MBS TexTe 175
10. Jahrgang
2013
Thomas K. Johnson
Dialogue with Kierkegaard
in Protestant Theology:
Donald Bloesch, Francis
Schaeffer, and Helmut
Thielicke
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Philosophical Initiatives
Philosophische Anstöße
Table of Contents
Inhaltsverzeichnis
1. Au. 2013
Donald Bloesch ........................................................................ 3
Francis Schaeer ...................................................................... 6
Helmut ielicke ..................................................................... 9
Remarks ................................................................................. 12
Annotations ........................................................................... 13
e Author ............................................................................. 14
Study Centers ..........................................................................15
Imprint .................................................................................. 16
PhilosoPhische Anstösse 3
Dialogue with Kierkegaard in Protestant Theology …
Twentieth century Protestant theol-
ogy eectively began in 1919 with the
publication of Karl Barths great Ro-
man’s Commentary. Here Barth eec-
tively declared the otherness of God
and the crisis of modern optimistic re-
ligion and culture, and Barth did this
under the inuence of Søren Kierkeg-
aard. Kierekegaardian phrases like “the
innite qualitative dierence between
time and eternity” echo throughout
Barths early works, and these themes
are an important part of what makes
twentieth century theology so dier-
ent from nineteenth century theology.
In his later works Barth did not make
so many references to the idiosyncratic
Dane, but dialogue with Kierkegaard
had begun and was to become a fas-
cinating and many-sided element in
the writings of many Protestant theo-
logians after Barth. And this dialogue
with Kierkegaard can serve as a kind of
red thread that can lead us into some of
the distinctive and interesting themes
of the theology of the last century.
ree theologians of the generation
after Barth who carried on extensive di-
alogues with Kierkegaard were Donald
Bloesch, Francis Schaeer, and Helmut
ielicke. e three represent a variety
of intellectual, confessional, and na-
tional backgrounds, yet the three have
some important things in common.
All three saw themselves as followers
of the Protestant Reformation, and all
three, like Barth, saw a very close con-
nection between theology and Chris-
tian preaching. And all three thought
the dialogue with Kierkegaard was sig-
nicant. But there the similarity ends.
Each theologian has a distinctive inter-
pretation of and response to our Danish
friend.
Donald Bloesch
Donald Bloesch is an American,
though he did much of his post doc-
toral study internationally, at Oxford,
Tuebingen, and Basel. He regards him-
self as a follower of Karl Barth, Jacques
Ellul, Reinhold Niebuhr, and Dietrich
Bonhoeer, though Barth is especially
important to him. He likes to call him-
self “evangelical” and generally aligns
more with Reformed than Lutheran
points of view. In his interaction with
Dialogue with Kierkegaard in Protestant
Theology: Donald Bloesch, Francis Schaeffer,
and Helmut Thielicke
1
Thomas K. Johnson
Thomas K. Johnson
MBS TexTe 175
4
Kierkegaard, there are three themes
worthy of attention: the nature of faith,
the God-world relation, and the rela-
tion of law and gospel.
Bloesch applauds Kierkegaards re-
action to the Hegelian notion of faith.
He notes, “Kierkegaard particularly
reacted against the Hegelian distor-
tion of Christianity as this was reected
in philosophical theology. Whereas
liberal and philosophical theologians
contended that the object of faith is
the most universal, Kierkegaard main-
tained that it is the absolutely singular
as this appears in history.
2
is discussion is clearly being carried
out in light of the distinction Lessing
made between the necessary truths of
reason and the accidental truths of his-
tory. Hegel is interpreted here as deal-
ing only with the necessary truths of
reason, “a cosmic process whereby the
Absolute goes out of itself and then re-
turns to itself.
3
Against Hegel, Bloesch
and Kierkegaard argue that faith has to
do with a particular historical event,
the Incarnation, “Jesus Christ himself
entering time.” Kierkegaard “cogently
showed that Christianity understood
as the entry of the living God into his-
tory demands the passionate response
of faith.”
