Soren Kierkegaard was a modern philosopher from 19th century Denmark. For each of his writings, he created a different pseudonym with a different personality/ view point appropriate for the topic. He wrote as Johannes de silentio (John the Silent) for the book “Fear and Trembling.” In it, he talked about the Bible story of Abraham and Isaac. In Genesis 22:1-18, God tested Abraham’s faith by ordering him to sacrifice his favorite son. Abraham complies, and God provides a ram to take Isaac’s place at the last moment. Because of this, Abraham is known as the Father of Faith.
Kierkegaard tells the story of a man who used to like the story of Abraham when he was a boy, but as he got older, he found that he understood it less and less (p. 7). He admittedly does not understand this seemingly blind faith that Abraham displays by following God’s orders without question. He presents different reasons to try to explain this behavior. One version is that Abraham tells Isaac it was his idea, rather than God’s will, so that Isaac will not lose his faith in God. Another possibility is that the whole thing was a test to see if Abraham to see if he would actually murder his son.
He also talked about three ways of being in the world. You can love yourself and live the aesthetic life, love others and live the ethical life, or you can love God and live the religious life. Aristotle had a similar idea: the choice between the life of pleasure, the life of politics/ virtue, or the life of wisdom/ philosophy/ contemplation.
After proving his faith, “Abraham emigrated from the land of his fathers and became a foreigner in the promised land. He left one thing behind and took one thing with him. He left his worldly understanding behind and took faith with him” (p. 14). Kierkegaard suggests that we all live in a similar way: We need to be in the world, not of it. We need to be strangers, not exiles.