Sunday, April 21, 2024

Existential Christology of Kierkegaard

Søren Kierkegaard’s existential Christology

Søren Kierkegaard, a 19th-century Danish philosopher and theologian, is often regarded as the father of existentialism. His intricate philosophy interweaves theological concepts, existential questions, and a deep exploration of Christian individuality. This essay explores the main themes of Kierkegaard's works, particularly focusing on how these themes argue in favor of Jesus Christ as central to understanding human existence. Additionally, it provides detailed biographical information to contextualize his ideas.

Biographical overview

Søren Aabye Kierkegaard was born on May 5, 1813, in Copenhagen, Denmark. The youngest of seven children, his early life was markedly influenced by his father, Michael Pedersen Kierkegaard, a sternly religious man whose melancholy and guilt over perceived sins were imposed upon the young Kierkegaard. This familial atmosphere imbued him with a profound sense of existential dread and a fascination with the complexities of human existence and sin.

Kierkegaard studied theology at the University of Copenhagen, though his academic work often veered into the fields of philosophy and literature. His personal life was equally tumultuous, highlighted by a broken engagement to Regine Olsen, which deeply affected him and influenced his subsequent writings. Kierkegaard’s works were mostly published under various pseudonyms, each representing different viewpoints and exploring various philosophical and theological dilemmas. He died on November 11, 1855, leaving behind a legacy that would posthumously inspire existentialist philosophy and modern theology.

Existential Christology

Kierkegaard's theological thought is predominantly centered around the individual’s relationship with Jesus Christ. Unlike systematic theologians of his time, Kierkegaard believed that Christianity was not just a set of doctrines to be believed, but a personal journey of faith, marked by a subjective relationship with Christ. His works often critiqued the established church and Christian culture of Denmark for promoting what he saw as a superficial, complacent form of Christianity devoid of passion and authenticity.

1. The absurd faith

In Fear and Trembling, Kierkegaard discusses the concept of the "leap of faith" necessary for true belief, using the biblical story of Abraham and Isaac to illustrate his point. He argues that faith requires a suspension of the ethical, a move beyond reason that he describes as "absurd." Kierkegaard’s focus on Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son highlights the existential struggle between human understanding and divine command, which he ties directly to the individual's relationship with Christ, the ultimate 'absurdity' of God becoming man and dying on the cross.

2. The single individual

In Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments, Kierkegaard emphasizes that genuine understanding of Christian truths can only be grasped by the individual through a personal and subjective experience. This notion contrasts with the objective approach of doctrinal religion, arguing that each person must come to terms with Christ in a singular existential moment.

3. Christian suffering

Works of Love and The Sickness Unto Death explore the Christian concept of agape love and despair. Here, Kierkegaard delves into the idea that to be a Christian is to suffer as Christ did, not only physically but also existentially, by bearing the weight of one's own sin and the absurdity of life without despair.


Kierkegaard’s existential approach to Christianity revitalizes the narrative of Christ by placing the emphasis on personal faith and the paradox of the divine made human. His writings challenge believers to confront the implications of Christ’s life and teachings directly and personally, making a compelling case for the transformative power of true Christian faith.


This bibliography provides a foundation for further exploration of Kierkegaard’s philosophical and theological contributions, particularly as they pertain to his existential interpretation of Christology.
  • Kierkegaard, Søren. Fear and Trembling. Translated by Alastair Hannay. Penguin Books, 1985.
  • Kierkegaard, Søren. Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments. Translated by Alastair Hannay. Princeton University Press, 1992.
  • Kierkegaard, Søren. Works of Love. Translated by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong. Harper & Row, 1962.
  • Kierkegaard, Søren. The Sickness Unto Death. Translated by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong. Princeton University Press, 1980.
  • Garff, Joakim. Søren Kierkegaard: A Biography. Translated by Bruce H. Kirmmse. Princeton University Press, 2005.

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