Converging and Convincing Proof of God: Anxiety Without God
himself unless he stands before God. He must presume God to scan to know then himself.
The way Kierkegaard saw things, three and only three general choices confronted men in response to the anxiety of existence: men could live the aesthetic life, the ethical life, or the religious life.
The aesthete, in its most sensual form, lives for sensual gratification, like the playboy Don Juan. In its most intellectual form, the aesthete lives for intellectual gratification, like the scientist and magician Faust. Ultimately, the aesthetic life leads to a cul-de-sac, an Ahasuerus wandering the world without ever finding meaning and lapsing into romantic irony and despair. Here perhaps we also find Sartre and Camus and their disciples of despair. In a sense, Ahasuerus has landed himself into a temporal hell: the "iron cage."
A step up, but not yet complete, response to life's anxiety is to adopt the ethical life in an effort to give some sort of form to the aesthetic life. This requires a conversion of sorts to a rule, to a committed life. Whereas Don Juan is unstable in his shallow loves, he who follows the ethical life resolves to love one woman and marries.
In the ethical life, some sort of moral standard acts as a sort of lifeline, a golden thread of Ariadne, that takes us out of life's labyrinth where we remain if we follow the life of the aesthete alone. Once the aesthete recognizes the duty to the universal, his life gains some coherence. He is no longer governed by sensuousness and its ephemeral value.
But the ethical life is not enough; it is hideously Pelagian and ultimately self-justifying. It falls short of showing man a clear way out of his anxiety, because man sees in himself what Aidan Nichols in his A Grammar of Consent has characterized as "dragons: malice; the passions; and, above all, the fascinated, Hamlet-like impotence of the individual at the prospect of exercising his or her freedom."
This realization the ethical life's insufficiency leads to the third sphere of existence which presents itself as the ultimate key to unlock the mystery of man's angst: the religious life.
In the religious life, the individual reaches the conclusion, that, to be pulled out from the sloughs of despond, of despair, of disequilibrium, he must confront God and receive God's helping hand. So it was Kierkegaard's conviction that modern man's feeling of angst, of despair, could lead man to God. It was the only way out. Where else to go?
Now, sensing the impossibility of self-extrication and realizing that God might be the only resolution for his quandary presents man with the need for faith. One had to become Kierkegaard's "Knight of Faith." It was the only thing that could sensibly solve man's deep seated anxiety; his alienation from self could only be explained by his alienation from God.
So where do we turn to find God reaching down to us so that we, in turn, may be Knights of Faith?
"God is posited," by Kierkegaard, "in the very act of posing the problem of humanity's self-estrangement; but God's free initiative in our regard belongs not to philosophy but to revelation, which is the divine therapy for the human sickness," says Aidan Nichols.
So reason has brought us to faith's threshold. To overcome angst, we posit God as the only possible remedy. Where do we go to obtain faith in God?
"Our ascent to God via the materials of human experience leaves us inevitably with a question mark that can be removed only by the fresh resources of Scripture and tradition," observes Aidan Nichols, "for they are the rustling of the hem if the Infinite in his personal descent and self-communication to us."
Like the woman suffering from bleeding for twelve years of the Gospel who desired healing from Christ for her malady by touching the hem of his robe (Mark 5:21-43; Matt. 9:18-26; Luke 8:40-56), modern man has suffered from the bleeding malady of angst, and he too must touch the hem of Christ--Scripture and tradition--to have a personal encounter with the Lord.
Like the woman of the Gospels, who spent her entire means on finding a cure in all the wrong places, modern man has wasted his means on false cures for his anxiety, his angst, which have availed him nothing.
Except: since man cannot solve his malady himself, perhaps he ought to turn to Christ? What else is left to modern man, except the healing offered by Christ?
For the woman in the Gospels, that personal encounter with Jesus resulted in the words: "Go in peace and be freed from your suffering." Jesus could just as well tell any modern existentialist, "Go in peace and be freed from your angst."
At Mass we pray: "Deliver us, Lord, from every evil, and grant us peace in our day . . . and protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ."
This is the existentialist's ultimate prayer, if Kierkegaard is to be believed.
As Kierkegaard lay dying at the young age of forty-two, the priest that attended him heard him pray that he would be prevented from final despair. He prayed for the grace of final perseverance. The priest asked whether this hope rested on God's grace in Christ.
"Yes, of course," Kierkegaard answered. "What else?"
Jesus! Indeed. Who else?
Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas. He is married with three children. He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum. You can contact Andrew at email@example.com.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: existence of God, proofs of God, illative sense, Kierkegaard, Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.
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