Søren Kierkegaard is 200 this year. Rodney Wood celebrates the thinker who championed individual faith against institutional religion
In my late teens, when I should have been giving all my time to studying for my degree, I discovered Søren Kierkegaard, and was captivated by the extraordinary unity of his life and thought. Even now, in my 70s, I would say that since then I have not come across any author that it is possible to know so intimately or find so loveable, any Christian writer that can challenge me so directly or argue so convincingly.
Kierkegaard was born in 1813 in Copenhagen. There were four great influences in his life. From his father he inherited a love of argument and imagination, but also a melancholy and dread, the result of a Calvinistic upbringing. After a long, youthful period of rebellion, he returned to Christianity. The sense of what he called “governance” remained with him for the rest of his life: the sense of his being different by virtue of his intellect, and having a particular task from God.
The second influence was his great love for Regine Olsen, to whom he was briefly engaged, but he broke it off, realising that this escape into normality was a mistake. Out of the emotional turmoil, Kierkegaard’s authorship was born.
The third great influence was a scandal magazine called The Corsair. Kierkegaard attacked it, and as a result was mercilessly lampooned and “weaned from the world”. The continuous public mockery he likened to “being trampled to death by geese”. His loneliness became almost absolute. …
The Revd Rodney Wood is a retired minister living in Whitstable
This is an extract from the October 2013 edition of Reform.