4
Over against Hegel, “For Kierkeg-
aard the truth of faith is not only above
reason but also against reason. It is an
objective uncertainty’ that can be held
to only by the passion of inwardness. It
requires a leap into the darkness of the
unknown rather than rational supports;
… truth is not an abstract doctrine or
an intuitive apprehension but the trans-
formative reality of the incarnate Word
making contact with us in paradoxical
encounter.
5
Bloesch thinks Kierkegaard was right
to place faith against reason rather
strongly. Indeed, Bloesch repeatedly
places theology and philosophy in al-
most absolute antithesis in his writings,
philosophy being based on autonomous
reason as it attempts to articulate the
foundational themes that shape a cul-
tural ethos, while theology is “the at-
tempt to see all things in the light of
Gods self-revelation in Jesus Christ.
6
And Bloesch repeatedly quotes Pascal
to the eect that the God of the phi-
losophers is not the God of Abraham,
Isaac, and Jacob. Reason and faith,
philosophy and theology, stand against
each other so strongly because, “Prior
to faith our reasoning is distorted by
sin. We use our reason to rationalize
our self-interest rather than come to the
truth.”
7
Yet Bloesch cannot completely follow
Kierkegaards leap of faith that makes
faith contrary to evidence or reason. He
claims faith is “a venture of trust based
on evidence that faith itself provides.
We do not believe without our reason,
but we also do not believe on the ba-
sis of reason.
8
In this regard Bloesch
quotes the Augustinian formula credo
ut intelligam, I believe in order to un-
derstand. And Bloesch thinks true faith
leads to certainty, not objective uncer-
tainty. He claims, “the decision of faith
is as important as the fact of revelation
in giving us certainty of the truth of
PhilosoPhische Anstösse 5
Dialogue with Kierkegaard in Protestant Theology …
faith. e revelation is not simply as-
sented to but is existentially embraced
as the truth or power of salvation. Cer-
tainty of truth becomes ours only in the
act of decision and obedience by which
the external truth becomes internalized
in faith and life.
9
A weakness in this discussion is that
Kierkegaard seems to associate rea-
son with Hegelian philosophy whereas
Bloesch relates reason to all types of
philosophy without clarifying what
type of philosophy is in view. It may
be that faith and reason stand in some-
what dierent relations, depending on
what type of philosophy reason sup-
posedly produces; this possibility is not
mentioned by Bloesch.
Bloesch is generally quite positive re-
garding Kierkegaards concerns on the
God-world relationship. He strongly af-
rms “an innite qualitative distinction
between God and humanity.” Bloesch
comments, “Whereas traditional Chris-
tian faith has stoutly armed the real-
ity of the living God who created both
mind and matter, the modern trend is
to treat one of these as the all-encom-
passing reality, thereby making it tan-
tamount to God.
10
Bloesch thinks Ki-
erkegaard was right to reject the strong
immanentism of the theologians inu-
enced by Hegel because this tends to
blur the distinction between God and
creation. Yet Bloesch thinks Kierkeg-
aard struggled with two irreconcilable
views of God in his own mind. On the
one hand, Kierkegaard armed the
biblical picture of God who loves and
cares for his people and is known in
Christ. On the other hand, Kierkegaard
also pictures God as “the impassible,
self-contained Absolute, blithely tower-
ing above the world of temporality and
materiality.
11
It may be that Kierkeg-
aards mind was divided between the
God of the philosophers and the God of
Abraham, even while he rejected Hege-
lian notions of God.
A distinctive part of Bloeschs dia-
logue with Kierkegaard has to do with
the relationship between law and gos-
pel, an important theme in Protestant
theology since Martin Luther. Lu-
ther claimed that good theology must
clearly distinguish law and gospel.
e law has to do with the commands
and demands of God; the gospel is the
promise of salvation by faith in Christ.
