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HeyJ XLVII (2006), pp.




Kings College, University of London, UK

By focusing discussion through Sren Kierkegaards view of Martin Luthers initiation into the monastery (the lightning strike), it is suggested that an analogy can be discerned for Kierkegaards own sense of divine vocation (the portentous earthquake which he makes enigmatic reference to) and the ensuing selfmortication of melancholy and religious scrupulosity which commentators have suspected in both gures. Kierkegaards often ambivalent critique of Luthers Anfechtung is thus read as bearing ironic signicance for his own struggles with spiritual trial [Anfgtelse]. In this reading, Luthers Anfechtung is taken to signify for Kierkegaard both the anguish inherent to the authentic God-relationship and also the dangerous possibility of the individual imaginations [Phantasi] capitulation into the precariously embellished realm of the fantastic [Phantastiske]. It is here that Kierkegaards emphasis upon individual responsibility contrasted with Luthers concentration upon the role of the devil demonstrates the fundamental differentiation between Kierkegaards anatomy of Anfgtelse and Luthers Anfechtung.


My soul is so heavy that thought can no more sustain it, no wingbeat lift it up into the ether. If it moves, it sweeps along the ground like the low ight of birds when a thunderstorm is approaching. Over my inmost being there broods a depression, an anxiety that presages an earthquake.1

After the dialectical theologies of the early twentieth century, as Craig Hinkson has identied, there follows a notable reticence to consider Kierkegaard as signicantly inuenced by Luther.2 Indeed specically contemporary application of Kierkegaards thought has explicitly striven to loosen the thread of Kierkegaards Lutheran straitjacket.3 Although this approach does not engulf the totality of Kierkegaard scholarship,4 the temptation to disentangle, unravel, or even abstract Kierkegaard from his relation to Luther is nevertheless rendered more understandable in light of Kierkegaards particularly ambivalent relation

r The author 2006. Journal compilation r The Editor/Blackwell Publishing Ltd, Oxford, UK and Boston, USA.



to the reformer. What Luther says is excellent, Kierkegaard exhorts, the one thing needful and the sole explanation that this whole doctrine (of the Atonement and in the main all Christianity) must be traced back to the struggle of the anguished conscience . . . The anguished conscience understands Christianity.5 Despite this endorsement, however, Kierkegaard elsewhere incriminates Luther for becoming less a theological reformer than a politician for whom winning is more important than how one wins (JP 3:3686). In Kierkegaards eyes, it is Luthers capitulation from the narrow path of martyrdom to the broad road of political success which generates the principle bone of contention.6 However, this sense of capitulation relates as much to the degenerative contemporary reception of Luther as to Luthers own personal compromises. Due to the progressive disgurement that Luthers image had undergone in the centuries since his death,7 the impression of Luthers metamorphosis which Kierkegaard derived was of a man:
[A]t rst excessively melancholy and then dreadfully tested in the most frightful spiritual trials [Anfgtelse], a devout, God-fearing man and as such essentially a stranger in the world . . . [But] the impression changed, now the Pope was humbled, and Luther was construed as a happy man of the world and good company . . . [Nowadays] the signicance of the Reformation is construed as follows: Luther set girls and wine and card-playing in their rightful place in the Christian Church, yes, as the true consummation in contrast to the defectiveness of poverty, prayer, and fasting (JP 3:2524).

Stated broadly, Kierkegaards ambivalent view of Luther is reected in the private/public spheres of the Kierkegaardian corpus. Surprisingly there are relatively few references in the published writings to Luther, though when he is called upon in these works, as Prenter notes, Luther is always represented as an ally of Kierkegaard and never an antagonist.8 Despite the rare edifying solidarity in the published works, Kierkegaard is far more prolic and scathing about Luther in his personal Journals. In fact, as Prenter observes, while there are numerous Journal references to Luther between 1849 and 1852 (the period following 1848s spiritual and psychological upheavals) Kierkegaards self-consciously Christian parallel publications (notably the most Lutheran Anti-Climacean literature of The Sickness Unto Death and Practice In Christianity) are curiously silent about him.9 In 1855, the year of his death, Kierkegaard launched his most polemical attack on the established Lutheran Church of Denmark during which he signicantly enlists the support of the very Lutheran Practice in Christianity upon the occasion of its new edition.10 Prenter astutely suggests that it would be unjust if we apply the criticism of 19th century Danish State Church Lutheranism put forward by Kierkegaard to Luther himself .11 However, this is not to say that Kierkegaard bore no recriminations towards Luthers own role in making such a capitulation



possible.12 Effectively, the nineteenth century bourgeois Danish Lutheran Church had lost signicant grasp on Luthers theology even to the extent that, Prenter observes, On the whole Luther was not seriously studied by many Danish Lutheran theologians in the rst half of the 19th century.13 Indeed Kierkegaard himself was no exception. Though he may have had some acquaintance with Luther at university, Kierkegaard confesses in 1847 that I have never really read anything by Luther (JP 3:2463). Nevertheless, the following year he announces, Today I have read Luthers sermon according to plan; it was the Gospel about the ten lepers. O, Luther is still the master of us all (JP 3:2465).14 Although Prenter afrms that To put it bluntly: Kierkegaard has never studied Luther in the proper sense of the word,15 this does not preclude Kierkegaards search for personal edication in Luthers devotional writings. As such, Hinkson even proclaims that, while it may be no momentous achievement, Kierkegaards knowledge of Luther was more profound than that possessed by any major gure of his day.16 Indeed, Kierkegaards collection of Luther was not insignicant,17 incorporating Luthers Postil the principal devotional book of the time.18 However, although ostensibly committing greater energy to reading Luthers Sermons after 1847,19 it should not be assumed that Kierkegaard suddenly devoted himself to an intense scrutiny of Luthers oeuvre in its entirety, nor that he was now willing unreservedly to submit to Luther as his theological master. Despite the conceptual and personal afnities between Kierkegaard and Luther, Kierkegaards apparently modest knowledge of Luthers works must serve as caution against uniting the two under any mutual reformation polemic which overlooks their historically diametrically opposed situations.20 Nonetheless, Kierkegaard evidently unearthed something in Luthers troubled soul both resonant and disturbing for his own inner life. Like the pietists, Kierkegaard clearly felt greater afnity towards the anguished struggles of the young Luther than the pomposity favoured by orthodoxys image of the elder statesman.21 In fact, one might venture that Kierkegaard was instrumental in rehabilitating the existential pathos of Luther even to the extent of mediating a re-energized Luther for retrieval by the modern Luther research of the early twentieth century.22 Specically, it was Luthers avowedly anguished struggles with Anfechtung which reverberated most with Kierkegaards own sense of spiritual trial [Anfgtelse].


