HOME     Library     CONTENTS: Journals & Papers of Søren Kierkegaard
I   -   II  -   III  -   IV  -   V  -   VI  -   VII  -   VIII  -   IX  -   X  -   XI    


III A   -   III B   -   III C




We read: And God tested Abraham, and he said to him: Abraham, and Abraham answered: Here I am. We ought to note in particular the trusting and God-devoted disposition, the bold confidence in confronting the test, in freely and undauntedly answering: Here I am. Is it like that with us, or are we not rather eager to evade the severe trials when we see them coming, wish for a remote corner of the world in which to hide, wish that the mountains would conceal us, or impatiently try to roll the burden off our shoulders and onto others; or even those who do not try to flee — how slowly, how reluctantly they drag their feet. Not so with Abraham, he answers undauntedly: Here I am. He does not trouble anyone with his suffering, neither Sarah, who he knew very well would be grief-stricken over losing Isaac, nor Eliezer, the faithful servant in his house, with whom, if with anyone, he certainly might have sought consolation. We read: He rose early in the morning. He hurried as if to a jubilant festival, and by daybreak he was at Moria, the place designated by the Lord. And he cut the wood for the fire, and he bound Isaac, and he lighted the fire, and he drew the knife. My listener, there was many a father in Israel who believed that to lose his child was to lose everything that was dear to him, to be robbed of every hope for the future, but there was no one who was the child of promise in the sense Isaac was to Abraham. There was many a father who had had that loss, but since it was always, after all, God's almighty and inscrutable governance, since it was God who personally obliterated, as it were, the promise given, he was obliged to say with Job: The Lord gave, the Lord took away. Not so with Abraham — he was commanded to do it with his own hand. The fate of Isaac was laid in Abraham's hand together with the knife. And here he stood on the mountain early in the morning, the old man with his one and only hope. But he did not doubt; he looked neither to the right nor to the left; he did not challenge heaven with his complaints. He knew it was the weightiest sacrifice God could ask, but he also knew that nothing was too great for God. Of course, we all know the outcome of the story. Perhaps it does not amaze us anymore, because we have known it from our earliest childhood, but then the fault does not really lie in the truth, in the story, but in ourselves, because we are too lukewarm genuinely to feel with Abraham and to suffer with him. He went home happy, confident, trusting in God, for he had not wavered, he had nothing for which to reproach himself. If we imagine that Abraham, by anxiously and desperately looking around, discovered the ram that would save his son, would he not then have gone home in disgrace, without confidence in the future, without the self-assurance that he was prepared to bring to God any sacrifice whatsoever, without the divine voice from heaven in his heart that proclaimed to him God's grace and love.

Nor did Abraham say: Now I have become an old man, my youth is gone, my dream has not been fulfilled; I became a man and what I yearned for you denied me, and now that I am an old man you fulfilled everything in a wonderful way. Grant me now a quiet evening; do not summon me to new battles; let me rejoice in what you gave me, in the consolation of my old age.


The Upbuilding Implications of the Thought That before God We Are Always in the Wrong

Otherwise we might be tempted to despair of providence.

For if there were one man, one single man, no matter if he were the most powerful who ever lived in the world or the most humble, a man who on judgment day could justifiably say: I was not provided for, in the great household I was forgotten, or even if he put much of the blame at his own door yet could justifiably say: I acknowledge that I went astray in the world, I departed from the way of truth, but I did repent of my sin, I honestly intended and strove to the uttermost for the good, I lifted up my voice and shouted to heaven for help, but no one answered, there was no constructive solution, not even the remotest relief ..... if there were such a man, then everything would be foolishness, where then would the limit be.

— Anyone who has ever yielded to temptation must confess, however, that there was a possibility that in the next moment help was already at hand, and this is an observation, not a sophism, as it might seem to a despairing mind inclined to say: One can always say that.


On Christ's Sacrificial Life among Us

Christ's suffering has been variously understood at various times — the great physical pain, etc., but you have certainly noticed that however excruciating the sorrow of contrition may be, the sorrow which grips us when we suffer innocently, when we must bear the consequences of another's guilt, is even deeper. So it was with Christ's sorrow. Yet in all this suffering, he was not one to think of himself or let the burden of his sorrow fall upon others. With good reason he could have said to the sorrowing ones who sought comfort from him: Do you not see how much I am suffering, what a heavy burden rests upon my shoulders — and yet he was always willing at all times to hear the complaints and sufferings of others in order to give comfort.


You complain about mankind, about the world's corruption. We will not decide whether or not you are right, we will admit that a far more saintly person than we are has made the same charge with far greater authority:

There is no ground
in act and word
on which we now can build
every heart is a snare
every vow is dung
every rogue like a child
every promise like a shadow.

But a lot depends on you yourself, for there still is a battle no one else can fight for you, a doubt that no one else can put to rest, a care that no one else can put to rest, a care and concern about God. As soon as you have found assurance about this, you will find the world to be much better, for then you will not seek in the world or demand of it what it cannot give — then you yourself will be able to comfort and reassure others.


