Living Christianly

Kierkegaard's Dialectic of Christian Existence

By (author) Sylvia Walsh

Paperback - £24.95

Publication date:

15 February 2008

Length of book:

216 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271027647

The pseudonymous works Kierkegaard wrote during the period 1843–46 have been responsible for establishing his reputation as an important philosophical thinker, but for Kierkegaard himself, they were merely preparatory for what he saw as the primary task of his authorship: to elucidate the meaning of what it is to live as a Christian and thus to show his readers how they could become truly Christian. The more overtly religious and specifically Christian works Kierkegaard produced in the period 1847–51 were devoted to this task.

In this book Sylvia Walsh focuses on the writings of this later period and locates the key to Kierkegaard’s understanding of Christianity in the “inverse dialectic” that is involved in “living Christianly.” In the book’s four main chapters, Walsh examines in detail how this inverse dialectic operates in the complementary relationship of the negative qualifications of Christian existence—sin, the possibility of offense, self-denial, and suffering—to the positive qualifications—faith, forgiveness, new life/love/hope, and joy and consolation. It was Kierkegaard’s aim, she argues, “to bring the negative qualifications, which he believed had been virtually eliminated in Christendom, once again into view, to provide them with conceptual clarity, and to show their essential relation to, and necessity in, securing a correct understanding and expression of the positive qualifications of Christian existence.”

“In this book Sylvia Walsh gives a comprehensive interpretation of how Kierkegaard understands what it means to live as a Christian. She shows that Kierkegaard’s ‘second authorship’ sees Christian existence as requiring an ‘inverse dialectic’ in which joy is attained through suffering, life through dying, and hope in God through despair of one’s own capabilities. Walsh’s work provides us with a powerful, unified account of Kierkegaard’s later, Christian writings. No one who wishes to understand Kierkegaard can ignore this central dimension of his thought, and Walsh has given us the best and clearest account of it that we have.”

—C. Stephen Evans, Baylor University