The Double Movement of Faith

For Johannes, however, the great and remarkable thing about Abraham that makes him the father of faith is not that he was willing to sacrifice Isaac but that he believed throughout the whole ordeal that he would get Isaac back: 'For it is great to give up one's wish, but it is greater to keep a firm grip on it after having given it up; it is great to lay hold of the eternal, but it is greater to stick doggedly to the temporal after having given it up' (FT 15). Abraham did not expect to be reunited with Isaac in the afterlife but believed precisely that God—for whom all things are possible, even that which from a human standpoint is clearly impossible—would restore Isaac to him in this life. Abraham thus performed what Johannes calls 'the double movement' of faith (29).6 The first movement is one of infinite resignation, exemplified by Abraham's willingness to give Isaac up ifdemanded by God; the second is the movement of faith by which he miraculously and joyfully receives Isaac back. It is the latter movement that is so amazing to Johannes, leading him to exclaim:

The dialectic of faith is the finest and most remarkable of all; it has an elevation of which I can certainly form a conception, but nothing more. I can make the great trampoline leap whereby I pass over into infinity; my spine is like a tightrope

6 Cf. Hegel (1984-7: ii. 441-54), on the faith of Abraham and the Jewish cultus as a double movement of absolute negation and affirmation. For Hegel the first moment of negativity consists in the infinite surrendering of all particular interests and 'everything ephemeral and contingent' in fear of the Lord. From this there arises a second moment of affirmation in the form of an abstract, absolute trust or infinite faith in God, which is then mediated in the determinate form of a 'particular kind of existence' embodied in the family, people, and land. Whereas Hegel views the double movement of faith as being mediated in a third form of concrete faith that is identical to the ethical, Johannes sees it as a paradoxical, unmediated movement that is higher than the ethical.

walker's, twisted from my childhood. Thus it is easy for me to go one, two, three, and turn a somersault in existence, but the next movement I cannot make, for the miraculous I cannot perform but only be amazed by it. (FT 30)

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