God's Fatherly Love

..... and if it seems to you, as your thoughts wander off from the paternal home and stray about in the wide world in order to rise to the concept of him as the almighty creator of all things and yet also the common father of all, if it seems that you still are missing some of the preferential love that was bestowed on you in your paternal home because he, your earthly father, was your only father and you were his only child, and if as a result it seems to you that the metaphor is not completely satisfactory, if you feel that such earthly representations ought not be included, well, then we admit that the metaphor falls short somewhat.

But when you yourself were anxious and troubled and went to your earthly father for consolation and assurance and found him to be downcast and sorrowful himself, so that his sorrow only augmented yours and did not alleviate it even if you momentarily forgot your own in your sympathy for his sufferings, and on the other hand when you, weak and crushed, turned your mind and your thoughts to him who cares for all and found him always powerful in weakness, the more powerful the weaker you yourself became, then, my listener, the metaphor does not quite fit, either, and you feel all the more that it does not fit you. But if in the preceding lines you felt a certain sadness about taking the best there is on earth to express the divine and it still did not reach up to heaven but along the way dissolved and disappeared before your eyes, this is now not the case, for now you have perceived that God is not called father according to the earthly designation, but that it is the other way around, that it is as scripture says, that all fatherhood in heaven and on earth is named after him, the heavenly father, that the name of father does not strive upward from earth to heaven but descends from heaven to earth, so that even if you had the best father there could be on earth, he is still only your step-father, only a reflection of the father-love after which he is named, only a shadow, a reflection, a picture, a metaphor, a dim expression of the fatherliness from which all fatherhood has its name in heaven and on earth. O, my listener, I trust that you have apprehended this blessedness, or rather that my presentation has managed to make you mindful of what you possess better, more richly and blessedly, or rather that I have disturbed nothing for you.


..... and Christ does not always sit at the Father's right hand, but when dangers threaten, he arises, he stands erect, just as Stephen saw him standing at the right hand of the Father.


The Congregation as the Bride of Christ

On the Gospel about a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. ..... When we think of the blessed moment when, after the many separations, the many trials, they who love each other are finally united.

But we must, after all, use metaphors — why not the best?


[Extended notes on lectures by Phillip K. Marheineke on "Dogmatic Theology with special Reference to Carl Daub's System," Berlin, October, 1841 - February, 1842.]


[Extended account of F. W. J. Schelling's lectures on "Philosophie der Offenbarung," Berlin, November 22, 1841 — February 4, 1842.]


[Notes on K. Werder's lectures on "Logik und Metaphysik," Berlin, first semester, 1841 — 1842.]


Dec. 1, 1841-42

In what Werder has covered so far, there are two points which I believe must have significance for every undertaking in dogmatics. The one is the transition from Werden to Daseyn; the other is the transition from changeableness to unchangeableness, finitude to infinitude. Entstehen (Nichts in Seyn) and Vergehen (Seyn in Nichts) are in each other: this expressed as rest, as product, is consequently not werden but was geworden ist, i.e., Daseyn. This sounds good enough, but it involves sheer play with the concept of time, which is not given and which I think cannot be given in logic anyway. Etwas and Anderes are not merely in each other, but Etwas is only insofar as it is Anderes, and Anderes only insofar as it is Etwas; they fashion each other. The movement is a redoubling [fordobler sig]. On one side Etwas. As an sich it is Etwas; as a being for another it is AnderesAnderes is an sich Anderes; as a being for another it is Etwas. But thereby Etwas consequently is — through Anderes; and consequently Etwas is not only Anderes but nur Anderes, and this is expressed by Andersseyn, but this expressed as unity is change. — Finitude is what am Ende ist; consequently the finite is was gewesen ist. But infinitude? It is finitude which is not itself (nonfinitude — both); consequently it is infinitude: was nicht gewesen ist. Insofar as this is to be the expression for the significance of finitude, it manifestly has not received its due.


[Reading notes on G. W. F. Hegel, Vorlesungen über Æsthetik, III.]


It is very remarkable that the wrath of the gods pursues the family of Labdakos; it is evident in Oedipus' fate; the daughters of his unhappy marriage are Antigone and Ismene. Meanwhile, as we see, Antigone is engaged to Creon's son. The family develops very tranquilly. This is Greek tragedy. Romantic tragedy could be joined to it if, for example, I had Antigone fall in love with all the energy of love, but in order to halt the vengeance of the gods she would not get married, she would regard herself as a sacrifice to the wrath of the gods because she belonged to the family of Oedipus, but she would not leave behind any family that could again become the object for the angry gods' persecution.


As well as being interesting, Philoctetes does border on being drama. Philoctetes' mounting bitterness and the progressive self-contradiction in his behaviour connected with it are profoundly true psychologically, but the whole thing is not classical.





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