Soren Kierkegaard is known for the phrase “leap of faith”. But what is this leap and how did he use it in his writings? He said faith is a task for a lifetime in his 1843 book Fear and Trembling (p. 7 Hong tr.). One can’t just continue to reflect about becoming a Christian one must put a stop to reflection through a leap. And the leap is a personal decision made by the single individual and involves a continual striving. It’s a resolution. Kierkegaard’s pseudonym, Johannes Climacus, read Fear and Trembling by Johannes de Silentio and “perceived how the leap, according to the author, as the decision par excellence becomes specifically decisive for what is Christian and for every dogmatic category.” The how of the truth is precisely the truth. Concluding Unscientific Postscript 1846 Hong p. 105 It was assumed that everyone in Denmark was Christian.
Kierkegaard is interested in the actuality of Christianity. He asks if actuality is ideality and says “Ethically, ideality is the actuality within the individual himself.” (CUP p. 325, 50) Let’s take a look at what he wrote about marriage in his 1845 book, Stages on Life’s Way:
“Marriage is not something immediate but an act of freedom, and belonging under freedom as it does, the task is actualized only through a resolution. The resolution must not come slinking along behind but must occur simultaneously; both parts must be present in the moment of decision. The resolution of marriage is a positive resolution and essentially the most positive of all; its opposite is also a resolution that resolves not to will to actualize the task. A person’s total ideality lies first and last in resolution. The resolving of the ethical, is freedom; the negative resolution also has this, but the freedom, blank and bare, is as if tongue-tied, hard to express, and generally has something hard in its nature. No resolution is made without venturing.” Stages on Life’s Way 1845 Published by Hilarius Bookbinder p. 101-102, 107-108, 111, 115 Soren Kierkegaard
I like his idea of resolving to will or resolving not to will. The will to become a married person or the will not to marry. The will to become and be a Christian or the will not to become and be a Christian. He thinks the negative resolution is more difficult to keep because you’re always fighting against the possibility of finding the perfect mate or coming to believe. He wondered if a variety of professionals were true to their professions in his 1851 book For Self Examination.
That leap had to be across something and many were discussing the historical roots of Christianity. Can we wade through the centuries and discover that Christ is God? David Strauss published The Life of Jesus Critically Examined in 1835. Albert Schweitzer discussed the book in his book The Quest of the Historical Jesus in 1906. Kierkegaard didn’t like the idea of an eternal decision based on historical truths.
“Everything that becomes historical is contingent, inasmuch as precisely by coming into existence, by becoming historical, it has its element of contingency, inasmuch as contingency is precisely the one factor in all coming into existence. –and therein lies again the incommensurability between a historical truth and an eternal decision. … It is a leap, and this is the word that Lessing has employed, within the accidental limitation that is characterized by an illusory distinction between contemporaneity and non-contemporaneity. His words read as follows: “That, that is the ugly broad ditch that I cannot cross, however often and however earnestly I have tried to make the leap.” … to have been very close to making the leap is nothing whatever, precisely because the leap is the category of decision.” Soren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientifc Postscript 1846 Hong p. 98