Christian Epistemology and the Anthropology of Sin: Kierkegaard on Natural Theology and the Concept of 'Offense'
This paper argues that Kierkegaard’s Christian epistemology is decisively shaped by his view of human beings as defined by sin/despair. Human beings attempt to gain mastery over Christianity by subjecting it to rational inquiry, but all such attempts will fail, in Kierkegaard’s eyes. Partly, the problem is the ‘infinite, qualitative distinction’ between time and eternity; this not only makes God inaccessible to rational inquiry (leading Kierkegaard to reject all attempts at natural theology) but also means that the Incarnation is ‘the Absolute Paradox’ that cannot be comprehended. The sinful nature of humans further complicates the situation, because Christianity demands that the individual submit humbly before God, which offends her thinking intellect. This paper develops an anti-rationalist reading of Kierkegaard, in which offense remains a perpetual possibility in the life of a Christian, and thus the tension between reason and the object of faith is never resolved.