Years ago, Christianity Today ran a cartoon depicting Francis Schaeffer at the Pearly Gates. Looking through the Book of Life, Peter says, “Let’s see . . . Schaeffer, Dr. Francis. I think Thomas Aquinas would like to have a word with you.”
The medieval Catholic theologian wasn’t the only Christian luminary to find himself repeatedly in Schaeffer’s crosshairs. Søren Kierkegaard was another popular target. Who can forget Schaeffer’s charge that the melancholy Dane’s notion of the “leap of faith” accelerated Western civilization’s “escape from reason” and plunged us into the “line of despair”? Due to this and similar caricatures, evangelicals have often viewed Kierkegaard with suspicion.
Fortunately, Mark Tietjen’s Kierkegaard: A Christian Missionary to Christians (IVP Academic) should help set the record straight, not least on what Kierkegaard meant by the concept of “leap.” Many Christian scholars have lauded Kierkegaard as an orthodox ally. But Tietjen, chaplain at the Stony Brook School in New York, goes further. Writing for those who don’t know philosophical and theological jargon, he shows how Kierkegaard’s body of work bears witness to the fact that nominal Christianity is no Christianity at all.
To clear away the debris, Tietjen first gives an overview of Kierkegaard’s life and thought. Tucked away in this defense of Kierkegaard’s theological credentials is a fine explanation of why Christians shouldn’t be suspicious of philosophy. The resulting picture is that of a rigorous Christian thinker faithfully working in the Reformed Lutheran tradition: a rightful heir to Luther at his best, ...1