According to Luther, this means that
one must experience the law of God
in its condemning use, pointing out
our sin, before one is ready to believe
the gospel of forgiveness by faith in
Christ. Kierkegaard follows Luther’s
order of law and gospel in the way he
puts the ethical and aesthetic stages of
life prior to the religious stage, as well
as in the way he analyzes the misery
of life and the human predicament as
a step to faith. In contrast to Kierkeg-
aard, Bloesch follows Karl Barth, who
insisted that the gospel comes before
the law. is means there is a reversed
relation between faith and such things
as ethics, aesthetics, and existential
analysis. Bloesch believes ethics, aes-
thetics, and existential analysis can
only be done properly in light of faith
and on the basis of faith. He claims,
Thomas K. Johnson
MBS TexTe 175
6
“we cannot really know the extremity
of our need until we are rst awakened
to faith by the love of God shown forth
in Jesus Christ.” In contrast, “Kierkeg-
aard allowed that the person in despair
could have “a faint intimation of his or
her existential need for God, though
not a true understanding.
12
is dierence regarding law and
gospel leads to very dierent theologi-
cal assessments of daily life. Bloesch
argues:
“Only as people of faith can we truly
enjoy the pleasure of life. e aes-
thetic life is not to be left behind but
to be appropriated anew in light of
the free grace given us by God, which
restores rather than annuls creation.
Whereas Barth was rmly convinced
that, despite human perdy and ob-
stinacy, culture could be transformed
and renewed by divine grace, Ki-
erkegaard came to the sobering con-
clusion that cultural pursuits had to
be renounced in the interest of secur-
ing eternal happiness.
13
To avoid misunderstanding, one
should note that while Kierkegaard
seems to have had a world renouncing
spirituality, this was not true of Luther.
For Luther, the assurance of faith led
him to a vigorous involvement in the
aairs of everyday life as the sphere in
which one loves his neighbor. In Prot-
estant theology and ethics, whether one
engages or withdraws from culture and
the enjoyment of daily life is inuenced
by more theological factors than only
the relation between law and gospel.
One might expect the reversal of the
relation between law and gospel to gos-
pel and law might lead Bloesch to an
excessive optimism about the Christian
life. But this is not the case. He quotes
Kierkegaard, “the forgiveness of sins …
does not mean to become a new man
under happier circumstances, but to
become a new man in the consoling
assurance that the guilt is forgiven,
even though the consequences of sin
remain.
14
Bloesch adds, “We must re-
pent of our virtues as well as our vices,
because sin accompanies every good
work, and yet have the full assurance
that the perfect love of Christ covers the
multitude of our sins.
15
Francis Schaeffer
Francis Schaeer was an American,
though he spent much of his career in
Switzerland. While emphasizing his in-
terpretation of historic Protestant doc-
trine he developed a creative analysis of
modern and post-modern culture. His
theology was heavily inuenced by the
“Old Princeton eology” of Charles
Hodge and B. B. Wareld, with some
inuence from the “Amsterdam eol-
ogy” of Abraham Kuyper and Herman
Bavinck. His method of cultural analy-
sis was inspired by J. Gresham Machen.
Schaeer’s approach to Kierkegaard
is very dierent from that of either
Bloesch or ielicke. is is for two
reasons: rst, Schaeer deals with Ki-
erkegaard primarily in his works of
cultural analysis, not philosophical or
theological works; and second, Schaef-
PhilosoPhische Anstösse 7
Dialogue with Kierkegaard in Protestant Theology …
fer interacts mostly with Kierkegaard-
ianism as a cultural force that picked up
themes and phrases from Kierkegaard,
which may or may not accurately reect
Kierkegaards intentions. In his early
works Schaeer was not always clear
that he was describing Kierkegaardian-
ism, not necessarily Kierkegaard per se.
Later Schaeer made the distinction
very clear. His denitions communi-
cate much of what concerned him.
“ere can and will be continu-
ing discussion among scholars as to
whether the secular and religious
scholars who built on Kierkegaard
did him justice. However, what in
these can be called secular and reli-
gious Kierkegaardianism did bring
to full tide the notion that reason will
always lead to pessimism. at is, one
must try to nd optimistic answers
in regard to meaning and values on
an ‘upper level’ outside of reason.
rough a ‘leap of faith’ one must try
to nd meaning without reason.
