Monthly Archives: September 2014

Book: From Despair to Faith: The Spirituality of Søren Kierkegaard, by Christopher B. Barnett

In From Despair to Faith (Fortress Press, 2014), Chris Barnett (Villanova University) goes beyond the usual approach to Kierkegaard as philosopher or theologian to explore his contributions to Christian spirituality. Here’s the publisher’s blurb:

Søren Kierkegaard has been called many things, from brooding genius and “melancholy Dane” to the father of existentialism. Yet, rather than clarify the nature of Kierkegaard’s writings, such labels have often obscured other important aspects of his authorship. Such, indeed, is the case with Kierkegaard’s standing as a spiritual author.

In From Despair to Faith: The Spirituality of Søren Kierkegaard, Christopher B. Barnett endeavors to remedy this problem. He does so in two overarching ways. First, he orients the reader to Kierkegaard’s grounding in the Christian spiritual tradition, as well as to the Dane’s own authorial stress on themes such as upbuilding, spiritual journey, and faith. Second, Barnett maintains that Kierkegaard’s spirituality is best understood through the various “pictures” that populate his authorship. These pictures are deemed “icons of faith,” since Kierkegaard consistently recommends that the reader contemplate them. In this way, they both represent and communicate what Kierkegaard sees as the fulfillment of Christian existence.

In the end, then, From Despair to Faith not only offers a new way of approaching Kierkegaard’s writings, but also shows how they might serve to illuminate and to deepen one’s relationship with the divine.

Article: Religion, Sectarianism, and the Pursuit of Truth: Reexamining Academic Freedom in the Twenty-first Century, by Kenneth Garcia

Kenneth Garcia’s article appears in volume 5 (2014) of the open access AAUP publication Journal of Academic Freedom. In Ken’s words: “The essay contends that spiritual insight must be allowed to inform the direction scholars take and move them beyond the confines of their disciplinary specializations.” Here’s an excerpt:

Scholars must be free to pursue connections between their disciplines and philosophical or theological insight, however they may conceive the latter. By “theological insight” I do not mean pronouncements by religious authorities; nor do I mean adherence to dogmas or to literal interpretations of religious texts that must be accepted without skepticism and critical assessment; instead, I mean this: a subtle spiritual awareness that there is a surplus of knowledge and meaning to reality that transcends what can be known through ordinary disciplinary methods of inquiry—that findings in many fields of study hint at connections to a greater whole, and that these connections should be pursued.

Not all scholars experience such spiritual awareness, of course, and not even those who do must pursue the connections between their discipline and theological insight. In fact, most won’t, but everyone—no matter what their academic field—should be free to do so, and that freedom should be enshrined in the policies of every religiously affiliated university.

The full article is freely available in PDF format.