Søren Kierkegaard has been called the “father of Existentialism” but he was a man whose faith in Christ was central to his identity.
For many, this can seem hard to reconcile or even understand, but by studying his own words we can gain insight into his thoughts on God and philosophy.
These 25 quotes make his beliefs a bit more clear.
Søren Kierkegaard was born in Copenhagen, Denmark to a family of relative wealth.
Kierkegaard’s education began at a highly respected boys’ school, and then he moved onto Copenhagen University where he studied philosophy and theology.
Relying on his family’s wealth, he never had to work and was able to engage in philosophy and theology writing several books on the subjects.
Kierkegaard criticized what he viewed as the surface-level Christian faith of his time. He argued that one’s relationship with Christ is something deeply personal and individual.
Kierkegaard felt that a faith by word or name only with no personal experience of Truth is simply not possible.
He died young at the age of 42 due to complications from a childhood injury received falling from a tree that never fully resolved.
But he left a legacy on the church that we can see in some of his beliefs on various subjects:
ON PRAYER AND HIS OWN PRAYERS:
“Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays.”
“The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.”
“Just as in earthly life lovers long for the moment when they are able to breathe forth their love for each other, to let their souls blend in a soft whisper, so the mystic longs for the moment when in prayer he can, as it were, creep into God.”
“Teach me, O God, not to torture myself, not to make a martyr out of myself through stifling reflection, but rather teach me to breathe deeply in faith.”
“Father in Heaven, when the thought of Thee wakes in our hearts, let it not awaken like a frightened bird that flies about in dismay, but like a child waking from its sleep with a heavenly smile.”
“Faith is the highest passion in a human being. Many in every generation may not come that far, but none comes further.”
“If I am capable of grasping God objectively, I do not believe, but precisely because I cannot do this I must believe.”
“God creates out of nothing. Wonderful you say. Yes, to be sure, but he does what is still more wonderful: he makes saints out of sinners.”
ON FREEDOM OF SPEECH and WRITING:
“People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.”
“What is a poet? An unhappy person who conceals profound anguish in his heart but whose lips are so formed that as sighs and cries pass over them they sound like beautiful music.”
“Our life always expresses the result of our dominant thoughts.”
“The paradox is really the pathos of intellectual life and just as only great souls are exposed to passions it is only the great thinker who is exposed to what I call paradoxes, which are nothing else than grandiose thoughts in embryo.”
“Be that self which one truly is.”
“Face the facts of being what you are, for that is what changes what you are.”
“There is nothing with which every man is so afraid as getting to know how enormously much he is capable of doing and becoming.”
ON CONNECTION WITH GOD:
“A man who as a physical being is always turned toward the outside, thinking that his happiness lies outside him, finally turns inward and discovers that the source is within him.”
“Love is all, it gives all, and it takes all.”
“Life has its own hidden forces which you can only discover by living.”
“The highest and most beautiful things in life are not to be heard about, nor read about, nor seen but, if one will, are to be lived.”
“To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. Not to dare is to lose oneself.”
ON AFFLICTION AND GOD:
“Affliction is able to drown out every earthly voice … but the voice of eternity within a man it cannot drown. When by the aid of affliction all irrelevant voices are brought to silence, it can be heard, this voice within.”
“It seems essential, in relationships and all tasks, that we concentrate only on what is most significant and important.”
“People understand me so poorly that they don’t even understand my complaint about them not understanding me.”
ON INAUTHENTIC FAITH:
“We are what is called a ‘Christian’ nation — but in such a sense that not a single one of us is in the character of the Christianity of the New Testament.”
“Most people believe that the Christian commandments (e.g., to love one’s neighbor as oneself) are intentionally a little too severe, like putting the clock half an hour ahead to make sure of not being late in the morning.”