It has been variously suggested that Luther is best perceived as a man captured between God and the devil,23 or a man harrowed between God and death.24 In Kierkegaard the individual is vividly portrayed as



conned in the vertiginous and narrowing anxiety of the innite qualitative abyss between humanity and God. Articulating this extreme enmity, Pseudonym Johannes Climacus describes how conned within the absolute conception of God the individual is captured like the bird imprisoned in a cage, or like the sh stranded on the shore which lies out of its element on the dry ground so the religious individual is conned; for absoluteness is not directly the element of a nite creature.25 Reading these harrowing descriptions, Daphne Hampson suggests that it is clear that Kierkegaard was speaking of circumstances he well knew.26 These illustrations of Anfgtelse evoke an experience Luther himself described as Anfechtung [ fgte/fecht ght]. There is even a descriptive afnity: Where Luther likens it to hanging from a cross midway between heaven and earth, Kierkegaard compares it to being suspended over a depth of 70,000 fathoms.27 Kierkegaard conjures up the abyss to dene the anxiety of the individual stranded tentatively between the unresolved archaeology and eschatology of personal salvation. Ah, like the shipwrecked man who has saved himself by a plank, and thus, tossed by the waves, hovering over the abyss, between life and death, gazes xedly at the land so should a man be concerned for his salvation.28 Such salvic anxiety is reminiscent of Luther; and Kierkegaard himself notes, Luther says that as soon as Christ has come on board the storm immediately begins (JP 4:4372). As the sh is stranded on the shore, and the bird is captured in the cage, or as one is shipwrecked or stranded over 70,000 fathoms; so Luther, as Paul Tillich remarks, compares the horried conscience, which tries to ee and cannot escape, with a goose which pursued by the wolf, does not use its wings, as ordinarily, but its feet and is caught.29 More radical than Versuchung (temptation), Luthers use of the word Anfechtung [ fecht ght] denotes tempting attacks30: the trial of faith by various temptations.31 These attacks, Tillich observes, engender a profound Angst, a feeling of being enclosed in a narrow place from which there is no escape.32 In Angst (deriving from the Latin angustiae narrows33) the world constricts to such an extreme that in Luthers words, There is no ight, no comfort within or without but all things accuse.34 In Luthers eyes, Creator and creation are allied in their enmity against the sinner, For he who is an enemy to God has the whole creation against him.35 One becomes vulnerable to the innocuous mechanisms of the universe; in the changing wind, the driven leaf, creation rises up in animated condemnation of the sinner. At such a rustling a leaf becomes the Wrath of God, and the whole world on which a moment before we strutted in our pride, becomes too narrow for us.36 Despite evident suspicions of Luthers pathology, Kierkegaard was acutely aware how horrifying Christianity could, and to an extent inevitably must, represent itself. Anti-Climacus prescribes, Very simply and, if you wish that also, very Lutheranly: only the consciousness of sin can force one, if I dare put it that way (from the other side grace is the



force), into this horror.37 Insofar as Kierkegaard and Luther reveal themselves as two souls analogously paralysed by the Anfechtung of their God-relationships, it is possible to discern a common malady gestating in the hearts of both men. Personally speaking, Koenker claims, in the extremities of Luthers Angst Kierkegaard sensed an afnity with his own anguish.38 However, that is not to say that he did not harbour his own suspicions about the anxiety which haunted Luthers world from the very moment which compelled him towards the monastery and into the service of what Kierkegaard called the unconditioned. Indeed, through focusing discussion on Kierkegaards view of Luthers tempestuous initiation into the monastery, it is possible to discern where Kierkegaard ostensibly differentiates himself from Luthers notion of Anfechtung and also how Kierkegaards assessment is a highly ambivalent critique which can be read as bearing ironic signicance for his own obsessions with the enmity of God and his personal struggles with Anfgtelse [ fgt ght].

III. THE LIGHTNING AND THE EARTHQUAKE All those who have served the unconditioned have rst received a blow that seemed to crush them, yet without slaying them . . . So it was with Paul when he was thrown to the ground, so also with Luther when the lightning struck and killed his friend, so also with Pascal when the horse ran away with him. This blow is like a sunstroke directly on the brain. It is the innite concentrated intensively in one single blow and one single moment (JP 4:4903).

On July 2nd, 1505, captivated by an extremely momentous thunderstorm near Stotternheim on the journey back to Erfurt, a fearful young Luther cried out the anguished vow, Help me, St. Anne; I will become a monk.39 It is this legendary event that Kierkegaard refers to as Luthers sunstroke from the unconditioned: a moment which in Kierkegaards mind afliated Luther with Pascal and St. Paul. The latter comparison to Pauls experience had already struck Luthers friend Crotus Rubeanus, and also his teacher in the monastery Johannes Nathin.40 However, Luther himself did not regard the event in the same terms. In time Luther even came to regard his vow as an oath which, being extracted by fear, was justiably broken.41 Nevertheless, Kierkegaard sees Luther as irrevocably forged in the crucible of this event; an incident which, despite his subsequent retreat from the monastery, Kierkegaard refuses to allow Luther to escape and which he discerns as perpetually following upon the reformers heels. Luther, as you know, was very shaken by a stroke of lightning which killed the friend at his side, but his words always sound as if the lightning were continually striking behind him (JP 3:2460). Kierkegaards own portentous religiosity may have imagined a young Luther inferring from this natural phenomena a supernatural warning shot. Johannes Climacus delivers a dramatic and somewhat suspecting



reading evoking in the thunderclouds the apocalyptic words, Then shall two be in the eld; the one shall be taken, and the other left (Matt. 24:40):
[O]pen to any page of his writings, and note in every line the strong pulse-beat of personal appropriation. Note it in the entire trembling propulsive movement of his style, which is as if it were driven from behind by the terrible thunderstorm that killed Alexius and created Luther.42

