The religious philosopher and the evangelical thinker disagree on the nature of faith.

Most of those who encountered Francis Schaeffer in his early days at L’Abri, in the Swiss Alpine village of Huémoz, will remember that one of the ways Schaeffer began to attract attention was by a ferocious attack on the ideas and influence of the melancholy Dane, Kierkegaard. This was shocking to many young evangelical theological students who encountered Schaeffer in those days, because a Kierkegaard renaissance was under way in the 1950s and 1960s, and many evangelicals were fascinated by him. What we saw was Kierkegaard’s utter seriousness and intensity. What Schaeffer told us to look at was his absurdity.

Kierkegaard launched a protest against the smug, self-satisfied churchly Christianity of his own day, which thought that Christianity was identical to nineteenth-century bourgeois, comfortable civility. He challenged his generation to take the gospel with radical seriousness, to make a “leap of faith” into the “unknown.” For Schaeffer this was a counsel of despair. Not being able to prove the truth of Christianity, Kierkegaard, Schaeffer thought, told people in effect, “Just believe.” Faith involves a leap, Kierkegaard said in many places and many ways, including his most famous work, Fear and Trembling, a series of imaginative accounts about how Abraham might have reacted to God’s command to sacrifice Isaac, his only legitimate son. For Schaeffer, Kierkegaard thought Abraham was just obeying, as a kind of leap in the dark, with no confidence at all that God was not playing a cruel joke on him. Schaeffer, by contrast, contended that Abraham never doubted that God would preserve Isaac or restore him. Thus Abraham says, when leaving ...

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