In Order There To Find God: Kierkegaard And Objective Revelation -- By: John Tallach

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 45:1 (NA 1994)
Article: In Order There To Find God: Kierkegaard And Objective Revelation
Author: John Tallach


In Order There To Find God: Kierkegaard And Objective Revelation

John Tallach

Summary

Kierkegaard is widely regarded as having no time for the objective, with all that this would imply for his view of God’s revelation of himself. This article suggests that Kierkegaard’s rejection of the objective will be misunderstood unless it is placed within the context of his debate with Hegelian rationalism. This suggestion is then brought to bear on how Kierkegaard has been interpreted by Don Cupitt and by Robert Adams. There is a brief final section on the Kierkegaardian principle that the truth is personal.

Introduction

The view is sometimes expressed that Kierkegaard had no time for God’s objective revelation of himself. And it is not difficult to see how readers of Kierkegaard could arrive at such a view. In the Concluding Unscientific Postscript1 he wrote ‘Objectively, Christianity has absolutely no existence’ (p. 116); ‘Objectively, there is no truth’ (p. 201).

However, I would suggest that in such statements Kierkegaard is using ‘objective’ in a specialised sense. He often uses this term (as well as others, like ‘systematic’ and ‘speculative’) to indicate the whole approach to philosophy and to Christianity which Kierkegaard perceives Hegel and others to have adopted.

Taking ‘objective’ in the non-specialised sense of something which exists independently of our perception of it, something which obtains whether or not anyone believes that it does, I would say that Kierkegaard not only believed in but attached the greatest possible importance to God’s objective revelation of himself. In his view, it is specifically God’s objective revelation of himself in the Incarnation which confronts man with his finitude and precipitates either the acceptance of faith or the offence of unbelief. Kierkegaard is renowned for his emphasis on the subjective. What is not so widely appreciated is his emphasis on how dependent we are on an objective God for producing the kind of subjectivity which is present when we respond in an appropriate way to God’s revelation of himself.

Now, if the learner is to acquire the Truth, the Teacher must bring it to him; and not only so, but he must also give him the condition necessary for understanding it. . .And still we have not said all that is necessary; for by his self-imposed bondage the learner has brought upon himself a burden of guilt, and when the Teacher gives him the condition and the Truth he constitutes himself an Atonement, taking away the wrath impending upon that of which the learner has made himself guilty.

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