16
Schaeer describes Kierkegaard as
the rst man to live below the “line of
despair.” He claims that the history of
western philosophy has been a history
of people trying to draw theoretical cir-
cles that would encompass a complete
description of life and the world with-
out having to depart from the tradi-
tional logic of antithesis. is eort has
been “rationalistic,” which in his terms
is not the opposite of empiricist but the
opposite of theistic. Rationalistically
people begin from themselves, using
Man as the only reference and integra-
tion point, and attempted to develop a
unied system of knowledge, meaning,
and values. One thinker would follow
after another and cross out a previous
theoretical circle, saying, in eect, you
can live in my circle, even though you
cannot live in the previously drawn
theoretical circles. is process was op-
timistic in the sense that thinking peo-
ple generally expected someone to draw
the perfect theoretical circle. But nally
this optimism ran out.
“e philosophers came to the conclu-
sion that they were not going to nd a
unied rationalistic circle that would
contain all thought, and in which
they could live. It was as though the
rationalist suddenly realized that he
was trapped in a large room with no
doors and no windows, nothing but
complete darkness. From the middle
of the room he would feel his way to
the walls and begin to look for an
exit. He would go round the circum-
ference, and then the terrifying truth
would dawn on him that there was
no exit, no exit at all!
17
With this obvious allusion to Sartre,
in terms that echo Platos Parable of
the Cave, Schaeer describes the end
of optimistic rationalism. At this point
thought and culture could go in dier-
ent directions. One option would be to
give up on autonomous rationalism and
go outside of the self to nd satisfactory
answers for life. is would involve ac-
cepting the possibility or need for di-
vine revelation. A second option would
be to live with consistent nihilism. e
third option, predominantly chosen
by modern culture, would have been
Thomas K. Johnson
MBS TexTe 175
8
unthinkable to previous generations: a
split eld of knowledge. ought and
culture crossed the “line of despair,
which is a historical line, after which
western people strongly tend to split
knowledge” into two parts, pessimis-
tic, materialistic rationality in which
man is seen as a meaningless machine,
separated from the realm of optimistic
irrationality, in which people try to nd
hope, meaning, or personality. Accord-
ing to people who live below the line
of despair, “on the basis of reason men
will always come to pessimism—man is
a machine and meaningless. erefore,
they developed a concept of nonreason,
an attempt of man to achieve meaning
and signicance outside the framework
of rationality.
18
Schaeer is very fond of some of
Kierkegaards religious writings, but
he is very critical of the philosophical
framework that Kierkegaard brought
into western thought. Schaeer sees
Kierkegaard as the father of many
twentieth century cultural problems,
especially because of his notion of the
leap of faith” that separates life into
two levels, the level of rational pessi-
mism and the level of irrational faith
and optimism.
“One must understand that from the
onset of Kierkegaardianism onward
there has been a widespread concept
of the dichotomy between reason and
nonreason, with no interchange be-
tween them. e lower-story area of
reason is totally isolated from the op-
timistic area of nonreason. e line
which divides reason from nonreason
is as impassable as a concrete wall
thousands of feet thick, reinforced
with barbed wire charged with
10,000 volts of electricity. ere is
no osmosis between the two parts. So
modern man now lives in such a to-
tal dichotomy, wherein reason leads
to despair. ‘Downstairs’ in the area
of humanistic reason, man is a ma-
chine, man is meaningless. ere are
no values. And “upstairs” optimism
about meaning and values is totally
separated from reason.
19
In Schaeer’s works there are two
closely related terms. e “line of de-
spair” refers to this historical transition
he connects to the inuence of Kierkeg-
aard. His term “existential methodol-
ogy” refers to any system or method of
thought that separates life and thought
into two levels, pessimistic rationality
and optimistic irrationality. And he
thinks that after Kierkegaard started
working below the line of despair, the
existential methodology gradually
spread to other areas of learning, the or-
der being roughly philosophy to art to
music to general culture to theology.
