Fortress Press

Existing Before God: Søren Kierkegaard and the Human Venture

Existing Before God

Søren Kierkegaard and the Human Venture

Paul R. Sponheim (Author)


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  • eBook coming soon

Søren Kierkegaard (1813–1855), the Danish theologian, philosopher, and preacher, in his last years issued a blistering attack on the established Christianity of the nineteenth century. That challenge was also a summons to an authentic life of Christian faith. With intensity and acumen, Kierkegaard diagnosed the spiritual and intellectual ills of modernity and Christendom and offered a constructive "upbuilding" for active, faithful Christian existence. One of Kierkegaard's key texts, The Sickness unto Death, outlines the problem of the human condition—sin/despair—and draws the reader into the heart of the Christian faith: the infinite qualitative difference between God and creatures and the paradox of the God-man who came to bring abundant life in the form of authentic selfhood "grounded transparently" in the Creator. 

In this volume, Paul R. Sponheim, introduces readers to Kierkegaard, unfolds this pivotal text and its connections to Kierkegaard's theological and ethical worldview, and traces the reception and significance of this text in the modern and contemporary theological tradition. In this, Existing Before God continues the contribution of the Mapping the Tradition series in providing compact yet salient maps of the theological, historical, social, and contextual impact of the most important minds and texts of Christian history.

  • Format Paperback
  • ISBN 9781506405636
  • eBook ISBN 9781506405643
  • Dimensions 6 x 9
  • Pages 200
  • Publication Date January 1, 2017


A Biographical Sketch

Part I: The Sickness unto Death: Analysis and Commentary
1. Part One: Despair in the Sickness unto Death
2. Part Two: Despair Is Sin

Part II: The Theological Reception and Legacy
3. The Theological Reception of Kierkegaard
4. The Theological Legacy of Kierkegaard for Our Time

Index of Names


Review in the Lutheran Quarterly 


An incredibly helpful, wise, and hope-filled book.

"One-hundred and seventy years ago, Søren Kierkegaard gifted Denmark’s Christendom with Sickness unto Death, a penetrating analysis of the passions and pitfalls of living before God. Today, Paul Sponheim gifts both newcomers and experienced scholars with an equally incisive analysis of Kierkegaard’s book and the living legacy of his penetrating theology. Together, Kierkegaard and Sponheim beckon us toward the passionate venture that is human existence. Existing Before God is an incredibly helpful, wise, and hope-filled book."

Jason A. Mahn, Augustana College | author of "Becoming a Christian in Christendom"

A major contribution to Kierkegaard scholarship.

"Drawing on nearly seven decades of encountering Kierkegaard and his writings, Paul Sponheim here makes a major contribution to Kierkegaard scholarship by introducing this one whose works are at once broad-ranging and profound. Wisdom comes to us both from the one who was addressing the “single individual” from Copenhagen in Denmark’s Golden Age mid-19th century as well as from the one who is interpreting him for our time by making connections to contemporary figures and concerns. Readers are invited to appreciate the Danish genius as a theological thinker. Focusing especially on The Sickness unto Death, our reflection is directed to the human creature, who, though separated from God by an infinite qualitative difference, is able through faith to come to rest transparently in the divine Power. Sponheim’s book will serve for many as an inspiring portal into further engagement with this passionate writer who delved so deeply into human existence."

Curtis L. Thompson | Director of the Dietrich Honors Institute, Thiel College

With erudition and grace, Existing before God leads us into an exciting encounter with Kierkegaard.

"With erudition and grace, Existing before God leads us into an exciting encounter with Kierkegaard, his legacy, and the invitation his texts provide for contemplating what it means to be 'grounded transparently in God.'"

Lois Malcolm | Luther Seminary

College and graduate students in philosophy and religion can return to this book again and again for new insight and inspiration.

"In this little book, Sponheim has located Kierkegaard’s most important book in a rich context of the author’s life and work, drawn out his important contributions to theological and philosophical thought, illuminated the constructive potential of his thought for the contemporary context, and traced the lineage of his contributions from their modest beginnings to their global importance. It’s a valuable tool for the beginning or intermediate scholar, a rich source of possibilities for further research and imaginative development. College and graduate students in philosophy and religion can return to it again and again for new insight and inspiration."

Kirsten Mebust | Augsburg College