From time to time, both believers and nonbelievers envy those with more faith. In this book, Hermen Kroesbergen coins the concept of faith envy as an angle to investigate faith and religious language, and provide a new direction for the philosophy of religion. For far too long, the philosophy of religion has focused on statements of faith concerning superempirical powers, forgetting that if they would ever be able to prove these statements, they cease to be religious. Kroesbergen explores the possibility of using the angle of faith envy for a much-needed alternative approach, using the philosophers Søren Kierkegaard, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Simone Weil as guides. Their lives and works have often been studied for what they have to say about religious beliefs; here, however, the focus is on what they have to say about the faith they envy. Our own faith envy, and Kierkegaard, Wittgenstein, and Weil’s struggle to make sense of it provides a deeper insight into what faith is and could be. This book is a timely and provocative intervention in a philosophy of religion that has reached a dead end, and a society that is deeply troubled about faith but envies it nonetheless.
Hermen Kroesbergen is a research associate in the Understanding Reality program in the Faculty of Theology and Religion at the University of Pretoria, South Africa.
Chapter 1: Kierkegaard - More Than an Idea
Chapter 2: Wittgenstein - Surrendering Your Self
Chapter 3: Weil - Open to the World
Chapter 4: The Answers of Faith
Chapter 5: The Safety of Faith
You may have thought yourself a believer or non-believer until now. After having joined Hermen Kroesbergen in his philosophical journey, you may be less sure about that. In this eloquently written book, he both clarifies and intensifies the mystery of what it means to have faith. Having faith? Wrong question, he argues. Envying faith, that will tell you more. Faith then appears to be not a set of beliefs about the world but a particular response to whatever may happen to you. A creative plea for a new concept of faith in the philosophy of religion.
Hermen Kroesbergen expertly introduces the concept of faith envy, discussing it in relation to three exemplary thinkers of the last two centuries: Kierkegaard, Wittgenstein, and Weil. Not only are the lives and ideas of these thinkers illuminated in novel ways, but Kroesbergen also enriches his analysis with pertinent illustrations from literature, films, and contemporary popular culture. Both informative and provocative, the book exhibits a penetrating inquiry into faith that warrants further attention from theologians, philosophers of religion, and others interested in what it means to have faith or to want it.
In this wise and thought-provoking book, Kroesbergen develops a conception of what an ‘enviable faith’ might look like. By weaving together central themes from Wittgenstein, Kierkegaard, and Weil, Kroesbergen shows that traditional approaches to the question of what attitude faith is are misguided. The faith that expresses itself in feelings of ‘absolute safety’ or joyful acceptance of the will of God come what may, is not predictive, does not require belief in super-empirical entities, and does not render one impervious to future harm. It rather consists in an attitude of commitment that requires seeing the world in a certain way.
Hermen Kroesbergen provides a useful discussion of faith. In contrast to many discussions that arguably misconstrue the nature of faith—through verified truth claims, pragmatic usefulness, emotive musings, or other categorical boxes—he purposefully shows that faith is lived. Indeed, his point is that if faith could be explained and kept in a box then it would no longer be faith! This book provides a good resource for discussions on faith through the use of examples and shows a path out of the thicket of explanations and justifications towards clarification.
Faith envy is a fascinating, under-explored phenomenon. It invites us to think about faith not in terms of belief, but as an emotional orientation. It is all too easy for students of religion to focus on the puzzle of why apparently reasonable people believe in apparently unreasonable beliefs, and end up frustrated by the problems of evidence. This book helps us to sidestep the cognitive puzzle and instead explore an emotional orientation which does not depend on empirical claims and may, in the end, be more fundamental.