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Nothing but Unworthy Servants? Kierkegaard and Tauler on Grace, Striving and Cooperation

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Becker-Lindenthal, H  ORCID logo


jats:p To counteract the antinomian tendencies of nineteenth-century secular Protestantism, Søren Kierkegaard turns to Johannes Tauler's sermons, which vividly express a dialectics of works and grace, attacking an inflated asceticism as much as idleness. For reasons of reception history and because of the similarity of the images Kierkegaard and Tauler use, particularly servitude as expressed in Luke 17:10, this article proposes to understand Kierkegaard's account of grace as ‘Taulerian’ rather than ‘Arminian’. To show the intertwined agency of the human and the divine, the article offers a comparative reading of Tauler's two sermons on Cantate Sunday, Kierkegaard's Upbuilding Discourse ‘The Expectancy of an Eternal Salvation’ and the second part of Judge for Yourself. Both Kierkegaard and Tauler design definitory ambiguities for a performative purpose: to help their readers and, respectively, listeners to become receptive to grace by humbling themselves and refraining from fathoming ‘what is not given to be understood’. </jats:p>


Peer reviewed: True

Funder: Isaac Newton Trust; FundRef:


Prevenient, enabling grace, Luther, mysticism, salvation, meritoriousness, suffering, performativity

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Studies in Christian Ethics

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SAGE Publications
Leverhulme Trust (ECF-2017-002)