Abraham, the father of the Christian, Jewish, and Islamic religions is held up by Kierkegaard as the perfect model for faith in Fear and Trembling. The specific example most strongly used in Kierkegaard’s writing is the unhesitant actions of Abraham to heed God’s call and sacrifice his only son and promised heir to his kingdom, Isaac. Abraham faithfully follows God’s command without remorse, doubt, sadness, or anger. It is only moments before the murder and sacrifice of Isaac that God intervenes and send a ram in his stead. This action is elevated by Kierkegaard as the ideal living example of a knight of faith (99). Abraham’s resolute willingness to suspend all the normal ethical systems, what Kierkegaard refers to as the teleological suspension of the ethical, in order to fulfill his duty to God provides a roadmap for others to act as knights of faith (83). However, Abraham as an objective standard for the ideal knight of faith becomes extremely problematic once his life as a whole is critically analyzed in accordance with scriptures. Instead Kierkegaard used the myth of Abraham and Isaac as a literary tool to help explicate his ideal model for humanity’s relationship with the divine. It is also arguable that a better knight of faith would have been Kierkegaard himself.
Before criticizing Abraham as a model for someone of true subjective faith, it must first be understood how Kierkegaard views the individual and faith. He would argue that the self is not a static object, but instead an ever-changing action as the self continues to relate to itself, and in a proper mode of faith, to God. Faith, Kierkegaard argues, is also not something which is static and simply attainable through one action or that can be “attained at a bargain price” (77). Faith can be considered a continual movement, an action, or a process. In the proper mode of relating oneself to oneself and to the divine, faith is not an object, but a verb. Faithing or faith-ing would more accurately describe one who was subjectively uniting the finite with the infinite. It is through this action of faith that one embraces the absurd or the impossible.
Taking the leap of faith is beyond the rational mind to comprehend, but is also beyond the scope of reason because it is total belief in the possibility of the impossible. If viewed from an outside perspective the whole concept is totality absurd. Kierkegaard describes absurdity when he writes, “What is the absurd? The absurd is that the eternal truth has entered time, that God has entered existence, has been born, has grown . . . has become precisely like any other human being” (42). By describing the absurd this way, Kierkegaard illustrates that the act of faithing encompasses believing in a truth that cannot be true and is therefore a paradox.
Understanding faith as an action constantly relating to oneself and to the divine while embracing the absurd is foundational to Kierkegaard’s understanding of Abraham. In Fear and...