Bryan Yorton

Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Robert Roberts, Arvin Vos, William Lane


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Degree Program

Department of Philosophy & Religion

Degree Type

Master of Arts


Kierkegaard makes some startling claims about the role of imagination in human existence. He calls it “the medium of the process of infinitization” – presenting the infinite self to the finite self in “reflection.” He also calls it the faculty of all faculties, the “origin of all the categories,” and the chief determinant in “what feeling, knowledge, or will a man has.” With these claims Kierkegaard suggests that all of life involves what is easily recognized as pertaining to something beyond mere finite existence – creativity. These central claims are explored throughout Kierkegaard’s multifarious works and applied to theology.

However, because of Kierkegaard’s pervasive emphasis on subjectivity and on truth that is lived rather than merely assented to, a holistic sense of knowing and a very broad understanding of theology are briefly considered prior to this exploration and application. Theology is seen as a three-pronged endeavor which centers around the personal experience of realizing the possibilities of a true self through entering into the proper relationship with God. The three ‘prongs’ of this endeavor are the quest for the realization of a true self, the knowledge of God which accompanies this quest, and the communication of this knowledge to others.

The first task in the theological application of Kierkegaard’s insights to imagination is the exploration of the relationship of imagination and ‘reason’ (or pure logical thought). Following this is a description and denunciation of those who do not take seriously the imagination and the possibilities for existence which it reflects. But imagination is not to be given a free rein; Kierkegaard denounces the pure aesthete as thoroughly as he does those who ignore imagination. Therefore, various ‘checks’ on the imagination (such as ethical demands, Holy Scripture, the historicity of Christianity, and humor) are explored.

Also studied are some theologians who have made active attempts to avoid neglect of the imagination’s vital role in theology. These include Sallie TeSelle, Robert Farrar Capon, George Macdonald and Thomas Aquinas.


Arts and Humanities | Christianity | Philosophy | Philosophy of Mind | Religion | Religious Thought, Theology and Philosophy of Religion