Kierkegaard is wrong: an absurd God is not good.
I’ve posted three times previously on Søren Kierkegaard As with all my posts, I’m always trying to figure out the gist of someone’s argument by presenting it to others—that is, you dear reader. I think I’ve finally “got” Kierkegaard, and I think he’s fundamentally wrong.
The three stages of life
Kierkegaard says that there are three stages to life: the aesthetic, the ethical, and the religious. The aesthetic life is concerned with pleasure. The ethical life is concerned with living by principle. If married, I should follow the principles of marriage, which are loyalty, care, and love. The ethical man acts in a way he would want others to act. It’s actually pretty close to the golden rule, which in turn is pretty close to what Immanuel Kant called the categorical imperative.
The religious stage is where it gets complicated, because Kierkegaard subdivided the religious stage into A and B. We reach the religious stage when we see that the principles that guide our lives are not merely a product of human reason, but a divine imperative. Failing to live up to these principles is not only unethical; it is an insult to God.
Kierkegaard makes a big deal out of the difference between what he calls “religiousness A and religiousness B.” (CUP, p 494) The main difference is that in religiousness A, God is thought of as comprehensible by humans, and understandable by reason, at least to a certain degree. There is continuity between the ethical and religiousness A.
Stage B, which Kierkegaard sometimes calls simply Christianity, is where God is beyond human reason, infinitely different and utterly inexplicable. Kierkegaard frequently uses the term “absurd” to characterize this God and his commandments. The experience of God as absurd is good, for it means we have abandoned trying to understand him. To act on the absurd is to act completely on faith (Journal).
“Religion B” is a bad idea
In Isaiah 55:8, God says “my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.” This makes sense. We should not expect God to be a larger and more powerful version of a human. To fail to recognize and appreciate God’s otherness is a mistake. Nevertheless, God’s commandments, his presence in our lives, must be recognizably good, decent, and moral, or he is no longer a God that humans can worship.