Soren Kirkegaard was a 19th Century Danish theologian who still has a great influence on Chrisitanity today. During Kirkegaard’s lifetime Christianity was under serious attack. Biblical archeology weighed strongly against the Bible being a real, historical account. So in defense of Christianity, Kirkegaard began arguing that faith really has nothing to do with reason. Faith is something wholly different and we’re mistaken to try to confuse the two. Evidence isn’t important, it’s a person’s spiritual experience that explains the truthfulness of faith. The historical Jesus isn’t nearly as important as the Jesus we encounter in our hearts. There’s a Protestant hymn that says “You ask me how I know he lives; he lives within my heart,” this is perhaps the strongest evidence of Kirkegaard’s influence on the church, that people still sing this song or give this answer to critics.
I think Kirkegaard was wrong. I think spiritual experiences are important to the faithful. But I do not believe it’s all we have. Since his time Biblical archeology has gone the opposite direction. The Bible has shown itself to have an incredible amount of accurate detail. We can know that the Bible is authentic and credible.
I think Kirkegaard was also wrong because it’s not the apologetic pattern we see in the New Testament. Here are some references showing how Paul defended his faith.
As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3explaining and proving that the Christ[a] had to suffer and rise from the dead.
So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there.
2 Corinthians 10: 3-5
3For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
I Corinthians 15 is the big, money-where-your-mouth-is passage in the Bible. It was written no more than 15 years after Easter. Most of the major players were still alive. If you ask Paul how he knows Christ lives, he doesn’t say he lives within my heart. He says go ask all the people who saw him alive after Easter Sunday. He ties the truthfulness of our faith to a historical event. And then he says, if it didn’t happen we should not believe.
1 Corinthians 15:14
And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.
The last time I heard a strong defense for Kirkegaard’s ideas was in a debate between an atheist and a Christian. It was the atheist who desperately argued that faith should be unreasonable not the Christian. I don’t think we should take advice from the faithless on what our faith should look like. Can we absolutely prove Christianity to be true, no of course not (we can’t absolutely prove anything), but we can show that it is reasonable and intelligent.