philosopher Clifford Williams, French Catholic philosophers Gabriel Marcel, Louis Lavelle, Emmanuel Mounier and Pierre Boutang and French Protestant Paul Ricœur, German philosopher Karl Jaspers, Spanish philosopher Miguel de Unamuno, and Russian philosophers Nikolai Berdyaev and Lev Shestov. Karl Barth added to Kierkegaard's ideas the notion that existential despair leads an individual to an awareness of God's infinite nature. Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky could be placed within the tradition of Christian existentialism.
The roots of existentialism have been traced back as far as St Augustine.Some of the most striking passages in Pascal's Pensées , including the famous section on the Wager, deal with existentialist themes. Jacques Maritain, in Existence and the Existent: An Essay on Christian Existentialism, finds the core of true existentialism in the thought of Thomas Aquinas.
It has been claimed that Radical Existential Christians’ faith is based in their sensible and immediate and direct experience of God indwelling in human terms.It is suggested that individuals do not make or create their Christian existence; it does not come as a result of a decision one personally makes. The radical Protestants of the 17th century, for example Quakers may have been in some ways theo-philosophically aligned with radical existential Christianity.
Angst means fear or anxiety. The dictionary definition for angst is a feeling of anxiety, apprehension, or insecurity. The word angst was introduced into English from the Danish, Norwegian, and Dutch word angst and the German word Angst. It is attested since the 19th century in English translations of the works of Kierkegaard and Freud. It is used in English to describe an intense feeling of apprehension, anxiety, or inner turmoil.
Existentialism is a tradition of philosophical enquiry that explores the nature of existence by emphasizing experience of the human subject—not merely the thinking subject, but the acting, feeling, living human individual. In the view of the existentialist, the individual's starting point is characterized by what has been called "the existential angst", or a sense of disorientation, confusion, or anxiety in the face of an apparently meaningless or absurd world.
Søren Aabye Kierkegaard was a Danish philosopher, theologian, poet, social critic and religious author who is widely considered to be the first existentialist philosopher. He wrote critical texts on organized religion, Christendom, morality, ethics, psychology, and the philosophy of religion, displaying a fondness for metaphor, irony and parables. Much of his philosophical work deals with the issues of how one lives as a "single individual", giving priority to concrete human reality over abstract thinking and highlighting the importance of personal choice and commitment. He was against literary critics who defined idealist intellectuals and philosophers of his time, and thought that Swedenborg, Hegel, Fichte, Schelling, Schlegel and Hans Christian Andersen were all "understood" far too quickly by "scholars".
In philosophy, "the Absurd" refers to the conflict between the human tendency to seek inherent value and meaning in life, and the human inability to find any in a purposeless, meaningless or chaotic and irrational universe. The universe and the human mind do not each separately cause the Absurd, but rather, the Absurd arises by the contradictory nature of the two existing simultaneously.
Fideism is an epistemological theory which maintains that faith is independent of reason, or that reason and faith are hostile to each other and faith is superior at arriving at particular truths. The word fideism comes from fides, the Latin word for faith, and literally means "faith-ism". Philosophers have identified a number of different forms of fideism.
Paul Johannes Tillich was a German-American Christian existentialist philosopher and Lutheran Protestant theologian who is widely regarded as one of the most influential theologians of the twentieth century. Tillich taught at a number of universities in Germany before immigrating to the United States in 1933, where he taught at Union Theological Seminary, Harvard Divinity School, and the University of Chicago.
Neo-orthodoxy or Neoorthodoxy, in Christianity, also including theology of crisis and dialectical theology, was a theological movement developed in the aftermath of the First World War. The movement was largely a reaction against doctrines of 19th-century liberal theology and a reevaluation of the teachings of the Reformation. Karl Barth is the leading figure associated with the movement. In the U.S., Reinhold Niebuhr was a leading exponent of neo-orthodoxy.
Philosophical Fragments is a Christian philosophical work written by Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard in 1844. It was the second of three works written under the pseudonym Johannes Climacus; the other two were De omnibus dubitandum est in 1841 and Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments in 1846.
The Concept of Anxiety : A Simple Psychologically Orienting Deliberation on the Dogmatic Issue of Hereditary Sin, is a philosophical work written by Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard in 1844. The original 1944 English translation by Walter Lowrie, had the title The Concept of Dread. The Concept of Anxiety was dedicated "to the late professor Poul Martin Møller". He used the pseudonym Vigilius Haufniensis for The Concept of Anxiety.
