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May 24 , 2010

Struggling with God

Kierkegaard and the Temptation of Spiritual Trial


Invoking the biblical motif of Jacob's struggle with the Face of God (Genesis 32), Simon D. Podmore undertakes a constructive theological account of 'spiritual trial' (tentatio; known in German mystical and Lutheran tradition as Anfechtung) in relation to enduring questions of the otherness and hiddenness of God and the self, the problem of suffering and evil, the freedom of Spirit, and the anxious relationship between temptation and ordeal, fear and desire. This book traces a genealogy of spiritual trial from medieval German mystical theology, through Lutheran and Pietistic thought (Tauler; Luther; Arndt; Boehme), and reconstructs Kierkegaard's innovative yet under-examined recovery of the category (Anfægtelse: a Danish cognate for Anfechtung) within the modern context of the 'spiritless' decline of Christendom.Developing the relationship between struggle (Anfechtung) and release (Gelassenheit), Podmore proposes a Kierkegaardian theology of spiritual trial which elaborates the kenosis of the self before God in terms of Spirit's restless longing to rest transparently in God. Offering an original rehabilitation of the temptation of spiritual trial, this book strives for a renewed theological hermeneutic which speaks to the enduring human struggle to realise the unchanging love of God in the face of spiritual darkness.
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