Struggling With God
Kierkegaard and the Temptation of Spiritual Trial
By Simon D. Podmore
As we celebrate the bicentenary of Søren Kierkegaard’s birth, Simon D. Podmore argues that we still have more to learn from this commentator of human struggle.
Beginning with Jacob’s struggle with God (Genesis 32), Simon D. Podmore undertakes a constructive theological account of ‘spiritual trial’ (tentatio; known in the German mystical and Lutheran traditions as Anfechtung) in relation to enduring theological, philosophical, and pastoral questions of the otherness and hiddenness of God and the self, the problem of suffering and evil, the freedom of Spirit, and the anxious relationship between temptation and ordeal, fear and desire.
Struggling with God traces a genealogy of spiritual trial from medieval German mystical theology, through Lutheran and Pietistic thought (Tauler; Luther; Arndt; Boehme), and reconstructs Kierkegaard’s innovative yet under-examined recovery of the category (Anfægtelse: a Danish cognate for Anfechtung – a spiritual-existential struggle centring both etymologically and allegorically around the notion of ‘fighting’ [fægte/fecht] with God) within the modern context of the ‘spiritless’ decline of Christendom.
Struggling With God has two major objectives: one retrospective; the other prospective. The first objective is a focused recovery and explication of Kierkegaard’s frequently overlooked category of Anfægtelse. Developing the relationship between struggle (Anfechtung) and release (Gelassenheit), Podmore proposes a Kierkegaardian theology of spiritual trial which elaborates the kenosis of the self before God in terms of Spirit’s restless longing to rest transparently in God.
The second more expansive objective is a creative and progressive rehabilitation of this theme for contemporary theology and spiritual care. This theological account of ‘spiritual trial’, or ‘struggling with God’, draws upon the existential philosophies and Holocaust theologies of the twentieth century, arguing that the theological hermeneutic of the spiritual struggle to realise the unchanging love of God in the face of spiritual darkness endures new cultural forms and thus deserves to be brought out of the darkness, secrecy, and silence, and into the light of renewed theological discourse.
About the Author: Dr Simon D. Podmore is a Teaching Fellow in Theology at New College, University of Edinburgh. He is author of Anatomy of the Abyss: Kierkegaard and the Self Before God and a number of articles in philosophical and pastoral theology. He is also Secretary of the Søren Kierkegaard Society of the United Kingdom.
About the publisher: James Clarke and Co Ltd is a long-established British academic publisher specialising in historical and theological books and also in reference material. It has been associated with the Lutterworth Press since 1984.
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