Kierkegaard and Doubt

Kierkegaard: “If I want to keep myself in faith,” Climacus writes in Concluding Unscientific Postscript, “I must continually see to it that I hold fast the objective uncertainty.”
Now, the author of the article cited above, Erin Leib, continues, “In building faith out of doubt, Kierkegaard made the absence of God look like the presence of God. He constructed a theology wherein one has full faith precisely where one does not have full faith. This, to put it mildly, is slippery, and lends itself to a theological demagoguery. For engaging with possibility is not the same thing as asserting definitively. Entertaining marriage is emphatically not the same thing as marrying. The dialectical lover and the dialectical thinker lived and died a bachelor after all.” Well, to an extent; I’m no Kierkegaard expert, so I can’t make a definitive claim about his success at getting his rhetoric just right. At the same time, Leib’s position seems to oversimplify the theological sublime to which Kierkegaard aims. Those for whom “faith” or “presence” excludes an appreciation of “the objective uncertainty,” and who thereby dismiss Kierkegaard as having weak faith or impaired faith (are these not the “knights of faith” whom he so pointedly interrogates?), miss the point that “faith” itself can well include the recognition of how improbable the whole venture looks from outside, that is, the recognition of “the objective uncertainty.”
Now, the tawdry theologians of uncertainty make a virtue out of doubt, and I don’t believe that that was Kierkegaard’s path; he can hardly have advocated the virtue of doubt when he ascribed such transcendent importance to obedience to God’s counter-ethical demand. The pivotal line, the line so thin as perhaps not to be there, takes the possibility of intelligent doubt seriously enough to acknowledge that faith is not necessary, that atheists, agnostics, and those whose faith differs materially from “our” faith (whoever “we” are) are stupid, perverse, deranged, or in some other manner out of touch with plain manifest reason. That doesn’t make faith “unreasonable” nor does it constitute “doubt” as a virtue — but it demands humility of faith, and offers doubt the respect that we ourselves would ask for our faith.

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