The Binding Of Isaac. The Analysis Of Religion And Morality Problem In Kierkegaard`s Treatise "Fear And Trembling" Essay Samples

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Religion, Belief, Ethics, Faith, God, Fear, Duty, Morality

Pages: 7

Words: 1925

Published: 2021/01/19


Religion is one of the most paradoxical things in the world. Over the millennia hundreds of civilizations had their gods and sacred scriptures, laws which helped to find the way of truth. Religion is the "bridge" connecting humans with God.
In this paper, I would like to study the issue of religion and morality, based on the Kierkegaard's philosophical treatise "Fear and Trembling", which contains detailed discussion of the most important aspects. This work is directed at the biblical story of the binding of Isaac by his father Abraham to God. Is the Abraham`s decision correct from religious point of view? Why this case should be considered in terms of morality? Religion can`t exist without morality and vice versa. Religion and morality are two different keys from one door, and each of these keys opens the door in different ways.
The analysis In "Fear and Trembling" Kierkegaard brings a well-known story of Abraham, who always dreamed of having a son, and a dream came true only in his old age. Then God required to bring his son as a sacrifice. Abraham obediently went to execute this order without any hesitation, because he believed that his faith was above morality. According to Kierkegaard, Abraham became the owner of the faith treasures and had remained in people's memories as the father of faith. I think there wasn`t a man in the world as great as Abraham was, and there was nobody who was able to grasp him.
Therefore, faith is the instrument by which a person becomes different from all the people – becomes an identity. Abraham stood with a raised knife pointed at his only son, his only hope. He did not bother the sky with his prayers. He knew that he was required for heavy casualties, but he also knew that no sacrifice would be too cruel if the Lord required it: and he wielded the knife. Abraham believed against all reason (Jacobs, 2010).
Kierkegaard invents different versions of the story of Abraham in order to explain the differences of ethical (duty and responsibility) and divine - faith:
1) Abraham would pray to God to spare his only son, give himself to the senses, as an aesthetic usually does in his life, and he would be an aesthetic and sensual Abraham.
2) From the ethical point of view, Abraham with the presence of a specific duty and responsibility to his son and his wife, could stab himself in the chest, and thus would become famous in the world, showing the world the real fatherly love. He would have been ideal and ethically perfect person, who appreciated others as a goal and not as a means, and who was ready to sacrifice himself for others.
In both cases there would be an ordinary man who was led by his feelings and affects, or reason and duty respectively. However, the true Abraham left his mind while going on the road, but took with him faith. Nevertheless, Abraham believed truly and was suffering; and the source of his suffering was faith (Bubbio, 2012).
This contradiction between duty and faith, between the ethical and religious origins of life brings fear. “Only the real final meeting of a single person with a unique one God begins in the faith.” (KLINE, 2012). In addition, this is the meaning of faith dedicated to brilliant work “Fear and Trembling”. Faith goes beyond the limits of the ethical ideal of life. Kierkegaard considers Abraham as a creed. However, where is Abraham’s confidence that it was God who commanded him to kill his own son? By this example, the paradox of faith bordering on readiness to sacrifice the most expensive, and moral duty, calling to love his own child, is very clear. The conflict of the two imperatives puts the believer before the tragic choice. Faith is the paradox and fear in the face of God as an infinite possibility. The possibility of freedom opens in fear. Fear generates a knight of faith.
Following the analysis of these three stages of life, one can see the conclusions on religious ethics of Kierkegaard that is quite hard to deny: Kierkegaard justified depending on the degree of authenticity with the help of hierarchy of existential levels (Bubbio, 2012).
The first aesthetic mode of existence is estimated by Kierkegaard as imaginary and even dangerous. At this level, it is not necessary to talk not about the ethics of any person; this stage of life is at the animal stage of the search for pleasure and moral issues, and in general, the highest spiritual values ​​of his little concern. Another thing is the ethical way of being; and this one is certainly preferable aesthetic, although the aesthetic material goods are not denied at this level, but they go by the wayside that states that the person has a higher purpose in life is immaterial (PODMORE, 2012). A person begins to live purposefully observing duty to themselves and society, and a person begins to build by observing common moral law, but this way is not ideal because it is carried out within the mundane.
This is the usual way of ethics, the path is not bad and it cannot be regarded as imperfect; it is quite relevant in the framework of the ground and many people live within an ethical way and according to Kierkegaard, it is quite acceptable and is a good option life of a common person. However, Kierkegaard goes farther away of property in the sphere of religious ethics, and this is the third stage of life (KLINE, 2012).
The only true way is the existence of a perfect truth, and many are unaware of it. Kierkegaard considers the religious stage as a quite unique; a person moves on it and is left alone with his fears. Faith helps a person in this fight, it is the foundation of this stage, and it is the foundation of religious ethics; Kierkegaard sees all the ideals of Christian ethics in their understanding of ethical ideals, and the most adequate expression is revealed in Christianity (Gibson, 2009).