20
Even much of twentieth century Prot-
estant theology has lived below the line
of despair, using an existential meth-
odology, e. g., Barth, Bultmann, Til-
lich, and Reinhold Niebuhr. ough a
historical transition of this magnitude
cannot be dated precisely, Schaeer es-
timates that the slide under the line of
despair should be dated at about 1890
in Europe and 1935 in North America.
For Schaeer, the relation between faith
and reason is not just one among many
PhilosoPhische Anstösse 9
Dialogue with Kierkegaard in Protestant Theology …
interesting theological or philosophical
questions. He believes the Kierkegaard-
ian mistake is causing the shaking and
shuttering western civilization. God,
human dignity, meaning, and universal
morals are all seen as irrational in a so-
ciety that prizes rationality.
e entire civilization is left without
the intellectual foundation that Christi-
anity once provided. While Christian-
ity is clearly not derived from rational-
ity, Schaeer claims it is not irrational
and gives “true truth” about God, man,
morals, and meaning, not just irrational
answers or existential truths.
Within Schaeer’s cultural critique,
though Kierkegaard may have been a
Knight of Faith, he played a key role in
the loss of the philosophical and moral
foundations of civilization. If Schaeer
is right, the Knight of Faith may, para-
doxically, have aided in the teleological
suspension of the ethical for an entire
society.
Schaeer’s solution can be phrased
in terms of his analysis of the narrative
of Abraham’s almost sacrice of Isaac,
(Genesis 22) which was so important
for Kierkegaards thought.
“In his thinking concerning Abra-
ham, Kierkegaard did not read the
Bible carefully enough. Before Abra-
ham was asked to move toward the
sacrice of Isaac (which, of course,
God did not allow to be consum-
mated), he had much propositional
revelation from God, he had seen
God, God had fullled promises to
him. In short, God’s words at this
time were in the context of Abra-
hams strong reasons for knowing
that God both existed and was totally
trustworthy.
21
Clearly, Schaeer thinks faith and ra-
tionality are somehow compatible.
Helmut Thielicke
Helmut ielicke was a German Lu-
theran who was heavily inuenced by
Karl Barth as a young man, and like
Barth he was involved in the Confess-
ing Church that tried to resist Hitler
during World War II. After the war he
wrote extensively in theology and eth-
ics, often claiming to follow Luther
while arguing against Barth, even while
there were many Barthian elements in
his thought.
ielicke claimed that “Kierkegaard
has two right hands and no left hand.
22
is humorous statement, using terms
borrowed from Luther, shows how
ielicke used and reacted to Kierkeg-
aard in his theology and ethics. For Lu-
ther, the kingdom of the right hand had
to do with one’s relation to God by faith,
while the kingdom of the left hand had
to do with Gods indirect reign in the
world by means of the creation orders,
especially the state. So ielicke thinks
Kierkegaard has something to oer in
the realm of faith but little to say about
ethics and society.
Paradoxically, a theme borrowed from
Kierkegaard, that sin is “relating oneself
absolutely to the relative,
23
becomes an
important theme in ielicke’s political
ethics. He sees ideological tyranny as
Thomas K. Johnson
MBS TexTe 175
10
one of the worst political problems of
the twentieth century. And within ev-
ery ideology that tyrannizes there is a
problem of idolatry, “a creaturely reality
is illegitimately elevated to the rank of
the creator.
24
In other words, an ide-
ology results when people relate them-
selves absolutely to the relative, when
they treat some part of creation as if it
were the creator and interpret all of life
in light of it. Further, a state becomes
totalitarian when it not only promotes
an ideology but also begins to treat itself
as absolute, instead of as only one part
of life.
25
In ielicke’s analysis, ideolog-
ical tyranny is driven by multiple levels
of relating absolutely to the relative. A
key political eect of Christianity is to
break some of this false absolutizing.
Language borrowed from Kierkegaard
describes this quite well.
A second key use ielicke makes of a
theme from Kierkegaard has to do with
interpreting the image of God in hu-
man nature. Many theologians in the
western tradition have had ontological
denitions of the image of God that
identied the image with some human
quality, such as personality, freedom,
responsibility, conscience, or perhaps
with the possession of a soul. Against
this tradition, ielicke claimed the
image is a relational notion, specically
having to do with a relation to God.