Indeed, as Marius describes, whilst Luther freed himself from the fear that storms signied divine retribution, he was never fully capable of perceiving such events as purely natural phenomena.43 Kierkegaard goes so far as to privately condemn Luther not without some tacit selfindictment for getting carried away by his personal upheavals: Luther suffered exceedingly from an anguished conscience and needed a cure. Well and good, but must Christianity therefore be converted in toto to this, to soothing and reassuring anguished consciences (JP 3:2550).44 Nevertheless, it is striking how Kierkegaards own suspicions concerning Luthers mentality appear to rebound on himself. Kierkegaard persistently evoked his own self-consciously Pauline comparison with enigmatic references to his own motivational thorn in the esh. Behind every word of the Kierkegaardian corpus one may be tempted to discern the inauspicious portent of his own divine catastrophe: what he calls the secret earthquake of his life. As the lightning ash sears the sky behind Luther, so could one say that for Kierkegaard the earthquake rumbles ominously beneath his trembling feet. The epicentre of this earthquake may be discerned in Kierkegaards recounting of his severe and crazy upbringing under the mortifying piety of his father:
Already in my earliest childhood I broke down under the grave impression which the melancholy old man who laid it upon me himself sank under. A child what a crazy thing! travestied as an old man! Frightful! What wonder then that there were times when Christianity appeared to me the most inhuman cruelty . . . But I have never denitely broken with Christianity nor renounced it.45

Sren, who identies the hereditary strain in his melancholy, implies the appropriation of a terrible secret guilt from his father Michael Pedersen Kierkegaard. Under the phrase quiet despair Kierkegaard recounts a genealogy of hereditary melancholy: a father labouring under a secret depression; and a silent condante, his son Sren, who bore this weight as his inheritance (JP 1:745).46 A tangled mythology has woven itself around the occult disclosure of Michaels terrible secret. Among the dark waters of speculation a particularly Lutheran aberration comes to the surface. The aberration in question relates to a primal sin committed in misery alone on the Jutland heath alone that is before God. According to this suspicion, Michael, born into extreme poverty and bondage in Sding by the desolate west coast of Jutland, cursed God for his hardship whilst



tending sheep on the barren heath. In 1840 Kierkegaard paid a pilgrimage to the scene of the transgression that his father had allegedly conded to him. He notes in his journal the very Lutheran climate, the very landscape of Anfechtung in which consciousness cannot escape naked exposure coram deo:
The heath must be particularly adapted to developing vigorous spirits; here everything lies naked and unveiled before God, and here is no place for a lot of distractions, those many odd nooks and corners where the consciousness can hide, and from which earnestness often has a hard time recovering vagrant thoughts. Here consciousness must come to denite and precise conclusions about itself. Here on the heath one must truly say, Whither shall I ee from thy presence? [Psalm 139:7] (JP 3:2830).

Here can be discerned the anxious paralysis of Anfechtungs agoraphobia as consciousness feels itself to be the enemy of creation, the object of a guilt inducing voyeurism. Recalling Luthers words:
He is put to sin and shame before God . . . this shame is now a thousand times greater, that a man must blush in the presence of God. For this means that there is no corner or hole in the whole of creation into which a man might creep, not even in hell, but he must let himself be exposed to the gaze of the whole creation, and stand in the open with all his shame, as a bad conscience feels when it is really struck . . . God takes all honour and comfort away and leaves only shame there, and this is his misery.47

In Fear and Trembling the heath takes on Biblical parity in Johannes de Silentios Prelude about the man who as a boy heard the dreadful story of Abrahams near-sacrice of Isaac. He did not need to travel to the particular numinous space in Jerusalem; in fact, he saw no reason why the same thing might not have taken place on a barren heath in Denmark.48 In Silentios allusion, does the heath implicitly invoke the horrifying scene of a holocaust to mirror Abraham and Isaac? Does the image become a dreadful excavation of the scene of a crime in which Kierkegaard had been paternally implicated: Michaels sacrice of his son on the altar of religious melancholy? Speculation aside, the scene is certainly set for a transgression worthy of Biblical melodrama. In 1846 Kierkegaard condes in his journal:
How appalling for the man who, as a lad watching sheep on the Jutland heath, suffering painfully, hungry and exhausted, once stood on a hill and cursed God and that man was unable to forget it when he was eighty-two years old (JP 5:5874).49

The guilt of Michael would thus hang over his family with all the avenging force of nemesis: a cruel hereditary Anfechtung, the fantastic rhetorical delusion of predestination. The father was convinced he was condemned to outlive his children; Sren himself was convinced he would die young (at Christs age of 33) as a consequence. What had rumbled



threateningly beneath his feet now erupted in this thought with full dramatic force for Kierkegaard:
Then it was that the great earthquake occurred, the frightful upheaval which suddenly drove me to a new infallible principle for interpreting all phenomena. Then I surmised that my fathers old-age was not a divine blessing, but rather a curse, that our familys exceptional intellectual capacities were only for mutually harrowing one another; then I felt the stillness of death deepen around me, when I saw in my father an unhappy man who would survive us all, a memorial cross on the grave of all his own personal hopes. A guilt must rest upon the entire family, a punishment of God must be upon it: it was supposed to disappear, obliterated by the mighty hand of God, erased like a mistake . . . (JP 5:5430).

