by Craig Bartholomew
Editors Note: Below is a section of Craig Bartholomew’s essay “The Knight of Faith: Just What Does He or She Look Like?” appearing in the first issue of KLC’s “Nuances” journal series entitled, “Søren Kierkegaard and Spirituality: A Dialogue with C. Stephen Evans.” To view the papers being read see below (or click here), and to read the entire journal, and to subscribe, (free) click here.
Within the Evangelical, Protestant tradition many of us have woken up to the need, indeed the necessity, of a deep spirituality that will sustain us through life’s journey… [Paying] attention to Søren Kierkegaard on spirituality is a fertile node.
What I want to suggest is that Kierkegaard also creates his own icons, one of which is the evocative figure of the knight of faith. The knight of faith exemplifies the telos of our becoming. Before looking at how Kierkegaard thinks of this knight, we might pause and see what images the expression conjures up in our own minds. De Silentio comments,
But if I knew where a knight of faith lived, I would travel on foot to him, for this marvel occupies me absolutely. I would not leave him for a second, I would watch him every minute to see how he made the movements; I would consider myself taken care of for life and would divide my time between watching him and practicing myself, and thus spend all my time in admiring him. As I said before, I have not found anyone like that; meanwhile, I may very well imagine him. Here he is. The acquaintance is made, I am introduced to him. The instant I first lay eyes on him, I set him apart at once; I jump back, clap my hands, and say half aloud, “Good Lord, is this the man, is this really the one—he looks just like a tax collector!” But this is indeed the one. I move a little closer to him, watch his slightest movement to see if it reveals a bit of heterogeneous optical telegraphy from the infinite, a glance, a facial expression, a gesture, a sadness, a smile that would betray the infinite in its heterogeneity with the finite. No! I examine his figure from top to toe to see if there may not be a crack through which the infinite would peek. No! He is solid all the way through. His stance? It is vigorous, belongs entirely to finitude; no spruced-up burgher walking out to Fresberg on a Sunday afternoon treads the earth more solidly. He belongs entirely to the world; no bourgeois philistine could belong to it more. Nothing is detectable of that distant and aristocratic nature by which the knight of the infinite is recognized. He finds pleasure in everything, takes part in everything, and every time one sees him participating in something particular, he does it with an assiduousness that marks the worldly man who is attached to such things. He attends to his job. To see him makes one think of him as a pen-pusher who has lost his soul to Italian bookkeeping, so punctilious is he. Sunday is for him a holiday. He goes to church. No heavenly gaze or any sign of the incommensurable betrays him; if one did not know him, it would be impossible to distinguish him from the rest of the crowd, for at most his hearty and powerful singing of the hymns proves that he has good lungs. In the afternoon, he takes a walk to the woods. He enjoys everything he sees, the swarms of people, the new omnibuses, the Sound. Encountering him on Strandveien, one would take him for a mercantile soul enjoying himself. He finds pleasure in this way, for he is not a poet, and I have tried in vain to lure the poetic incommensurability out of him. Toward evening, he goes home, and his gait is as steady as a postman’s. On the way, he thinks that his wife surely will have a special hot meal for him when he comes home—for example, roast lamb’s head with vegetables. If he meets a kindred soul, he would go on talking all the way to Østerport about this delicacy with a passion befitting a restaurant operator. It so happens that he does not have four shillings to his name, and yet he firmly believes that his wife has this delectable meal waiting for him. If she has, to see him eat would be the envy of the elite and an inspiration to the common man, for his appetite is keener than Esau’s.
What is truly remarkable about this description of a knight of faith is that he is fully human. Hans Rookmaker used to ask his students: Why (to what end) does God save us? You should try this with your students! Rookmaker’s answer: To make us fully human. Kierkegaard’s portrayal of the knight of faith performs this insight iconically; it allows the intention of the invisible (God) to become visible and to reflect back on us. This is truly good news.
To view or read the other lectures, or to subscribe to “Nuances” click here
The essays include:
- Finding the Real Kierkegaard Behind the Myths and Misconceptions, C. Stephen Evans.
- The Accountable Imagination: Spiritual Formation as Co-Creation with Christ, Adrian Coates.
- Spiritual Pandemics and Kierkegaardian Christian Practice, J. Aaron Simmons.
- The Knight of Faith: Just What Does He or She Look Like?, Craig G. Bartholomew.
The Kirby Laing Center for Public Theology (KLC) regularly hosts a number of lectures and events throughout the year under their “Nuances in Public Theology” banner in which they engage with and hear from a variety of scholars and experts from across the disciplines. KLC has recently announce that that they are launching first issue of their Nuances journal series entitled, Søren Kierkegaard and Spirituality: A Dialogue with C. Stephen Evans, edited by Craig G. Bartholomew and Istine Rodseth Swart (from which the above selection wa spulled).
In the inaugural volume of “Nuances” 01, are published four essays presented at their recent event Søren Kierkegaard and Spirituality: A Dialogue with C. Stephen Evans. In this collection four scholars engage with Professor Evans’ excellent work Kierkegaard and Spirituality: Accountability as the Meaning of Human Existence, as well as explore Kierkegaard’s contribution to the field of Christian Spirituality more broadly. The post above was taken from a section of Craig Bartholomew’s “The Knight of Faith: Just What Does He or She Look Like?”. To read the rest click here.