But there are differences: if being ethical in Christianity requires to cultivate kindness and good deeds and thus attain salvation, Kierkegaard considers sinner as the only person to have a true spirituality, morality and faith – this is a paradox of religious ethics of Kierkegaard; one needs sin to know the truth. And the one who obtained knowledge of sin and escaped from it by faith but not by a virtue remains one of faithful people, who understands that faith leads to morality rather than abstract concepts of debt and equity. He relates his actions not with a moral code of ethics in the second stage, but with faith and the divine will. The religious ethics is an example of this; it is based on the belief of Abraham from “Fear and Trembling” (PODMORE, 2012).            Kierkegaard affirms that faith is precisely the paradox stating that there is a single individual who is higher than the Universe. Therefore, the faith is a paradox in which a single individual stands in an absolute relation to the absolute. In contrast to Hegel, this position cannot be mediated; faith was and is incomprehensible to the paradox of thinking in the whole of eternity. In addition, if Abraham tried to conceive or to mediate his action, he would fall into a state of temptation, and if he did bring the sacrifice of Abraham, he would sin and would have to return in repentance to everyone. Here Kierkegaard gives many examples of the tragic hero, drawn from the Bible, the Greek and European poetry (Simmons, 2007). The tragic hero differs from the knight of faith that remains within the ethical and sacrifices himself to everyone. If, for example, Abraham thrust dagger at his chest, or if he sacrificed himself at the last moment, he would have been just a tragic hero. Abraham sacrificed Isaac not for the sake of a great idea, saving the people or the state, and not in order to appease an angry God, but because then God would demand that Abraham sacrificed himself (Jacobs, 2010). Abraham did it for his own sake. He did it for the Lord, because God required proof of his faith and did it for himself to be able to present such evidence. When a man sacrifices himself for the sake of some great ideas expressed in general, he feels the support of people and the support of this universal (Boehm, 2002). He did not have to worry about whether his act was justified in the face of the public - he was doing it for the public. However, the knight of faith acts differently. He was approached with awe, just as the seed of Israel came up to Mount Sinai. What if a lone man climbed Mount Moriah and this man was not a lunatic and could confidently walk? Abraham was constantly in tension and fear, because no one could tell whether he was justified in his act. Abraham had to decide himself, but only by himself and his God. Sartre in his article "Existentialism is a humanism" writes that the man who had received a revelation from God, yet decides how to do it because it is freedom and therefore he is responsible for his choice; therefore, a man is in despair in his existence, but this will be discussed later (Simmons, 2007).
The second problem can be formulated as follows: "Is there an absolute to God?" One can also see a paradox. The ethical is universal, as well as the divine. Therefore, any debt is a duty to God. Duty to love his neighbor is also a duty to God. However, here a man comes in a relationship not with God, but with this neighbor. In addition, if someone says that loving God is his duty, he says some tautology. Therefore, the goal of the individual is an expression of himself in the general; and external is higher than internal, which is present in every man. All this corresponds to the Hegelian philosophy (Bubbio, 2012). When an individual tries to stay in the inner, when he evades expressing himself in the outside, he sins and is in a state of temptation. However, faith is a paradox: the internal is higher than the external. Consequently, all of the above does not apply to the movement of faith, because faith is a paradox and makes a motion by the force of the absurd. It is generally believed that a person determines his attitude to the absolute through his attitude to everyone. On the contrary, a man in his faith determines his attitude to everyone through the attitude to the absolute; therefore, a man stands higher than the universal. Here it may seem that the ethical can be destroyed but it is not (PODMORE, 2012). Conclusion    
Just in faith the ethical takes a slightly different and much deeper expression. This paradox, according to Kierkegaard, cannot be mediated. Once a single individual tries to express his absolute duty in general, he admits that he was in a state of temptation; and if he resists this temptation, he cannot carry out this absolute duty, but if he is not opposed to it - he sins. Thus, the absolute duty to God cannot be appreciated in general. Every believer can be only tet-a-tet to communicate with God. Nowadays, Abraham`s act would be considered as a manifestation of fanaticism, or as a consequence of manic impulses. Over time, religion loses its importance. All the forces of the modern society are directed on scientific and technological progress, believing that the high technology is the only way out of any crisis. Many agree that people should develop their intelligence to be able to make a contribution to the preservation of human heritage. I do not deny such a position but only want to add that every problem requires in-depth study. Religious beliefs are needed today. Of course they are very different from the beliefs of our ancestors as the development of science casts doubt on the divine`s presence. The doubts kill the faith and as a result of this we can see a significant decline of morality. We can conclude that religion has a direct impact on morality. I believe that any religious teachings canons should be subjected to thorough processing considering the rate of technological progress. For the acquisition of the new faith a new model is needed.


