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Faith, Courage, and Ethics in Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling

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Abraham, the father of all nations is the perfect model for faith in Fear and Trembling, which is a book written by Søren Kierkegaard. It contains Kierkegaard’s obsession with the story of Abraham and his son, Issac, that occurs in Genesis 22. Abraham, a loyal follower of God, was given a task to sacrifice his son, which was the most difficult task he could ever perform. This paper will discuss the paradox that includes unethical actions and how Abraham is challenged with a hard task, who has to choose between sacrificing his son or ignore God’s command and uses his faith, courage, and ethics to complete the task.

In Fear and Trembling, Kierkegaard explains the parable of Abraham and Issac and how he falls into the parable. The parable, “The binding of Issac”, God commands Abraham to offer his child Isaac as a sacrifice to him. After Isaac is bound to the altar, a moment with Issac and God occurs. God stops Abraham before he completes the process of the sacrifice, saying ‘now I know you fear God’ Abraham gazes upward and sees a ram and sacrifices it rather than Isaac. This shows the absolute faith and obedience of Abraham to God. Kierkegaard is particularly mindful of the way the world redirects consideration from the primary issue of confidence. He realizes that in the event that he basically records an urging towards activity legitimately, it would not create his planned impact. As it is written in the Bible, “Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving…”. In this manner, Kierkegaard decides to address the individuals in illustrations, for example through the development of a story that identifies with the message legitimately instead of in a roundabout way. He retells the story of Abraham and Issac to highlight three things: uncertainty, risk, and challenge. Kierkegaard highlighted these three components in his novel to help the reader fully realize uncertainty, risk, and challenge are needed for absolute faith. The main component was a risk, being the risk of obedience. It is a consideration used by Kierkeegard that gives the readers more in-depth of what the paradox entails. Abraham had the choice of obeying and disobeying, the risk of obedience. Although he chose to obey, there could have been a chance where he used his ethical mindset and not gone through with the act.

In Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling, he discusses the difference between faith and “infinite resignation”. People with “infinite resignation” might resign themselves before they act. Meaning that they, with the help of a famous saying, “think before they act or do”. “In the crucial moment Agamemnon, Jephthah, and Brutus heroically have overcome the agony, heroically have lost the beloved, and have only to complete the task externally”. The act of resignation is as of now finish before the sacrifice of the child. To have infinite resignation, one does not need to play out a particular deed, yet just make the mental movement of presenting one’s limited will to the boundless. In the event that Agamemnon’s daughter had been struck somewhere by the gods just before he had relinquished her, he would, in any case, be the same amount of a hero, not on account of the physical sacrifice but because of his resignation. Kierkegaard tells us that if infinite resignation is done correctly, then no future disappointment can interfere with its infinite nature. This implies anything that bravery is associated with infinite resignation does not originate from the activity itself, but instead from the earlier resignation. The activity is not important to infinite resignation, nor would it be able to annihilate infinite resignation. It pursues that an individual with infinite resignation just is not as extraordinary as a result of the activity. Now for faith, faith requires action. “by virtue of the absurd” – on the journey to Mount Moriah, Abraham had to go on continually believing as he went through the physical actions of preparing the sacrifice, never with doubt. If Abraham had infinite resignation, however, and not confidence, he would have just reinforced his own spirit toward the loss of Isaac, and in the end, the act would have just been external. On the 3rd day, the adventure to Mount Moriah, there was a lot of time to leave himself appropriately, thus produce a mental hindrance against the torment of the misfortune.

Going off of faith and “action” The central purpose of Fear and Trembling is to get the reader to act. The purpose is not to seek any intellectual or emotional faith, but faith expressed by actions. “that only the one who was in anxiety finds rest, that only the one who descends into the lower world rescues the beloved, that only the one who draws the knife gets Isaac”. If someone is unwilling to work, they do not see any results nor do they see improvement. One must work towards will and action of faith, with full respect to God. Regarding Abraham, he succeeded because he acted. “He split the firewood, he bound Isaac, he lit the fire, he drew the knife…”. This moment was a critical moment where he could doubt unintentionally and lose everything. And if he did, the world would not be the same today. Someone with faith does receive all for their action because of their action was not just for them, but for God and their internal. “Everyone was great wholly in proportion to the magnitude of that with which he struggled”. This goes back to “faith” which the movement of faith is bound to involve some struggles. Kierkegaard says that everyone has a choice in life because, in the end, it is their own life. God gave us free will when Adam and Eve sinned by eating fruit from the “forbidden tree”. Free will means freedom. Freedom consists in using your own thoughts, beliefs to make a choice. Freedom and free will are one. We each have the right to speak or not to speak and the right to act or not to act.

In the Bible, faith is a big topic brought up several times. Anyone following God only needs faith the size of a “mustard seed” – which is achievable and with, can perform any miracles they need for their specific task. “For truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it will move, and nothing will be impossible to you.” Mustard seed growth is the way faith works in our lives. It’s how God brings us through to the end. What Jesus was attempting to show the individuals in his time, just as today, is that faith can be found in the most straightforward of things. Faith is not something that is unattainable for the basic man or lady. We do not have to ‘get directly with God’ for Him to cherish and favor us. Indeed, it is the point at which where we are in trials and sufferings that we should turn our eyes to God. What’s more, on the off chance that we really trust Christ, at that point all we need is a tad of faith. “But it takes paradoxical and humble courage next to grasp… the virtue of the absurd…”. Kierkegaard explains that having faith as a mustard seed is on another level, a level that some can’t understand. Some pastors or preachers believe that have a plentiful crowd is how to share God’s Word and get those who are not living for Jesus, living for Him. But that is not what having faith as the size of a mustard seed is about. It doesn’t necessarily mean that today every preacher will draw big crowds or every church will boast huge numbers. The Lord still likes to work in small, hidden ways. Mustard seed growth is not just how the church grows; it’s also the way the church can best make a difference in the world. The Bible says it is “not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts”.

Coming to a close with this paper, Kierkegaard goes deeply into faith, courage, and the ethical in the paradox between God, Abraham, and Issac. God asks Abraham to go against the ethical because God wanted to test Abraham. Looking back at Fear and Trembling and Kierkegaard’s viewpoints, it can change one’s understanding of the story. God knew that Abraham was going to be able to pass the “ethics” test. He passes with his absolute faith and trust in God. Not only with his faith, but with his actions as well. 

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Faith, Courage, And Ethics In Kierkegaard’s Fear And Trembling. (2021, August 06). GradesFixer. Retrieved November 28, 2021, from
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