Fortress Press

Passion for Nothing: Kierkegaard’s Apophatic Theology

Passion for Nothing

Kierkegaard’s Apophatic Theology

Peter Kline (Author)


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Passion for Nothing offers a reading of Kierkegaard as an apophatic author. As it functions in this book, "apophasis" is a flexible term inclusive of both "negative theology" and "deconstruction." One of the main points of this volume is that Kierkegaard’s authorship opens pathways between these two resonate but often contentiously related terrains.

The main contention of this book is that Kierkegaard’s apophaticism is an ethical-religious difficulty, one that concerns itself with the "whylessness" of existence. This is a theme that Kierkegaard inherits from the philosophical and theological traditions stemming from Meister Eckhart. Additionally, the forms of Kierkegaard’s writing are irreducibly apophatic—animated by a passion to communicate what cannot be said.

The book examines Kierkegaard’s apophaticism with reference to five themes: indirect communication, God, faith, hope, and love. Across each of these themes, the aim is to lend voice to "the unruly energy of the unsayable" and, in doing so, let Kierkegaard’s theological, spiritual, and philosophical provocation remain a living one for us today.

  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Hardcover
  • ISBN 9781506432656
  • eBook ISBN 9781506432533
  • Dimensions 6 x 9
  • Pages 224
  • Publication Date September 1, 2017


A vital reading transfigured by the longing for a God whose gift exceeds our grasp.

"Peter Kline’s remarkable and innovative book stands at the forefront of a dynamic new horizon in theological readings of Kierkegaard. Moved by passion and unknowing, Kline elucidates the mystical dimensions of Kierkegaard’s existential vision with sophistication and profound creativity. This is a vital reading transfigured by the longing for a God whose gift exceeds our grasp—a longing in which Kierkegaard’s theology lives, breathes, and loves."

Simon D. Podmore | Liverpool Hope University

Kline's lucid, winsome prose invites readers to enter Kierkegaard’s radical vision.

"Peter Kline is not only a first-rate scholar of Kierkegaard—with seemingly exhaustive knowledge of his texts and the inner workings of his thought—he is also a 'repetition,' a student, writing poignantly of his passion for the apophatic [God] and the works of love that this apophasis births.  His lucid, winsome prose invites readers to enter Kierkegaard’s radical vision—while his conclusion incites readers to embrace the artistry of the self-reduced to nothing."

Wendy Farley | San Francisco Theological Seminary

A fresh, compelling reading of Kierkegaard attuned to our times.

"Following closely Kierkegaard’s most decisive intuitions, Peter Kline succeeds in inheriting and re-launching this spiritual master’s subtle and revolutionary kind of thinking. Kline exploits his own literary talents to produce an existentially moving piece of writing. His work includes edifying prose in the vein developed by Kierkegaard himself and astonishingly worthy of its progenitor. Kline refashions Kierkegaard’s radical religious challenge in postmodern but poignant terms that deeply question our own age and its intellectual complacencies. A crucial question that Kline raises for us is: Does reduplication (Fordoblelse) break the circuit of self-reflexivity? Or is reduplication self-reflexivity operating in a figure of infinity such that it cannot be reflected back to itself and contained and totalized and possessed?  Kline’s book offers a fresh, compelling reading of Kierkegaard attuned to our times as well as an original contribution to apophatic theology."

William Franke | Vanderbilt University

Unlike a great deal of Kierkegaardian scholarship, this seems to me a book that Kierkegaard would not hate.

"Wide-ranging, well-crafted, and often playful, Peter Kline’s Passion for Nothing reads the Kierkegaardian corpus through the neglected lens of the apophatic. Speaking deftly of the unspeakable, Kline finds in Kierkegaard and the pseudonyms a recapitulation of Eckhart and an anticipation of deconstruction by uncovering numerous underattended threads throughout the authorship. These include excess, expenditure, abandon, and most notably, reduplication—the movement by which God withdraws from all objectivity, and the human from any sort of selfhood. Unlike a great deal of Kierkegaardian scholarship, this seems to me a book that Kierkegaard would not hate."

Mary-Jane Rubenstein | Wesleyan University

A unique and insightful perspective

"Framed through three theological virtues (faith, hope and love), Kline offers readers a unique and insightful perspective on Kierkegaard as an apophatic theologian. Long a student of this iconic theologian – as both thinker and spiritual guide—he adeptly channels and expands upon Kierkegaard’s often iconoclastic take on the fraught project of putting faith into words. The conclusion, a set of abstract paintings by the author, is not to be missed."

Ellen T. Armour | Vanderbilt Divinity School

This is a book for a warm body and its agitated mind. Read it, if you still hope that we temporal children are not done yet.

"I sometimes wonder why people read books about Kierkegaard. Of course, the competitive pressures of capitalist academe make the temptation almost irresistible. And we are a slothful species, hunting at every turn for shortcuts, summaries, and simplifications. Nobody wants to look stupid when colleagues make declarations about 'a great thinker.' Surely a book about Kierkegaard will give us a voice to fill what would otherwise have been an unproductive moment of silence. If you are looking for a handy little compendium, don’t bother to read Peter Kline. If, on the other hand, you have found that something has stirred in you as you have read Kierkegaard and you want to open your heart to the myriad energies at play in his work, energies that don’t so much surge as beckon, then do please read Peter Kline. This is a book for a warm body and its agitated mind. Read it, if you still hope that we temporal children are not done yet."

Craig Keen | Azusa Pacific University