However, as it transpired in a cruel twist of vengeance, Michael died before Sren, leaving his son instead to bury his father and, it seemed, inherit for himself the full burden of his guilt. Yet his fathers death, along with Srens outliving the numerological stigma of his 34th birthday, presented the opportunity to exorcise the curse and break the tragic genealogy of melancholy which had become his odious inheritance. Merciful God, my father too was terribly unjust to me in his melancholy an old man who put the weight of his melancholy upon a child.50 As with St. Paul, Kierkegaards secret thorn in the esh is a passion which dares only to speak its name obliquely. Regardless of the true identity of the terrible secret which aroused this nemesis, the sense of the religious reality of inevitable divine vengeance trembles in the earthquake, whatever its silent epicentre conceals. And one could likewise speculate, as Kierkegaard did of Luther, how this earthquakes inauspicious aftershock can also be deciphered throughout the Kierkegaardian oeuvre. Though such discernment may, in both cases, be speculative, further examination of the lightning and the earthquake helps to clarify the juncture at which Kierkegaards Anfgtelse apparently deviates from Luthers Anfechtung: namely the particular emphases upon the divine or the demonic.
IV. BETWEEN GOD AND THE DEVIL OR GOD AND THE INDIVIDUAL That the Christian must suffer does not come from the devil. And precisely here does the highest exertion of spirit begin in relation to the Christian that suffering comes from God (JP 2:1447).

Although the lightning may have been always striking behind him, as Kierkegaard saw it, it must be remembered that Luther was himself periodically mistrustful of the authenticity of his tempestuous initiation. Did this inspirational thunderstorm owe more to a trick of demonology or pathology than divine inspiration? While Kierkegaards father had insinuated divine vengeance into the life of young Sren, Luthers father



sought to alleviate a similar sentiment in his own deluded son. His days in the monastery were darkened by a suspicion, which Martins father expressed loudly on the occasion of the young priests rst Mass, that the thunderstorm had really been the voice of a Gespenst, a ghost.51 Indeed Luthers world swarmed with devils and poltergeists52 and his suspicions gradually inclined towards demonic sources. The young mans maternally inherited superstitions rendered him susceptible to crude beliefs in witchcraft and the supernatural. Strange noises in the night, the wind in the forest, the odd behaviour of a neighbour . . . all provoked the conviction that demonic forces went about the world like a roaring lion, seeking whom it might devour.53 Luther readily recounts how the devil is known to thump about and haunt houses and even relates his own satisfying composure in response to a poltergeist incident in the monastery at Wittenberg.54 All in all it would be premature in Luthers time to retire the devil to the archives of psychology or mythology. Luthers Devil is by no means disposed of in terms of superstition, catarrh, noises in the head and what are now fashionably described as poltergeist phenomena.55 In fact, rather than overcoming medieval belief in the devil, Luthers imminent eschatological conviction can be seen to have intensied it and lent to it additional urgency: Christ and Satan wage a cosmic war for mastery over Church and world.56 Oberman even ventures that Luthers experience of the devils power affected him as intensely as Christs.57 On the other hand Kierkegaard, a Danish Lutheran situated historically in the reaction of the philosophers of the Enlightenment against the superstitious, abominable use of the idea of the demonic in the Middle Ages and in orthodox Protestantism,58 ardently eclipses the role of the devil in Anfgtelse through his insistence upon the unconditioned sovereignty of God and the responsibility of each individual before God. Despite this, however, Kierkegaards own fascination with the demonic restrains him from fully endorsing the contemporary Enlightenment neglect of the devil. As G. E. Arbaugh identies, His experience of temptation, rebellion and isolation coupled with insights from sources such as the legend of Faust, Shakespeare and the Bible lead him to recognize a devilish power largely lost sight of in later Protestantism, and a demonic will in man seldom taken seriously in philosophical ethics since Greek idealism.59 Nevertheless, Kierkegaard is careful not to simply employ Satan and the demonic synonymously. In accord with his emphasis upon the responsibility and freedom of the individual, Kierkegaards anatomy of the demonic is articulated principally in philosophical, Faustian, and Romantic terms: subsumed under anthropology and not demonology. Kierkegaard thereby accuses Luthers ascription of Anfechtung to Satan of being more childish than true (JP 4:4372): a castigation not so much motivated by Enlightenment condescension towards medieval



superstition as the desire to situate the tension of Anfgtelse irreducibly between the individual and God. No, it is spiritual trial [Anfgtelse] because it seems to the person himself as if the relationship were stretched too tightly, as if he were venturing too boldly in literally involving himself personally with God and Christ (JP 4:4372). Nevertheless, here Kierkegaard does actually concur with Luther that Anfechtung is not a nemesis upon worldliness, but is rather elicited and intensied by the proximity of the God-relationship. Luthers devil avenges himself upon a life of faith. Here, according to Oberman, is found a radical deviation from the medieval concept of the Devil, according to which the evil one is drawn by the smell of sin, the sin of worldly concern.60 Hence Johannes Climacus is very Lutheran in describing Anfgtelse as the nemesis upon the strong moment in the absolute relationship.61 However, since the dialectical antagonism is not situated between God and the devil but between God and the individual, the Kierkegaardian nemesis must be understood as explicitly divine rather than, as in Luther, apparently satanic. It is here that Kierkegaard confesses a signicant departure point between his view of Anfgtelse and Luthers Anfechtung. However, while emphasizing individual responsibility, Kierkegaards ascription of Anfgtelse to divine rather than satanic agency does not validate a dismissive exorcism of the power of the devil. It is a refocussing which serves an insistence upon divine sovereignty.
Indeed, the New Testament itself also presents Christ as having been tempted [fristet] by the devil. No, my aim is to block the idea so easily smuggled in, the idea that God has a cause in the human sense and simultaneously the criterion for being a Christian is readily reduced. . . . If the situation is such that God is a Majesty who is embattled with the devil, another Majesty, and wants to have Christians for this battle in order to make use of them in this battle, it is then impossible to maintain the ideal qualications for being a Christian (JP 1:1449).

