“All faith is autopsy”

Søren Kierkegaard would have made a lousy televangelist. For starters, he thought that the Christian faith is based on an absurdity—the claim that Jesus, a lowly teacher, was fully human and fully divine. This paradox is an offense to the intellect that no amount of reasoning or scripture tossing can make convincing.
For Kierkegaard, faith isn’t about accepting the idea of Jesus as God. Rather, it’s a fearful struggle to relate to God, and a continuing existential commitment, without any certainty, to imitate the life of Jesus—which led the poor carpenter, as we all know, to humiliation and death as a criminal. Imagine Benny Hinn begging for donations with that message.

In his book Philosophical Fragments, Kierkegaard, writing under the pseudonym Johannes Climacus, a “practicing doubter,” contemplates whether belief would be easier for a contemporary of Jesus than for a follower living centuries later. In the quotes and journal entries below, in which Kierkegaard refers to faith as autopsy, “seeing with one’s own eyes,” the answer is no. The difficulties are the same for both kinds of followers.

“…There is not and cannot be any question of a follower at second hand, for the believer (and only he, after all, is a follower) continually has the autopsy of faith; he does not see with the eyes of others and sees only the same as every believer sees—with the eyes of faith.”
                                                                                   —Philosophical Fragments

“…Yet a contemporary such as this is not an eyewitness (in the sense of immediacy), but as a believer he is a contemporary in the autopsy of faith. But in this autopsy every non-contemporary (in the sense of immediacy) is in turn a contemporary.”
                                                                                   —Philosophical Fragments

“Therefore in only one respect can I extol those eyes and ears as blissfully happy (for the difficulty is terrible)—in being free from all the drivel with which someone later, for example, 2,000 years later, would be plagued and hindered in autopsy, for all faith is autopsy.”
                                                                                   —Journals, 1844

“Is this at all conceivable? For the single individual does relate himself absolutely to the absolute teacher—that is, to god—and all faith, as we said before, is indeed autopsy.”
                                                                                    —Journals, 1844           

   
             
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