My Initial Thoughts on Kierkegaard

A couple of years ago I had not even heard of Soren Kierkegaard.  And then I was able to present a paper at the 2010 SMPT conference and heard his name mentioned dozens of times.  So I put him on my reading list.  I recently bought ‘The Essential Kierkegaard‘ and I have read about a third of it in random chunks.  I would like to spit out some of my first impressions.

In some ways, I think many Mormons would dig Kierkegaard.  His ‘Fear and Trembling’ provides many insights into the command to Abraham to sacrifice Isaac.  The ideals of obedience and sacrifice would appeal to many Latter-Day Saints.  It would also interest many Mormons to read Kierkegaard’s attack on Christianity.  Kierkegaard makes pretty bold claims of apostasy including a lack of apostolic authority, corrupt doctrine, and an easy salvation.  Since Mormonism’s restoration claims rest on just such an apostacy, they would value an independent, similar claim from such a respected philosopher/theologian.

In other ways, I think many Mormons would not like Kierkegaard very much.  At times he is a bit of a downer.  He speaks of the human/Christian condition as being one of lowliness.  This life is supposed to be difficult, and filled with anxiety.  His views are a far cry from ‘men are that they might have joy’.  I also doubt that he would go along with an embodied, non-absolute God either.

I admire Kierkegaard’s thoughts and talents.  He is a very poetic writer, with an enjoyable wit and style.  But I prefer a more positive view of life and mankind.  I will read a few more of his essays, but will not likely read the entire book.


8 Responses to “My Initial Thoughts on Kierkegaard”

  1. 1 Daniel May 29, 2011 at 10:15 pm

    Kierkegaard has a great positive view of life and mankind, the existential philosophy which is an optimistic lifestyle as opposed to nihilism, a pessimistic lifestyle. It’s his view of a New Testament lifestyle that gets fundamentalists pissed.

  2. 2 Kent99 May 30, 2011 at 3:26 am

    I first encountered Kierkegaard while studying Philosophy at University. His book ‘Fear and Trembling’ gives a great insight into what it means to have a ‘personal relationship with God’. I think many Mormons would fair well if they allowed themselves to read a little Philosophy.

  3. 3 Aaron R. May 30, 2011 at 7:02 am

    I would also recommend the short book Kierkegaard’s VSI. Aside from Fear and Trembling and this book I have only read snippets but he is someone I have enjoyed thinking with. I need to try and get hold of Paulsen’s work on JS and Kierkegaard.

  4. 4 Eric Nielson May 30, 2011 at 9:06 am


    I know I am just scratching the surface, but your comment makes me wonder if we are reading the same stuff.


    I completely agree that Mormons would benefit from a little philosophy. It can clear up your thinking even if you disagree. But philosophy is not really a part of Mormon culture.


    I paid $2 on line to be able to download that article from BYU Studies, and it did not appear to work. Maybe they will send it in the mail or something.

  5. 5 Jacob B. May 30, 2011 at 11:49 am

    Works of Love is his magnum opus. Absolutely a must-read.

  6. 6 Eric Nielson May 30, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    Thanks Jacob. I will read it in the next few days.

  7. 7 Daniel May 30, 2011 at 8:27 pm

    Oh, if you haven’t read Works of Love yet, then yeah we are reading different things. I also recommend Judge for Yourselves! and For Self-Examination.

  1. 1 Kierkegaard on Prophets/Apostles « Small and Simple Trackback on June 9, 2011 at 2:36 pm

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