Kierkegaard is here desperate to avoid suggestion of any dualism that would compromise the absolute and unconditioned character of the divine. Once the devil is asserted as a cosmic protagonist with genuine potency, then the radical ideal of being a Christian is compromised by the principal location of enmity between God and the devil. Instead, in the fear and trembling of Anfgetelse, one cannot escape the sense that the intrinsic antagonism exists in the innite qualitative difference between the individual and God. It is clear that much of what Luther explained (an explanation which actually needs its own explanation) as the work of the devil quite as if the devil were actually able to set limits upon God may be explained by the discrepancy between Gods innite majesty and man (JP 4:4949). Nevertheless, in his anxiety to avoid cosmological dualism, Kierkegaard could actually be seen to reveal more of a fundamental afnity with



Luther than he acknowledges. Luthers ascription of Anfechtung to the devil often implies an occult ascription to God: the God who is secretly at work, without whose implicit permission Satan could not wreak havoc.62 One apparently ghts with the devil who secretly labours in the occult internal labyrinth, subtly tenderizing the conscience; but in fact Luther urges the Christian on such occasions to ght against God himself a bold exhortation that suggests that God himself is the source of Anfechtung.63 As such, Luthers demonology may obscure where his anatomy of Anfechtung is closer to Kierkegaards own. Luthers apparently ambivalent perception of God divulges that Satan was nally Gods Satan, doing in a perverse way Gods will. It was almost to suggest that Satan was the name Luther gave to those powers and actions of God that take place outside of Christ, that God himself is divided.64 Although divine omnipotence prohibits any dualism between God and Satan, there is a dualism ostensibly residing in this view of God himself which, Tillich warns, reveals The demonic elements in Luthers doctrine of God, his occasional identication of the wrath of God with Satan, the half-divinehalf-demonic picture he gives of Gods acting in nature and history.65 Luthers teachings on the sources of Anfechtung thus paint a murky and potentially Janus-faced portrait of God. As Luther reveals, Without Gods will and our own consent, the devil cannot hurt us.66 However, Gods loosening of restraint upon Satan is not an explicit collaboration. The power the devil exercises is not by God commanded, Luther explains, but God resists him not, suffering him to make tumults, yet no longer or further than he wills, for God has set him a mark, beyond which he neither can nor dare step.67 Nevertheless, satanic derivation of Anfechtung seems ultimately evasive of what is the potentially scandalous conclusion of tacit divine responsibility. Ultimately, as Hinkson describes, the ascription of Anfechtung to the devil is tantamount to an ascription to God, the devil being Gods devil, or mask .68 Yet it may be said that Kierkegaard causes the Lutheran mask to slip, not solely through Enlightenment sophistication, but from a desire to expose responsibility for the tension of the innite qualitative difference between the individual and God.

Despite his emphatic reservations, Kierkegaard retained a fascination and nostalgia for what he perceived as at least partial truth in antiquated (from Enlightenment Christendoms stance) discussion of Anfechtung. What is decient, however, is the Kierkegaardian emphasis upon selfresponsibility:
In older and better devotional literature we read much about thoughts which try the spirit [anfgtende Tanker] and cause the individual to suffer, thought



described as burning arrows and ascribed to the devil. But this is not a truly Christian interpretation; such thoughts come from the individual himself, although innocently.69

Kierkegaards allusion to burning arrows may recall, among others, Luther: Satan ceases not to plague the Christians, and shoot at us his ery darts.70 Yet decisively these are thoughts which, for Kierkegaard, may originate in the mind of the individual since such thoughts that try the spirit [anfgtende Tanker] are related to the imagination (JP 4:4383). There is the risk, therefore, of a delusional melancholy in which the perception of the God-relationship capitulates into harrowing fantasy. As Anti-Climacus explains, The fantastic [Phantastiske], of course, is most closely related to the imagination [Phantasie] . . . therefore a person can have imaginary feeling, knowing, and willing.71 Anti-Climacus depicts just such a fantasized religious person in whose imagination the God-relationship becomes misconceived.
To exist before God may seem unendurable to a man because he cannot come back to himself, become himself. Such a fantasized religious person would say (to characterise him by means of some lines): That a sparrow can live is comprehensible; it does not know that it exists before God. But to know that one exists before God, and then not instantly go mad or sink into nothingness!72

For this fantasized individual, existing before God seems ontologically unendurable; madness or annihilation present themselves as the only resolutions. Crucially, however, this particular self has become fantastic73 and therefore leads a fantasized existence in abstract innitizing or in abstract isolation, continually lacking its self, from which it moves further and further away.74 Consequently, one might ascribe to the fanatasy of the imagination Luthers anxietys over strange noises in the night, the wind in the forest, the rustling leaf, even the lightning strike which in fantasys anxiety are transgured into the machinations of the devil or the wrath of God.75 Might such a derivation also be ascribed to the earthquake which shook the life of the Kierkegaard family into one of often intractably melancholic scrupulosity? It is conceivable that Kierkegaard found in Luthers anguish, not only an afnity with his own anxieties, but a reminder and perhaps a warning of his own, and even his fathers, propensity to transform Christianity into melancholy and despair. Luthers transguration of fear and trembling and spiritual trial [Anfgtelse] into spiritual joy was an inimitably dreadful ordeal, according to Kierkegaard, since there is not one in each generation who experiences this the way Luther did. In Protestantism it becomes the universal to counterfeit this inwardness [Inderlighed] of Luthers; but does an imposition of mutual mortication overlook the singularity of Luthers own struggle? In summary, In Luther it was the truth, but was it justiable to universalize it? (JP 3:2544). Each individual is not called upon to become a repetition of



