God's Apology II: The Absurd

Wed, Oct 14

Is religious faith absurd or paradoxical? Is the person of faith called to transcend the rational and moral realms?  What does it mean to have an authentic religious faith?  In this session, we look at existentialist philosopher Soren Kierkegaard's theory of faith.  Kierkegaard meditates on the apparent absurdity and immorality of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac in order to demonstrate his faith in God.  

By the end of this class, you will:

  1. Identify and comparatively evaluate both fideistic and rationalist theories of faith.
  2. Describe the key features of existentialist philosophy, especially as it applies to questions of rational religious faith.
  3. Understand the Christian existentialism that Kierkegaard championed and ways in which it differs from natural theology.
  4. Reflect on how the moral theories we studied earlier in the course affect appropriate philosophical apologies for God's actions.

Read This:


"The Binding of Isaac" (Genesis 22)

Interactive Essay: Embrace the Absurd


Introduction Under the Banner of Heaven (Jon Krakauer)

Do This:

Complete these steps before you come to class

  • Consider the following prompts (you may want to write responses to these in your journal or talk about them with a friend):
    • Kierkegaard writes, "...I can understand a tragic hero, but not Abraham, even though in a certain lunatic sense I admire him more than all others." Do you agree? Why or why not?
    • How should we think about the relation between Abraham and religious zealots like Ron and Dan Lafferty?  What do you think about the closing paragraphs in the introduction to Under the Banner of Heaven?
  • Optional: test yourself by taking a practice comprehension check [now closed].

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