Whether a person stands in a positive
or a negative relation to God, “It is the
divine address which constitutes the
person as imago Dei.
26
God is speaking
to all people, whether people respond in
faith and have a positive relation or in
unbelief and have a negative relation. It
is the fact that every person stands in
either a positive or negative relation to
God that lends such dignity to human
life. at is why ielicke likes to call
human dignity “alien,” not inherent or
intrinsic. It has to do with something
outside the person, a relationship, not
something internal to the person.
In support of this notion ielicke
quotes a parable of Kierkegaard from
Sickness Unto Death.
“is self acquires a quality or quali-
cation in the fact that it is the self
directly in the sight of God. is
self is no longer the merely human
self but is what I would call, … the
theological self, the self directly in the
sight of God. … A herdsman who (if
this were possible) is a self only in the
sight of cows is a very low self, and so
also is a ruler who is a self in the sight
of slaves—for in both cases the scale
of measure is lacking. But what an
innite accent falls upon the self by
getting God as a measure.
27
ielicke argues repeatedly that we
must not see the value of a person as be-
ing merely derived from the functions
or abilities of the person. Such a func-
tional approach to the value of a person
he sees as typical of totalitarian ideolo-
gies. Speaking in rather Kierkegaard-
ian terms he declares that the value of
a person is an alien dignity that comes
because each person stands in some re-
lation to God and is valued by God.
A third theme from Kierkegaard
that ielicke uses and develops is the
distinction between Religion A and
PhilosoPhische Anstösse 11
Dialogue with Kierkegaard in Protestant Theology …
Religion B found in the Concluding
Unscientic Postscript. e rst, which
ielicke calls “the human possibility
of religion,” carries a person “beyond
the ethical but only in such a way that
while he refers all the impulses and mo-
ments of his nite life to the absolute re-
lation with God, he is also aware that he
resists this relation and is unable to put
it into eect. What he attains beyond
the ethical is simply a deepening of his
sense of guilt.
28
e only presupposi-
tion of Religion A is “human nature
in general.”
29
Religion B is a “wholly
other” that does not arise from human
possibilities but is received from God as
a pneumatic miracle. “e sense of sin
is radicalized but certainty of forgive-
ness is also received.
30
“e individual
is edied, not by nding the relation
to God inside himself, but by relating
himself to something outside him-
self.
31
Kierkegaard seems to be think-
ing in Lutheran terms here. Religion
A has to do with the law of God while
Religion B also trusts in the gospel of
Christ.
is theological concern of Kierkeg-
aard becomes central for ielicke. He
sees two types of religion and two types
of theology. On the level of religious life
he is concerned about the “dierence
between the reception of the salvation
event into the consciousness and the op-
posing integration of ourselves into the
salvation event.
32
At this point his con-
cern seems to exactly follow Kierkeg-
aard and is similar to common distinc-
tions in Protestant thought such as that
between religion as mans search for
God and faith as the response to Gods
search for man (Barth) or types of re-
ligious commitment (George Forell) or
even between law and gospel (Luther).
But ielicke further develops this dis-
tinction into two basic types of theol-
ogy. eology A (Cartesian) starts with
some type of philosophical or anthro-
pological pre-understanding and asks
what type of truth from the Christian
message can be appropriated by a self
with this kind of consciousness. Great
representatives of this type of theology
include Lessing, Schleiermacher, and
Bultmann. e problem, obviously, is
that our human self-understanding may
function as a screen or sieve that lters
out parts of the Christian message.
33
eology B (Non-Cartesian) starts
with the Christian kerygma to which
the theologian has been appropriated
by the Holy Spirit, and philosophical or
anthropological analysis is done in light
of the Christian message and is only
used out of love for the neighbor. It has
a much dierent rank and function.
34
ielicke himself provides a good ex-
ample of eology B. e 3,100 pages
of his eologische Ethik are an example
of anthropological analysis carried out
in light of the Christian message.
In spite of this obviously very large
inuence of Kierkegaard on ielicke,
ielicke reserves the right to some very
signicant criticism of Kierkegaard.
