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Session 5: Fear and Trembling

Abraham and Isaac

“…when I have to think about Abraham I am virtually annihilated. I am all the time aware of that monstrous paradox that is the content of Abraham’s life, I am constantly repulsed… Yet I by no means think that faith is therefore something inferior, on the contrary that it is the highest, at the same time believing it dishonest of philosophy to offer something else instead and to slight faith.”

Søren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling

We would like to invite you to the next meeting of the Theology Reading Group, which will take place on

Monday, 12th March, at 5pm


in seminar room 1 in the Wolfson Research Exchange


(located on the Floor 3 Extension of the Library).


The session will revolve around Søren Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling, where he discusses the nature of faith, focusing on the figure of Abraham, who “believed on the strength of the absurd,” “believed the ridiculous.”


Referring back to Chapter 22 in the Book of Genesis and Surah 37 in the Qur’an, which depict Abraham’s obedience to the voice of God and the sacrifice of his beloved son – a scene which Kierkegaard describes as full of “anguish that can make one sleepless” – we will focus on the disturbing questions he poses: Are we at all capable of understanding Abraham and the story of his son’s sacrifice? Can we possibly conceive of his radical movement of faith? Must faith necessarily be thought of as an act of resignation and renunciation? Can it fundamentally oppose ethics? Is it feasible to analyse and explain it within a framework of systemic philosophy?


The set texts for the session are:

- Søren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling, Penguin Classics (pp. 41-48, 57-95)

- Bible, Genesis 22:1-19

- Qur’an, Surah 37:102-112

You can download the texts from our Reading Materials section.

The session will be chaired by Joanna Rzepa.