Review | The Concept of Anxiety

I must confess. I am a Kierkegaard fan boy. The guy was brilliant. Looking past his literary schizophrenia (he wrote under more than 13 major pseudonyms) and absurdly terse style, Kierkegaard was a true genius. A contributor to the development of modern psychology and the “Father of Subjectivism,” Soren Kierkegaard (“SK”) stands as an intellectual colossus.

The Concept of Anxiety: A Simple Psychologically Oriented Deliberation in View of the Dogmatic Problem of Hereditary Sin attempts to explain the nature of biblical “sin” and its origin through the frame of psychology. Psychology is well outside my wheelhouse, but SK’s insights are valuable even to a common layman like me.

SK’s take on “sin” is a rather nuanced form of orthodox teachings on sin. For SK, every person is sinful. Rather than cling to the Original Sin and Utter Depravity teachings that some of us have heard from pulpits, SK turns inward to find the proof our sinfulness. Once inside, SK finds some interesting. He finds that each individual, no matter their station, wrestles with anxiety. Each individual wrestles with the suspicion that things are not as they are. Matter of fact, SK finds that anxiety is the defining, fundamental element of human psychology.

It is this anxiety, this suspicion, that SK points to as the proof of our sin.

“Just as Adam lost his innocence through guilt, so too does every human being.”

– SK

SK sees the story of sin and the Fall not simply as the story of Adam and Eve, but as our story. Each person born onto this Earth is a retelling of Adam and Eve’s story. Innocence to guilt. Ignorance to suspicion. Born innocent into the world, sin emerges within each as the individual bites deeper into the fruit, the knowledge of good and evil.

Perhaps, this is why we slowly become more aware of our faults, of our short comings, of our “sinfulness” as we get older. The older we get, the deeper we sink our teeth into the knowledge of good and evil, the more our nakedness shames us.

SK does not leave us in the despair of sin, though. Central to SK’s theological approach are the freedom of individual and the freedom of the individual to choose Christ. Through the sublimity of Life, “[f]reedom’s possibility announces itself in anxiety.” Anxiety, the psychological manifestation of our sinful state, is the open door through which Christ reveals Himself to the individual.

“Freedom’s possibility announces itself in anxiety.”

– SK

Anxiety, the dissonance within the corrupted self, is the calling card of Christ. It signals the individual to seek wholeness, to seek unification. SK wraps up his piece pointing us to what he calls “dogmatics” or theology. The story is only half told if left at the psychology of “sin.” For SK, treatment of the cure is imperative. See Fear and Trembling.

Soren Kierkegaard. A formidable mind. A bit of a rebel. Want to explore a fascinating man? Look him up.

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