Luther, and Kierkegard had himself seen at rst hand the horror of religious self-mortication. Luther had assumed that his own momentous religious struggle with the wrath and the grace of God forged as it was in the crucible of intensely scrupulous monastic scrutiny was typically indicative of a universal human anxiety over justication. As it happened, his melancholy introspection, his fear and trembling and spiritual trial, were not communal vexations for most people. When organizing the churches in Saxony in the 1520s, Slk describes, Luther was surprised to discover that people did not live their lives in fear and trembling seeking the grace of God. As such, in these circumstances the Gospel, which, after intense struggles, he had come to understand, and wanted the people to share, had become meaningless and superuous.76 But the superuity of authentic Christianity was an incrementally modern malaise that also greatly troubled Kierkegaard. O, dear Luther, where are these Christian men you speak of?, Kierkegaard laments, And if such an individual is found ever so seldom, can and ought this to be made the universal principle which we swindlers have made it by taking advantage of Luther? (JP 3:2544). Mourning the decline of Anfgtelse implicit in the spiritlessness of his own time which threatens to render authentic Christianity superuous, Kierkegaard implies something of a Lutheran nostalgia when he confesses: I am like a chaplain in a monastery, a spiritual adviser to the solitary etc . . . Spiritual trial [Anfgtelse] is literally never spoken of anymore (JP 6:6459). This is the most demoralizing aspect of the malaise: the supercial silence which supplants all mention of Anfgtelse, no matter how imperfect or fantastic. Dialectically speaking, Luthers Anfecthung can thus be taken to signify for Kierkegaard the inherent anguish of the God-relationship and yet also the precarious potentiality for its capitulation into the sort of delusion and fantasy which Kierkegaard had experienced profoundly harrowing intimacy with. Thus the irony of Kierkegaards critique of Luther is that it implicitly reects and thereby admonishes his own propensity towards the self-mortication of the God-relationship. It is as such that Kierkegaard and Luther may be read as potentially therapeutic physicians to one anothers souls.
1 Kierkegaard, Either/Or, Volume One, trans. David F. Swenson and Lillian Marvin Swenson (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1949), p. 32. 2 Hinkson, Luther and Kierkegaard: Theologians of the Cross, International Journal of Systematic Theology, Volume 3: Number 1, March 2001, p. 28. 3 Mark Dooley, The Politics of Exodus: Sren Kierkegaards Ethics of Responsibility (New York: Fordham University Press, 2001), p. xv. 4 M. Jamie Ferreiras Loves Grateful Striving: A Commentary on Kierkegaards Works of Love (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001) is a signicant recent exception. Ferreira notes how the more general question of Kierkegaards relation both to Luthers thought and to the Lutheranism of his day is an important one and awaits comprehensive treatment (p. 11).



5 Sren Kierkegaards Journals and Papers, ed. and trans. Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong, 7 vols. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 196778), 3:2461. (Henceforth, JP followed by volume number and entry number). 6 See Vernard Eller, Kierkegaard and Radical Discipleship: A New Perspective, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1968), pp. 3023. 7 Craig Hinkson, Will the Real Martin Luther Please Stand Up! Kierkegaards View of Luther versus the Evolving Perceptions of the Tradition, ed. Robert L. Perkins, International Kierkegaard Commentary, Volume 21: For Self-Examination and Judge for Yourself! (Macon: Mercer University Press, 2002), p. 43. 8 Regin Prenter, Luther and Lutheranism, Bibliotheca Kierkegaardina, Vol. 6: Kierkegaard and Great Traditions, ed. Niels Thulstrup and Marie Mikulova Thulstrup (Copenhagen: C. A. Reitzels Boghandel, 1981), p. 136. 9 Prenter, Luther and Lutheranism, p. 136. 10 The Fatherland, XX, Thursday May 16, 1855, Kierkegaards Attack Upon Christendom, trans. Walter Lowrie (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1968), p. 55. 11 Prenter, Luther and Lutheranism, p. 122. 12 Gradually, however, his criticism escalates until it becomes quite biting in the last couple of years, by which time he is convinced that the bargain struck with the world by later Lutheranism cannot simply be attributed to its falling away from Luther the seeds for the accommodation were somehow present in nuce in Luther himself. Hinkson, Will the Real Martin Luther Please Stand Up!, p. 42. 13 Prenter, Luther and Lutheranism, p. 122. 14 Niels Thulstrup summarises SKs second-hand knowledge of Luther was traditional, and his own reading of Luther began quite late. Theological and Philosophical Studies, Bibliotheca Kierkegaardiana Vol. 1: Kierkegaards View of Christianity, ed. Niels Thulstrup and Marie Mikulova Thulstrup (Copenhagen: C. A. Reitzels Boghandel, 1978), p. 46. 15 Prenter, Luther and Lutheranism, p. 125. 16 Hinkson, Will the Real Martin Luther Please Stand Up!, p. 38. Hinkson adds that much of Kierkegaards early second hand knowledge of Luther derived from Philipp Marheinekes Geschichte der teutschen Reformation. See Will the Real Martin Luther Please Stand Up!, p. 45. 17 According to Niels Thulstrups catalogue of Kierkegaards private library (1957), he owned: Luthers Works in 10 Volumes, ed. Otto von Gerlach; a selection in German of Lutheran apopthegms in 4 volumes; Table Talks (a Danish edition of the two postils: Kirchenpostille and Hauspostille), readings of Luthers Sermons in Danish. Also, as Niels Thulstrup writes, Kierkegaard would have been able to orient himself in Luthers view on trial [Anfechtung] especially in the representative collection of quotations based on G. Walchs edition of Luthers collected works (174053), edited by F. W. Lomler, G. F. Lucius, J. Rust, L. Sackreuter, and E. Zimmermann, Geist aus Luthers Schriften I (Darmstadt 1828), p. 118 ff. (Ktl. No. 317-20). SK could read Luthers comprehensive, signicant interpretation of the essence of trial in his exposition of the sixth petition in the Lords Prayer in Cathechismus Maior (1529), in Libri Symbolici ecclesiae evangelicae sive Concordia (rec. C. G. Hase, 2nd ed., Lipsiae 1837). Niels Thulstrup, Trial, Test, Tribulation, Temptation, Bibliotheca Kierkegaardina Volume 16: Some of Kierkegaards Main Categories, ed. Niels Thulstrup and Marie Mikulova Thulstrup (Copenhagen: C. A. Reitzels Forlay, 1988), p. 108. 18 This Postil was an important work in Kierkegaards own collection of devotional literature. By and large, Kierkegaard did not know much of Luther apart from this volume, which he refers to most frequently in his papers. Jrgen Bukdahl, Sren Kierkegaard and the Common Man, ed. and trans. Bruce H. Kirmmse (Grand Rapids/Cambridge: Williams B. Eerdmans, 2001), p. 20. Signicantly, this book is also implicated in an acidic rebuke from Kierkegaard: Luther has actually done incalculable harm by not becoming a martyr . . . his later life was not devoid of pointlessness. The Table Talks are an example: a man of God sitting in placid comfort, ringed by admiring adorers who believe that if he simply breaks wind it is a revelation or the result of inspiration (JP 3:2546). 19 See Ernest B. Koenker, Sren Kierkegaard on Luther, Interpreters of Luther: Essays in Honor of Wilhelm Pauck, ed. Jaroslav Pelikan (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1968), p. 231. See also Hermann Dien, Kierkegaards Dialectic of Existence, trans. Harold Knight (London: Oliver and Boyd, 1959), p. 159. 20 Johannes Slk, Kierkegaard and Luther, A Kierkegaard Critique, ed. Howard A. Johnson and Niels Thulstrup (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1962), p. 87. 21 See Hinkson, Will the Real Martin Luther Please Stand up!, p. 56.



