The Christian Life of Faith Hope and Love

For Kierkegaard the Christian life is a new life pre-eminently characterized by faith, hope, and love, but according to the inverse dialectic that informs his understanding of Christianity, these positive passions are always experienced and known indirectly and inversely through negative qualifications such as the consciousness of sin, the possibility of offence, self-denial, and voluntary suffering in likeness to Christ.1 Consequently, thinking theologically about the trilogy of faith, hope, and love in the Christian life will require us also to take into account the negative factors through which these positive passions are experienced and known. Kierkegaard's primary criticism of Christendom was that it had a confused, superficial, lenient, merely positive understanding of what it means to be a Christian, with the result that the 'major premise' of grace and faith in Lutheran doctrine was being taken in vain because its 'minor premise'—works of love, witnessing, and suffering for the truth—had been abolished (JFY 24).2 A large part ofhis theological reflection on the Christian life, therefore, consists in bringing the qualifications that constitute the minor premise once again into view so that a true understanding and expression of the Christian life can emerge in the modern age.

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