Struggling with God: Kierkegaard and the Temptation of Spiritual Trial

By Simon D. Podmore

A theological exploration of the ‘spiritual trial’, drawing on Kierkegaard’s treatment to propose a modern understanding of the Spirit’s struggle towards God.

ISBN: 9780227173435


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 that 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 that speaks to the enduring human struggle to realise the unchanging love of God in the face of spiritual darkness.

Additional information

Dimensions 234 × 156 mm
Pages 294

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Trade Information JPOD

About the Author

Dr Simon D. Podmore is Lecturer in Systematic Theology at Liverpool Hope University. He is author of Kierkegaard and the Self Before God: Anatomy of the Abyss and numerous articles and essays in philosophical, pastoral, and systematic theology. He is also Secretary of the Søren Kierkegaard Society of the United Kingdom.



Introduction – Struggling with God: Towards a Kierkegaardian Theology of Spiritual Trial

1. The Secret Struggle: Lost in Translation
2. The Old Devotional Books: Anfechtung in Tauler and the Theologia Deutsch
3. Melancholia Coram Deo: Luther’s Theology of Anfechtung
4. God’s Fire in the Soul: Anfechtung in Arndt and Boehme
5. Before God in Secret: Spiritual Trial and Temptation in Kierkegaard I
6. The God-forsaken God: Spiritual Trial and Temptation in Kierkegaard II
7. The Desire of Spirit: Restlessness and the Transparency of Rest
8. The Temptation of Spiritual Trial



Endorsements and Reviews

Simon D. Podmore fills a scholarly lacuna with this detailed and well documented study of Kierkegaard’s attempt to revive and refine the virtually forgotten but vital concept of spiritual trial. … Podmore gives eloquent voice to the silent, secret struggle of the human spirit both with and against God and itself. … In line with Kierkegaard’s vision, Podmore also points intriguingly toward a contemporary theology of spiritual trial based on the notion of a kenosis-in-ekstasis or self-emptying in love and desire to be with and for others, making his work ‘must reading’ not only for Kierkegaardians but also for theologians, pastors, and other spiritually concerned individuals.
Professor Sylvia Walsh-Perkins, Scholar in Residence at Stetson University

Podmore offers a groundbreaking development in Kierkegaard Studies that shores up the constructive and inter-confessional work that can be done with the theological aspects of Kierkegaard’s writings … Podmore rightly argues that in solidarity, Kierkegaard offers his theology of spiritual trial as a hope filled consolation to those who are otherwise tempted to despair.
Joshua Furnal, in Reviews in Religion & Theology, Vol 21, Issue 4,

Simon Podmore is establishing a distinctive place within Kierkegaard studies and one which is promising a significant contribution to wider theological discourse … This is more than a book about Kierkegaard, it is also a reminder of the theological resources of Christian spiritual traditions.
George Pattison, in Theology, Vol 117, Issue 4

A thoroughly-researched and carefully-presented book, Struggling With God merits attention from both Kierkegaardian experts and those with an interest in Christian spirituality.
Myles Hannan, in The Heythrop Journal, Vol 55, Issue 5

Struggling with God is systematic in its dealings with difficult and under discussed concepts in theology and philosophy of religion, presenting a coherent Kierkegaardian account of spiritual trial. Podmore switches between detailed historical analysis and contemporary theology with ease, and, particularly in its closing chapters, Struggling with God introduces an account of spiritual trial which has great potential to be applied to contemporary issues in the philosophy of religion and theology.
Joshua Cockayne, in British Journal for the History of Philosophy, Vol 23, Issue 2

Podmore offers insightful discussion on the nature of our struggles with God. He helps demonstrate how, during those times where we feel we are fighting against God, we are, in fact, struggling against the things that keep us from God. … [Struggling with God] would surely be of great interest to anyone engaged in comparative religious studies.
Matthew Newland, in Science et Esprit, Vol 69, Issue 2