22 Ibid., p. 75. 23 Heiko A. Oberman, Luther: Man Between God and the Devil (New York: Doubleday, 1992). 24 Richard Marius, Martin Luther: The Christian Between God and Death (Cambridge, Massachusetts London, England: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1999). 25 Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientic Postscript, trans. David F. Swenson and Walter Lowrie (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1968), p. 432. 26 Christian Contradictions: The Structures of Lutheran and Catholic Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), p. 256. 27 Craig Hinkson, Luther and Kierkegaard: Theologians of the Cross, p. 41. However, Luther is evidently not the only source of afnity for Kierkegaards understanding of Anfgtelse. Louise Carroll Keeley identies Johann Arndts True Christianity (especially Book II) among the old devotional books as another important source of solidarity. Spiritual Trial in the Thought of Kierkegaard, ed. Robert Perkins, International Kierkegaard Commentary: Concluding Unscientic Postscript (Macon: Mercer University Press, 1997), p. 313. However, Arndt does not use the term Anfechtung in its technical differentiation from temptation. Vigilius Haufniensis also notes that one can nd an abundance of material on the religious spiritual trial [Anfgtelse] in Joseph von Gorres, Die christliche Mystik, though Haufniensis cautions that Gorres does not always know how to distinguish between the demonic and the spiritual trial. Therefore the work should be used with care. The Concept of Anxiety, ed. and trans. Reidar Thomte in collaboration with Albert B. Anderson (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1980), p. 143. 28 Christian Discourses, trans. Walter Lowrie (London: Oxford University Press, 1952), p. 227. 29 Paul Tillich, The Protestant Era, trans. James Luther Adams (London: Nisbet and Co., 1951), p. 163. 30 Tillich, The Protestant Era, p. 162. 31 Gordon Rupp, The Righteousness of God: Luther Studies (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1953), p. 235. 32 Tillich, The Protestant Era, p. 162. 33 Tillich, Systematic Theology, Vol. II, (Digswell Place: James Nisbet and Co., 1968), p. 39. Similarly in Danish Angst associates with trang (narrow) and trngsel (narrowness, tribulation, also suggests to crowd: the crowd being a famous term for mass inauthenticity in Kierkegaards corpus). See Kierkegaard, Not That the Way is Narrow [trang], But That Narrowness [trngsel] is the Way, Gospel of Sufferings, trans. A. S. Aldworth and W. S. Ferrie (Cambridge: James Clarke, 1955). 34 Weimarer Ausgabe (WA), 1. 557. 39. Cited in Rupp, The Righteousness of God, p. 109. 35 Luther, WA 10, 1, ii, 27,14. Cited in Rupp, The Righteousness of God, p. 108. 36 WA 19, 226, 6. Cited in Rupp, The Righteousness of God, p. 109. And upon them that are left alive of you I will send a faintness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies; and the sound of a shaken leaf shall chase them; and they shall ee, as eeing from a sword; and they shall fall when none pursueth. (Lev. 26:36). 37 Practice in Christianity, ed. and trans. Hong and Hong (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991), p. 67. 38 Koenker, Sren Kierkegaard on Luther, p. 234. As shall hopefully become apparent, I would not go as far as Koenker in suggesting that Kierkegaard sees nothing unauthentic in Luthers struggle, either in depth or extent. 39 See Oberman, Luther, p. 93. 40 Ibid., Luther, p. 126. 41 God, Luther said these many years later, understood his vow in the Hebrew because Anna (or Hannah) meant under grace and not legally a reference to Luthers conviction by 1539 that vows made in fear should not be binding. Marius, Martin Luther, p. 43. 42 Concluding Unscientic Postcript, p. 327. However, as Niels Thulstrup explains, It is not a historical fact that his friend Alexius was killed at his side. Commentary on Kierkegaards Concluding Unscientic Postscript, trans. Robert J. Widenmann (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984), p. 327. 43 He was always afraid of storms. In 1533 a violent winter storm tore through Nuremburg . . . Luther said such tempests came from the devil while good winds were sent by angels . . . Once while he was still in the monastery, he said, he neglected to say his canonical prayers, and a terrible storm broke out in the night. He got out of bed and fell on his knees to pray, for he was sure the storm had come on account of his oversight . . . He was later in life to shake off the fear



