Suffering and the Christian life : the asceticism of Søren Kierkegaard.


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Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) has been called many things: a Lutheran, a Pietist, a mystic, a poet, and the first existentialist philosopher. While these labels all have some degree of truth, I argue that the best name for Kierkegaard is that of a Christian ascetic. Kierkegaard was committed to a vision of the Christian life as suffering for the truth in imitation of Christ, a suffering that necessarily entails poverty, chastity, obedience, and—above all—persecution. The importance of Kierkegaard’s embrace of asceticism was not only personal; this commitment to suffering was at the same time a rejection of Christian nationalism and the selfish aims of the modern nation-state. In this way, Kierkegaard offers the Christian within modernity a new way to be devout: a personal renunciation that is always, at the same time, political.



Kierkegaard. Asceticism. Nationalism.