Concluding Unscientific Postscript to the Philosophical Fragments is a major work thought to be by Søren Kierkegaard. The work is a poignant attack against Hegelianism, the philosophy of Hegel, especially Hegel's Science of Logic. The work is also famous for its dictum, Subjectivity is Truth. It was an attack on what Kierkegaard saw as Hegel's deterministic philosophy. Against Hegel's system, Kierkegaard is often interpreted as taking the side of metaphysical libertarianism or freewill, though it has been argued that an incompatibilist conception of free will is not essential to Kierkegaard's formulation of existentialism.
The philosophy of Søren Kierkegaard has been a major influence in the development of 20th-century philosophy, especially existentialism and postmodernism. Søren Kierkegaard was a 19th-century Danish philosopher who has been labeled by many as the "Father of Existentialism", although there are some in the field who express doubt in labeling him an existentialist to begin with. His philosophy also influenced the development of existential psychology.
Søren Kierkegaard's theology has been a major influence in the development of 20th century theology. Søren Kierkegaard (1813–1855) was a 19th-century Danish philosopher who has been generally considered the "Father of Existentialism". During his later years (1848–1855), most of his writings shifted from philosophical in nature to religious.
Practice in Christianity is a work by 19th century theologian Søren Kierkegaard. It was published on September 27, 1850 under the pseudonym Anti-Climacus, the author of The Sickness Unto Death. Kierkegaard considered it to be his "most perfect and truest book". In it, the theologian fully exposes his conception of the religious individual, the necessity of imitating Christ in order to be a true Christian and the possibility of offense when faced with the paradox of the incarnation. Practice is usually considered, along with For Self-Examination and Judge for Yourselves!, as an explicit critique of the established order of Christendom and the need for Christianity to be (re-)introduced into Christendom, since a good part of it consists in criticism of religious thinkers of his time.
Irrational Man: A Study In Existential Philosophy is a 1958 book by the philosopher William Barrett, in which the author explains the philosophical background of existentialism and provides a discussion of several major existentialist thinkers, including Søren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger, and Jean-Paul Sartre. Irrational Man helped to introduce existentialism to the English-speaking world and has been identified as one of the most useful books that discuss the subject, but Barrett has also been criticized for endorsing irrationality and for giving a distorted and misleading account of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.
Atheistic existentialism is a kind of existentialism which strongly diverged from the Christian existential works of Søren Kierkegaard and developed within the context of an atheistic world view. The philosophies of Søren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche provided existentialism's theoretical foundation in the 19th century, although their differing views on religion proved essential to the development of alternate types of existentialism. Atheistic existentialism was formally recognized after the 1943 publication of Being and Nothingness by Jean-Paul Sartre and Sartre later explicitly alluded to it in Existentialism is a Humanism in 1946.
The infinite qualitative distinction, sometimes translated as infinite qualitative difference, is a concept coined by the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. The distinction emphasizes the very different attributes of finite and temporal men and the infinite and eternal qualities of a supreme being. This concept fits into the apophatic theology tradition and therefore is fundamentally at odds with theological theories which posit a supreme being able to be fully understood by man. The theologian Karl Barth made the concept of infinite qualitative distinction a cornerstone of his theology.
Jewish existentialism is a category of work by Jewish authors dealing with existentialist themes and concepts, and intended to answer theological questions that are important in Judaism. The existential angst of Job is an example from the Hebrew Bible of the existentialist theme. Theodicy and post-Holocaust theology make up a large part of 20th century Jewish existentialism.
There are at least two senses in which the term philosophy is used: a formal and an informal sense. In the formal sense, philosophy is an academic study of the fields of aesthetics, ethics, epistemology, logic, metaphysics, as well as social and political philosophy. One's "philosophy of life" is philosophy in the informal sense, as a personal philosophy, whose focus is resolving the existential questions about the human condition.
Thomas Henry Croxall was an English minister in Copenhagen, instrumental in translating the work of Søren Kierkegaard and introducing him to an English audience.
Søren Kierkegaard's influence and reception varied widely and may be roughly divided into various chronological periods. Reactions were anything but uniform, and proponents of various ideologies attempted to appropriate his work quite early.