Jacobs, Jonathan. "Willing Obedience With Doubts: Abraham At The Binding Of Isaac." Vetus Testamentum 60.4 (2010): 546-559. Academic Search Premier. Web. 1 Apr. 2015.Boehm, Omri. "The Binding Of Isaac: An Inner-Biblical Polemic On The Question Of "Disobeying" A Manifestly Illegal Order." Vetus Testamentum 52.1 (2002): 1-12. Academic Search Premier. Web. 1 Apr. 2015."God And Abraham In The Binding Of Isaac." Journal For The Study Of The Old Testament 26.2 (2001): 59. Academic Search Premier. Web. 1 Apr. 2015.Bubbio, Paolo Diego. "Kierkegaard’S Regulative Sacrifice: A Post-Kantian Reading Of Fear And Trembling." International Journal Of Philosophical Studies 20.5 (2012): 691-723. Academic Search Premier. Web. 1 Apr. 2015.KLINE, PETER. "Absolute Action: Divine Hiddenness In Kierkegaard's Fear And Trembling." Modern Theology 28.3 (2012): 503-525. Academic Search Premier. Web. 1 Apr. 2015.PODMORE, SIMON D. "The Sacrifice Of Silence: Fear And Trembling And The Secret Of Faith." International Journal Of Systematic Theology 14.1 (2012): 70-90. Academic Search Premier. Web. 1 Apr. 2015.Wegenast, Carrie Kreps. "The Practice Of Fear And Trembling: Religious Education For Youth And Children In The Congregational Way." International Congregational Journal 6.1 (2006): 105-121. Academic Search Premier. Web. 1 Apr. 2015.Simmons, J. Aaron. "What About Isaac?: Rereading "Fear And Trembling" And Rethinking Kierkegaardian Ethics." Journal Of Religious Ethics 35.2 (2007): 319-345. Academic Search Premier. Web. 1 Apr. 2015.Malesic, Jonathan. "Teaching Søren Kierkegaard's Fear And Trembling." Teaching Theology & Religion 17.2 (2014): 167-168. Academic Search Premier. Web. 1 Apr. 2015.Gibson, Suzie. "The Gift Of Faith: Rethinking An Ethics Of Sacrifice And Decision In Fear And Trembling And The Gift Of Death." Philosophy Today 53.2 (2009): 126-135. Academic Search Premier. Web. 1 Apr. 2015.

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