Even though Kierkegaard gives a solid
basis for the value of the individual, he
has serious diculty giving a frame-
work for evaluating social structures.
Says ielicke, “It is hard to see what
Thomas K. Johnson
MBS TexTe 175
12
signicance he could accord to the
institutions, the historical structures
(social and economic), in which the in-
dividual exists.”
35
Along these lines he
asks, “does not Kierkegaard bracket o
the religious dimension from the total-
ity of existence, so that it touches the
horizontal dimension only as a tangent
does a circle, i. e., at a single point?”
36
Kierkegaards notion of radical uncon-
ditionality toward God led to a nega-
tive relation to everything in this world,
including the church and Christianity.
is may be the background for Ki-
erkegaards loss of immediacy for the
normal things of everyday life, such as
work and marriage.
In this regard ielicke was quite
critical of what he regarded as “anthro-
pological docetism,” which, by analogy
with heretical Christological docetism,
regards humans almost as disembodied
spirits that are hardly part of the real
world of business, government, etc.
ielicke attempted to overcome this
problem which he regarded as wide-
spread by means of his sermons and
ethics. A central goal of ielicke was
to provide a theological interpretation
of the structures of daily life, in a sense
rejecting major themes in Kierkeg-
aards thought, for he saw Kierkegaard
as a major source of anthropological
docetism.
37
Finally, on an epistemological level,
Kierkegaards notion that subjectivity
is truth leads to certain problems. He
has no organ by which to detect the
signicance of factual knowledge.
38
Scientic and historical information
can really have no place in his philoso-
phy. e content of what one claims to
know is dwarfed in its signicance next
to the passionate embrace of what one
thinks is true. ough ielicke did not
use this phrase, he regards Kierkegaard
as having a docetic epistemology.
Remarks
We see tremendous variety in the
dialogue with Kierkegaard in Protes-
tant theology that reveals the dierent
concerns of the dierent theologians.
Bloesch is a theologian in the narrower
sense that his task is to articulate the
contents of the evangelical faith in a
credible manner. Schaeer is espe-
cially an analyst of the shape of mod-
ern and postmodern culture as a whole.
ielicke is a theological ethicist try-
ing to interpret human nature and the
structures of human life. Yet certain
common themes arise among the three.
Bloesch and Schaeer, in dierent
ways, express concern that the Chris-
tian faith not be seen as irrational, even
though the content of faith cannot be
derived from reason. Bloesch, Schaef-
fer, and ielicke all show, in dialogue
with Kierkegaard, great concern about
forms of thought that are antithetical
to faith and the health of society. All
three, again in debate with Kierkeg-
aard, see philosophy as articulating the
ideas and themes that characterize a
cultural ethos and that need a theologi-
cal response. All, using rather dierent
theological justications, see ethics,
PhilosoPhische Anstösse 13
Dialogue with Kierkegaard in Protestant Theology …
cultural life, and existential analysis of
the structures and problems of life as
something that follows faith.
Certainly, dialogue with Kierkegaard
has been valuable for Protestant theol-
ogy in the twentieth century. And this
dialogue may uncover some of what
Barth discovered, something about the
true crisis or judgment of modern reli-
gion and culture.
Annotations
Anmerkungen
1
is essay was previous published in Commu-
nio Viatorum (XLVI, 2004), Nr. 3, pp. 284
298, which is a journal of Charles University,
Prague. Reprinted with permission. It was also
previously published in Russian in Кьеркегори
современность(Minsk, 1996), which contains
papers presented at a conference about the phi-
losophy of Kierkegaard held at the European
Humanities University in Minsk, Belarus.
2
Donald G. Bloesch. Essentials of Evangelical
eology. Vol. 1: God, Authority, and Salvation.
San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1978. p. 121.
3
Ibid. p. 122.
4
Ibid.
5
Donald G. Bloesch. A eology of Word and
Spirit: Authority and Method in eology. Dow-
ners Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1992. p. 62.
6
Ibid. p. 39.
7
Ibid. p. 58.
8
Ibid.
