God and Human Freedom

A Kierkegaardian Perspective

by Tony Kim (Author)
©2015 Monographs VI, 95 Pages
Series: American University Studies , Volume 354


In God and Human Freedom: A Kierkegaardian Perspective Tony Kim discusses Søren Kierkegaard’s concept of historical unity between the divine and human without disparaging their absolute distinction. Kim’s central analysis between the relation of God and human freedom in Kierkegaard presents God’s absoluteness as superseding human freedom, intervening at every point of His relation with the world and informing humanity of their existentially passive being. Kim argues Kierkegaard is not a strict voluntarist but deeply acknowledges God’s absoluteness and initiative over and against human life. Moreover, the author’s exploration of unity in Kierkegaard points to the very ethics of who God is, one who loves the world. Ultimately, God manifests that love in Jesus Christ, representing God’s ultimate reconciliation with the world in his humility.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Chapter 1. Introduction
  • The God-Freedom Relation
  • The Incarnation as the Starting Point
  • Freedom and Self-Transcendence
  • Chapter 2. Modern Concepts of Freedom
  • Kant’s Critique of Reason as a Prologemena to Future Study of Human Freedom
  • Kant’s Influence on Kierkegaard and Kierkegaard’s Critique of Kant
  • Heidegger’s Concept of Freedom and a Kierkegaardian Critique
  • Freedom in Interdependence with the Divine
  • Revelation, Authority, and the Case of Adler
  • Sartre’s Appropriation of Kierkegaard
  • Faith, God and Freedom
  • Hegel and Kierkegaard on Freedom
  • Chapter 3. Unity of Faith and Reason
  • Kierkegaard on Freedom and Grace
  • Freedom and Necessity
  • The Incarnation and the God-Freedom Relation
  • Is God Free? Barth and Moltmann on Divine Freedom
  • Chapter 4. Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index

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The God-Freedom Relation

The question concerning the relation between God and human freedom in Kierkegaard is a difficult one. The reason is due to his emphatic focus on freedom. Some see his view as affirming total absence of divine constraint in human life.

For example, a Kierkegaard scholar, Louis Pojman, claims Kierkegaard is a strict proponent of human freedom and sees faith as something which is “essentially active and experienced as a result of one’s willful choice of action.”1 He writes:

Although Kierkegaard is not always as lucid as he could be in these discussions of faith/belief (Tro), the context usually makes the concept tolerably clear. Most of what he says I take to be insightful and plausible; however, there is one place where I think Kierkegaard’s theory bears especially close scrutiny. I refer his doctrine of volitionalism: the thesis that we can attain beliefs by willing to have them, and that we ought to attain some beliefs in this manner.2

In Pojman’s view, Kierkegaard thinks of human will as that which independently achieves religious faith without dependence on God. ← 1 | 2 →

In this book, I will exam the problem of God-freedom relation in Kierkegaard. Contrary to his critics, such as Pojman and others, I will argue Kierkegaard is not a strict voluntarist but acknowledges the absoluteness and the initiative of the transcendent over and against human life. Specifically, I will argue that his position is one of both synthesis and antithesis. It is former in that he acknowledges the interaction between the two; it is latter in that God’s absoluteness superimposes itself on all that is human. I will add his view of the Incarnation—absolute paradox—plays a central role in the concept of the relation as one of absolute distinction and historical unity.

The Incarnation as the Starting Point

Using the Incarnation as a starting point for his God-freedom argument—as a both synthetic and antithetic historical-religious phenomenon—Kierkegaard employs the relation between God’s revelation (Incarnation) and human understanding to show that paradoxical nature. According to him, the paradox of the Incarnation forever constitutes an opposition to human reason. Our natural reason, he says, cannot logically grasp the transcendent meaning of the Incarnation from any historical standpoint. Rather than subjecting to philosophical analysis, the incarnation necessitates appropriation and decision. Let me explain.

Kierkegaard believes when God created humanity he gave them freedom. That means he refrains from asserting complete dominance. However, God’s restraint of dominance should not to be taken in the absolute sense. As emphatic and protective as he is over our freedom, Kierkegaard does not lack firmness when it comes to expressing what he believes is God’s true intent behind creation: to reveal a single vestige of redemption. While not dis-acknowledging it, he sees freedom as summoned towards God’s theological objective. There is no singular rational capacity which transcends that initiative.3

But, there is irony. Being rooted in God’s creational origin we nonetheless play the role of historically determining existence with given scientific/rational/existential conditions. Given God’s absolute determination of human life, our final or future destiny—resting upon God’s inanimate or non-perceived conditions and purpose or will that at any time may override those of a person—the fact is one must act. How then do we reconcile that contradiction between God’s absoluteness and human will? ← 2 | 3 →

First, Kierkegaard does not absolutize history. He does not form a singular unity of God and the world. He does not justify history’s intelligent force as that which transcendently unifies the world with the divine. He concurs history is a process in which human beings determine their choices and relation with God and others. History is formed through interaction between God and humanity. “The paradox of faith is that the individual is higher than the universal, that the individual determines his relation to the universal by his relation to the absolute, not his relation to the absolute by his relation to the universal.”4

He admits: “The paradox [Incarnation] can also be expressed by saying that there is an absolute duty toward God; for in this relationship of duty the individual as an individual stands related absolutely to the absolute.”5 Declaring a qualitative distinction between God (absolute) and humanity (historical) he establishes an historical axiom of our moral duty towards God.

Over and against philosophical systems of Spinoza, Hegel and others which transcendentally idealize the world, Kierkegaard maintains God’s absoluteness over and against humanity without disparaging their historical unity. The given principle of absolute distinction and historical unity between God and humanity in Kierkegaard then serves as the framework of our argument.6

Kierkegaard rejects acknowledging God’s absoluteness disparages our freedom. He rejects affirming freedom entails human autonomy. He asserts neither necessity nor autonomy. Our choice, he says, is neither solely self-determining nor solely necessitated. It is simultaneously both. Indeed our choice is both a deliberated and determined action. But it is a choice made in neglect of rationality. Human choices are unconsciously determined.


VI, 95
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2015 (October)
Kant Heidegger Barth
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2015. VI, 95 pp.

Biographical notes

Tony Kim (Author)

Tony Kim is the founder and president of the Graduate Institute of Christian Philosophy in Baltimore, Maryland, where he is also a professor of theology and philosophy. He received his PhD in theology from The Free University of Amsterdam in Netherlands. Dr. Kim holds an MA in philosophy from University of Leuven in Belgium and an MA in religion from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts. His first book Reasonableness of Faith: A Study of Kierkegaard’s Philosophical Fragments (2012) is also by Peter Lang.


Title: God and Human Freedom
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103 pages