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Practice in Christianity

Practice in Christianity

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Practice in Christianity (also Training in Christianity) is a work by 19th century philosopher Søren Kierkegaard
Søren Kierkegaard
Søren Aabye Kierkegaard was a Danish Christian philosopher, theologian and religious author. He was a critic of idealist intellectuals and philosophers of his time, such as Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling and Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel...

. It was published on September 27, 1850 under the pseudonym Anti-Climacus, the author of The Sickness Unto Death
The Sickness Unto Death
The Sickness Unto Death is a book written by Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard in 1849 under the pseudonym Anti-Climacus...

. Kierkegaard considered it to be his "most perfect and truest book". In it, the philosopher fully exposes his conception of the religious individual, the necessity of imitating Christ in order to be a true Christian and the possibility of offense when faced with the paradox of the incarnation. Practice is usually considered, along with For Self-Examination
For Self-Examination
For Self-Examination is a work by Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. It was published on September 20, 1851 as part of Kierkegaard's second authorship...

and Judge for Yourselves!
Judge for Yourselves!
Judge for Yourselves! is a work by Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. It was written as part of Kierkegaard's second authorship and published posthumously in 1876. This work is a continuation of For Self-Examination...

, as an explicit critique of the established order of Christendom
Christendom, or the Christian world, has several meanings. In a cultural sense it refers to the worldwide community of Christians, adherents of Christianity...

 and the need for Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 to be (re-)introduced into Christendom, since a good part of it consists in criticism of religious thinkers of his time.

The book discusses in detail notions like "leap of faith
Leap of faith
A leap of faith, in its most commonly used meaning, is the act of believing in or accepting something intangible or unprovable, or without empirical evidence...

" (or, to be more precise, "leap to faith") and "indirect communication". In other words, Kierkegaard emphasizes the idea that belief in God cannot and should not be rational in the sense that it cannot possibly be proved conclusively that God exists or that Christianity is true. In fact, Kierkegaard discounts the idea that a systematic Christian theology is possible. In this sense Kierkegaard (to the extent we could claim that he shared the views of the book's pseudonymous author) shared the anti-rationalist stance of Kant, who famously disproved the validity of the Quinquae viae
Quinquae viae
The Quinque viæ, Five Ways, or Five Proofs are five arguments regarding the existence of God summarized by the 13th century Roman Catholic philosopher and theologian St. Thomas Aquinas in his book, Summa Theologica...

, or the five traditional proofs for the existence of God. He was fiercely opposed to Hegelian attempts to construct all-encompassing metanarratives. Kierkegaard attacked the notion, popular in his day in Protestant societies, that one became a Christian by simply accepting intellectually some supposedly rational set of proofs for the validity of Christianity. To Kierkegaard, this was the epitome of hypocrisy. He argued that Christ's words were merely a collection of unrelated parables with ambiguous meanings and not fitting into a coherent system. Even miracles like turning water into wine or even the Resurrection according to him do not conclusively prove anything but are simply a tool to attract one's attention to the need to decide, on basis of a "leap of faith", whether to believe or not. A "leap to faith" is necessary because God, as transcendent and "other", is unknowable, and any revelation to humanity can therefore only be in the form of "indirect communication".

The above ideas have been enormously influential in Western culture. They not only dealt a severe blow to the naive rationalism prevalent in Christian theology in the 19th century - and, in fact, still prevalent nowadays in fundamentalist varieties of Christianity (e.g., evidential apologetics
Evidential apologetics
Evidential apologetics or evidentialism is an approach to Christian apologetics emphasizing the use of evidence to demonstrate that God exists...

) - but were also important in the development of Christian Existentialism
Christian existentialism
Christian existentialism describes a group of writings that take a philosophically existentialist approach to Christian theology. The school of thought is often traced back to the work of the Danish philosopher and theologian considered the father of existentialism, Søren Kierkegaard...

 and Postmodern Christianity
Postmodern Christianity
Postmodern Christianity is an outlook of Christianity that is closely associated with the body of writings known as postmodern philosophy. Although it is a relatively recent development in the Christian religion, some Christian postmodernists assert that their style of thought has an affinity with...

, as well as of Existentialism
Existentialism is a term applied to a school of 19th- and 20th-century philosophers who, despite profound doctrinal differences, shared the belief that philosophical thinking begins with the human subject—not merely the thinking subject, but the acting, feeling, living human individual...

 and Postmodernism
Postmodernism is a philosophical movement evolved in reaction to modernism, the tendency in contemporary culture to accept only objective truth and to be inherently suspicious towards a global cultural narrative or meta-narrative. Postmodernist thought is an intentional departure from the...

in general.