chapter  21
12 Pages

Kierkegaard's Defense of Nature and Theology Against Natural Theology

WithWill Williams

While Kierkegaard delighted in nature, frequently finding refuge and inspiration there, he also feared that his 19th century culture’s interest in nature corrupted ethics and the Christian faith. One corruption was the Romantic vision of nature as a source of direct ethical instruction, perhaps from God. A second corruption, examined here, relates to nature through the frequently rationalizing and minutiae-focused category of natural science. Amidst excitement about the promising discoveries and implied certainties of natural science, Kierkegaard believed it overpromised on results, boasting that it was there, rather than in the questionable Scriptures, that one could find a proven, stable, and prestigious avenue for finding God. Theology, especially natural theology, welcomed this invasion and increasingly advocated for rational proofs and scientific evidence as a surer way to God than the risks and mysteries of traditional Christianity. But for Kierkegaard, natural theology was mistakenly conceived and distracted from the gospel and the passion of faith. Drawing on natural science and philosophical rationalism, natural theology fostered pride in intellect and educational distinctions rather than humanity’s universal condition under God, and it fostered dispositions of equanimity and supposed objectivity, which were all wrong for the humility and subjective interest of Socratic ignorance and Christian faith. In the end, Kierkegaard believes that objectivizing eyes may be able to learn about nature and may even be able to see God’s power in nature, but only the eyes of faith, trained by the Scriptures, may find that God to be the Christian God of holiness and mercy.