that storms came because he did not strictly follow the rules of prayer, but his notion that storms were supernatural events endured. Marius, Martin Luther, p. 28. 44 Kierkegaard is feasibly alluding to the common medieval accusation identifying Luther as a scrupulant, another monastic victim of scruples (Latin scrupulus pebble, referring to an excessively disproportionate aggravation of conscience). But, as Rupp observes, it is signicant that although he [Luther] knew all about scruples, since he has some acid comments on scrupulants in his letters, he never diagnoses his own troubles in those terms. There are similarities, but there are great differences between the exact scrupulosity of a tender conscience, and the scruples which are the result, not of a religious insight, but a neurotic confusion. Rupp, The Righteousness of God, p. 116. In more recent terms, an often resisted Freudian dissection has been made in Erik H. Eriksons Young Man Luther. Oberman retorts that Luthers terrorstricken vow is seen as neither exceptional nor proof of psychological instability; on the contrary, it was perfectly in keeping with the times and not abnormal for any, young, unmarried man of tender conscience. Oberman, Luther, p. 92. 45 The Point of View, trans. Walter Lowrie (London: Oxford University Press, 1950), pp. 767. 46 A similar portrait is ctionalized under Quiet Despair in Stages On Lifes Way, ed. and trans. Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1988), pp. 199200: Poor child, you are in a quiet despair . . . And the father believed that he was responsible for his sons depression, and the son believed that it was he who caused his fathers sorrow but never a word was exchanged about this (p. 200). 47 WA 19, 216, 27. Cited in Rupp, The Righteousness of God, p. 108. 48 Fear and Trembling and The Book On Adler, trans. Walter Lowrie (London: David Campbell Publishers Ltd., 1994), p. 6. 49 This entry was unpublished until after Srens brother, Peter, died. According to H. P. Barford, the editor of Kierkegaards journals, Peter wept upon reading the entry and wished the details of this incident to be withheld from publication. See Hannay, Kierkegaard: A Biography, p. 456 n. 37 and Joakim Garff, Sren Kierkegaard: A Biography, trans. Bruce H. Kirmmse (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2005), p. 136. 50 The Journals of Sren Kierkegaard A Selection, ed. and trans. Alexander Dru (London, New York, Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1951), p. 681. 51 Erikson, Young Man Luther (London: Faber and Faber, 1958), p. 24. 52 Marius, Martin Luther, p. 27. 53 Ibid., p. 27. 54 See Oberman, Luther, p. 105. 55 Rupp, The Righteousness of God, p. 347. 56 Oberman, Luther, p. 104. 57 Ibid., p. 155. 58 Tillich, The Protestant Era, Authors Preface, p. xxxv. 59 G. E. Arbaugh, The Devil, Bibliotheca Kierkegaardiana Vol. 5: Theological Concepts in Kierkegaard, ed. Niels Thulstrup and Marie Mikulova Thulstrup (Copenhagen: C. A. Reitzels Boghandel, 1980), p. 268. 60 Oberman, Luther, p. 106. 61 Concluding Unscientic Postctript, p. 411. 62 In the end, therefore, Luther saw God behind trial. We are directly tempted by the Devil, the world, and our own carnal selves; but it is part of Gods training that we should be subject to trial, and therefore we should always be forced to prayer. Niels Thulstrup, Trial, Test, Tribulation, Temptation, p. 107. Kierkegaard seems aware of the ultimate governance of God over the devil in Luther when he cites approvingly: In one of Luthers table-talks he tells how he acts when the devil tempts [anfgter] him during the night. He says to him: My good Satan, you must really let me have peace now, for you know it is Gods will that man shall work by day and sleep by night (JP 3:2526). 63 Hinkson, Kierkegaards Theology: Cross and Grace, Ph.D. dissertation. University of Chicago, 1993, pp. 367. 64 Marius, Martin Luther, p. 78. 65 Tillich, Systematic Theology, Vol. 1, p. 241. 66 Of the Devil and His Works, DCXX, The Table Talk of Martin Luther ed. and trans. William Hazlitt (London: H. G. Bohn, 1857), p. 265. 67 Ibid., pp. 2634. 68 Hinkson, Luther and Kierkegaard: Theologians of the Cross, p. 35.



69 Ibid., p. 35. 70 Of the Devil and His Works, The Table Talk of Martin Luther, DCXI, p. 262. 71 The Sickness Unto Death, trans. Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980), p. 30. 72 The Sickness Unto Death, p. 32. It is of some signicance that Kierkegaard confessed in an unused draft that the book judges me in very many ways . . . I myself am the only one dealt with negatively and personally in the book. The Sickness Unto Death, p. 159. 73 The Danish word Anti-Climacus uses for imagination [Phantasi] possesses different nuances from the English word fantasy, which resounds with more immediately negative suggestions of reverie or delusion. See M. Jamie Ferreira, Imagination and the Despair of Sin, Kierkegaard Studies Yearbook 1997, 1634. While imagination may embellish itself in the fantastic desire to be innite, it plays a role in faith itself since, according to Ferreira, it takes imagination to hold the nitized and innitized selves in tension with each other. Transforming Vision: Imagination and Will in Kierkegaardian Faith (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991), p. 82. 74 The Sickness Unto Death, p. 32. 75 Note, however, that Luther himself seems to have been aware of the embellishing tendencies of ones own conscience. As such, Luther favours occasionally partaking of the Eucharist without confession, that a man may learn to trust in the mercy of God rather than in his own diligence. This is not despising the sacrament or tempting God, if it is done to accustom a troubled conscience to trust God and not to tremble at the rustling of every falling leaf . John T. McNeill, A History of the Cure of Souls (London: SCM Press, 1952), p. 167. 76 Slk, Kierkegaard and Luther, A Kierkegaard Critique, pp. 9495.