Is Biblical Faith a Kierkegaardian Leap?

These reflections were prompted by the first chapter of David Crump’s Encountering Jesus, Encountering Scripture: Reading the Bible Critically in Faith.

In his introduction, Crump is very clear that his understanding of faith has been heavily influenced by Soren Kierkegaard. Crump explains,

“Arriving at faith in the Word incarnate is not the inevitable result of a logical syllogism and doesn’t follow as the obvious sum of a line of convincing evidence. It is always a step, perhaps even a leap, across an otherwise unbridgeable gap.”

To test this, I want to compare it with Adam’s faith-response in the naming of Eve. Arguments similar to the one I’m about to make could be pursued with Abraham’s faith-response to the promise of Isaac and with Abraham’s faith-response when he was commanded to sacrifice Isaac, but to keep this manageable I will limit myself to Genesis 3.

In some ways this is less about Crump and more about Kierkegaard, since these are Kierkegaard’s ideas that Crump has adopted and is heralding. The question comes down to this: does the Bible present faith as a leap or as something else? What that something else might be will become apparent as we continue, but those who would like a hint at where I’m going can take a glance at Romans 10:17 (and to anyone who wants to allege that Paul is controlling how I read narrative, I reply that Paul’s statements are summaries and interpretations of the narratives, meant to teach us how to read narrative–and turn the question back on my accuser: do you follow Paul or some other teacher?).

Adam had been told that he would surely die in the day he ate the fruit (Gen 2:17). He ate the fruit, then he heard the footsteps and hid (3:8).

When the Lord began to speak words of judgment in Genesis 3:15, he told the serpent that there would be enmity between him and the woman. Attentive readers might pause and ponder the fact that enmity seems to involve an ongoing conflict, which already begins to suggest that the death of Adam and Eve might not be immediate. That the author of Genesis intends to present Adam and Eve arriving at this conclusion shortly becomes apparent.

The suspicion that the death of Adam and Eve will not be immediate is confirmed by the next words of Genesis 3:15, where the Lord tells the serpent that along with the enmity between serpent and woman, there will be enmity between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman. This means that neither Adam nor Eve face immediate execution, for both are necessary for offspring to be born. In the final statement of Genesis 3:15, the serpent is told that he will receive a head wound from the seed of the woman, only delivering a heel wound himself, suggesting that the seed of the woman will defeat him.

When God speaks to the man and woman, the idea that though they will eventually die, their death is not immediate, becomes a necessary working assumption. The Lord tells the woman she will have pain in childbearing and a difficult relationship with her husband in 3:16, then he tells the man that his toil will be painful and eventually he will return to the dust from which he was taken in 3:17–19.

So Moses has presented these characters as going from the expectation of immediate death on the basis of what God had said in 2:17 and what they did in 3:6, to now having reason to think, to believe, that they would live, have at least one child, and that this seed of the woman would bruise the head of the serpent, hopefully triumphing over and defeating the one who brought evil into the world.

The next thing Adam does in Genesis 3:20 is give his wife a name that sounds like the Hebrew word for “life,” accompanied by the explanation that “she was the mother of all living.” They expected to die, but now they believe they will live. On what is their faith that they will live and have children, with the hope that the child will triumph, on what is that faith based?

Is that faith a leap?

Rather than being a leap, Adam’s act of faith in the naming of Eve was a response to the word of God.

God made a statement that Adam and Eve had reason to believe. The word of God prompted their faith. Faith came by hearing, and hearing by the word promising a future redeemer.

Kierkegaard was an important philosopher who said challenging things to his generation, but when he talks about faith he does not present it the way the biblical authors do.

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