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.

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