Soren Kierkegaard; The Sickness Unto Death

In our materialistic and scientific culture, it is easy to think of existence in purely mechanistic terms.  Every event has a physical cause, every disease has a physiologic mechanism.  When the cause or mechanism is unclear, we assume it is just a matter of time before it becomes apparent and explained.  But even granting the premise that every disease has a mechanism which will ultimately be elucidated and intervened upon (which in the field of medicine we certainly hope is true as we try to battle disease), we can intuit that healing ultimately encompasses more than just manipulating physiology towards a better end.  In a previous post we suggested that physiologically understandable treatments and cures can still be considered miraculous.  Furthermore, we observe that disease processes that are clearly understood and  appropriately “fixed” may not re0rganize entropic clinical disarray.

How is it then that a philosopher chooses to couch a discussion of spiritual life (or lack of it) in terms of disease and despair?  The short answer, Kierkegaard suggests, is that a wrongly developed identity, sin events and our sin nature can lead to physical (and not only spiritual) demise.  In his book Sickness Unto Death, he reminds us that any identity we choose to form for ourselves in our own power (not conscious of, not wanting to be or wanting to be oneself) apart from a God formed identity through faith, leads to despair.  It is this despair he identifies with “the sickness unto death”.  The book goes on then to introspectively examine these personal process choices of identity formation and their consequences in our physical lives.  He also writes pointedly about the effect of sin events and sin nature on the identity forming process.  While he does offer hope to those seeking in this manner through faith in Christ, the book concludes with comments on the “unpardonable sin”.  If you explore Kierkegaard in this work, be ready to be challenged as opposed to encouraged.


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