9
Ibid. p. 21.
10
Ibid. p. 26.
11
Ibid. p. 63.
12
Ibid. p. 65.
13
Ibid.
14
Donald G. Bloesch. Essential of Evangelical
eology. Vol. 2: Life, Ministry, and Hope. San
Francisco: Harper & Row, 1979. p. 50.
15
Ibid. p. 51.
16
e Complete Works of Francis Schaeer. Vol.
5: A Christian View of the West. Weschester:
Crossway Books, 1982. p. 179. Hereafter cited
as FS 5.
17
e Complete Works of Francis Schaeer. Vol.
1: A Christian View of Philosophy and Culture.
Weschester: Crossway Books, 1982. p. 10. Here-
after cited as FS 1.
18
e Complete Works of Francis Schaeer. Vol.
4: A Christian View of the Church. Weschester:
Crossway Books, 1982. pp. 122, 123.
19
FS 5. pp. 188, 189.
20
FS 1. p. 54.
21
FS 1. pp. 15, 16.
22
Helmut ielicke. Modern Faith and ought.
Trans. Georey W. Bromiley. Grand Rapids:
Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1990. p. 518. Hereafter cited
as MFT.
23
Helmut ielicke. eological Ethics. Vol. 2:
Politics. Translated and edited by Wm. H. Laza-
reth. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1979. p.
498.
24
Ibid. p. 51.
25
Ibid. p. 54.
26
Helmut ielicke. eological Ethics. Vol.
1: Foundations. Translated and edited by Wm.
H. Lazareth. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans,
1979. p. 165.
27
MFT. p. 487.
Thomas K. Johnson
MBS TexTe 175
14
28
Helmut ielicke. e Evangelical Faith. Vol.
3: eology of the Spirit. Translated and edited
by Georey W. Bromiley. Grand Rapids: Wm. B.
Eerdmans, 1982. p. 355. Hereafter cited as EF 3.
29
Helmut ielicke. e Evangelical Faith. Vol.
2: e Doctrine of God and of Christ. Transla-
ted and edited by Georey W. Bromiley. Grand
Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1977. p. 40. Here-
after cited as EF 2.
30
EF 3. p. 356.
31
EF 2. p. 41.
32
EF 2. p. 40.
33
Helmut ielicke. e Evangelical Faith. Vol.
1: Prolegomena: e Relation of eology to
Modern ought Forms. Translated and edited
by Georey W. Bromiley. Grand Rapids: Wm. B.
Eerdmans, 1974. pp 38, 65.
34
Ibid. pp. 212218.
35
MFT. p. 516.
36
MFT. p. 517.
37
Helmut ielicke. e Trouble with the
Church: A Call for Renewal. translated and
edited by John W. Doberstein. Grand Rapids:
Baker Book House, 1965. pp. 65, 81.
38
MFT. p. 517.
The Author
Über den Autor
Thomas K. Johnson received his Ph.D. in ethics from the Uni-
versity of Iowa (1987) after being a research scholar at Eberhard
Karls Universität (Tübingen). He has an ACPE from Missouri Bap-
tist Hospital (St. Louis, 1981), a Master of Divinity (Magna Cum
Laude) from Covenant Theological Seminary (St. Louis, 1981),
and a BA (Cum Laude) from Hope College (Michigan, 1977). He
is a pastor of the Presbyterian Church in America. Since 1994 he
has served the International Institute for Christian Studies and is now IICS Pro-
fessor of Theology, Philosophy, and Public Policy. He was a visiting professor at
the European Humanities University in Minsk, Belarus, 1994–1996. (UHU is a
dissident, anti-Communist university, forced into exile by the Belarusian dicta-
tor in 2004.) Since 1996 he and his wife have lived in Prague, where he taught
philosophy at Anglo-American University (4 years) and at Charles University
(8 12 years). He is MBS Professor of Apologetics and Ethics (2003) and Vice
President for Research (2007). He is also Academic Council for the Internati-
onal Institute for Religious Freedom. His wife, Leslie P. Johnson, is director of
the Christian International School of Prague.
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