single individual

The paradox of faith then is this, that the single individual is higher than the universal, that the single individual, to recall a now rather rare theological distinction, determines his relation to the universal by his relation to the absolute, not his relation to the absolute

Kierkegaard: Fear and Trembling (Cambridge Texts in the History of Philosophy), 61.

I find this a very interesting part of Fear and Trembling. I think this is what Kierkegaard means by “faith” – the distinction between the single individual and the universal, and the relationship between the single individual and the absolute. And I think people’s misunderstanding of him, and his thought, comes from a misunderstanding of this distinction and relationship.

First to make it clear: I do not think that Kierkegaard is anti-community. Kierkegaard writes for the single individual and not for a theological school or ecclesial tradition. In some ways, his writing is closer to spirituality than theology or philosophy. He is speaking of the relationship between the individual and God, not between two or more individuals. Community is part of God’s good creation but it is not the goal of the individual’s life. The goal is a relationship with the “absolute” – to transcend the here and now. And it is this transcending relationship that must proceed any other relationship.

Belonging to a Christian community is very different to belonging to Jesus. Or, as I once read Kierkegaard saying, “being in the parish register is not the same as being in the Book of Life”. Yes, I need other people! And I have really learned what that means in the last three months. But I need Jesus more. And my relationship with Jesus gives context to my relationship with others, and not vice versa.

Anyway, I like the above quote!

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