Kierkegaard's Christianity.

Author:Maguire, John F.
Position:Correspondence - Letter to the Editor

In "Kierkegaard for Grownups" (October 2004), Richard John Neuhaus adds himself to a long list of Catholic scholars who have looked favorably on Soren Kierkegaard, Denmark's great practitioner of Christo-Socratic existentialism. In 1957, Cornelio Fabro's roster of "Catholic scholars who have understood the positive aspects of K's work" included: Theodor Hacker, Romano Guardini, Erich Pryzwara, F. J. Billeskov-Jansen, Yves Congar, Jerome Hamer, and Regis Jolivet. An updated roster would surely have to include Bernard Lonergan, Hans Urs von Balthasar, James Collins, Walker Percy, Louis Dupre, and, now, Father Neuhaus.

What makes Neuhaus' discussion unique is his use of Kierkegaard's concept of the "contemporaneity" of Christ to describe the contemporaneity of Christ's Church. Cornelio Fabro's complementary interpretation of Kierkegaard is helpful here. Like Fr. Neuhaus, Fabro identifies "the Catholic actuality" with Kierkegaard's (developed) concept of the dialectic of faith. He does so by drawing our attention to the fact that in 1850 Kierkegaard "discovered Hugh of St. Victor's formula on the relations between reason and faith, a formula which had inspired the best Scholastics, especially St. Thomas." Kierkegaard himself wrote: "A true sentence of Hugh of St. Victor: 'In things which are above reason, faith is not really supported by reason, because reason cannot grasp what faith believes; but there is also something here as a result of which reason is determined, or which determines reason to honor faith which it cannot perfectly understand.'" Kierkegaard then added: "That is what I explained ... for instance ... in the Concluding Postscript [sic]...."

Given Kierkegaard's acceptance of Hugh's formula as consistent with his Concluding Unscientific Postscript--and given the fact that Hugh's formula has always been a touchstone of the Catholic school--e can now see how Catholic Christianity can be found (in Neuhaus' words) "on the far side of Kierkegaard" by "long and hard wrestling with Kierkegaard." As Fabro notes, Kierkegaard's concept of faith "constitutes, essentially, a return to the authentic Christian position--even, if you will, a return to the Catholic and Thomistic position, at least on some points."

John F...

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