Thinking the Faith with Passion: Selected Essays

By Paul L. Holmer

Essays, many previously unpublished, by the American theologian Paul L. Holmer, emphasising the range of his thought and his contributions to American theology.

ISBN: 9780227174128


In his teaching and his writing, Paul L. Holmer (1916-2004) made many important contributions to recent American theology. One of the most insightful American students of Kierkegaard of his generation, Holmer perceived early on Wittgenstein’s importance for theology, and employed both thinkers to inspire his own fresh consideration of perennial issues in philosophical theology: understanding, belief, faith, the emotions, and the importance of the virtues.

While best known for his essays in The Grammar of Faith (1978), Holmer penned numerous other interesting and original essays, some published but many unpublished, which circulated widely in typescript during his tenure at Yale. Following his death, the Holmer family in 2005 donated his papers to the Yale Divinity School Library; in reviewing Holmer’s papers, the editors have chosen a selection of his most seminal essays, beyond those in The Grammar of Faith, demonstrating the breadth and range of his contributions.

In this, the second volume of The Paul L. Holmer Papers, the editors present pieces that illuminate four significant areas of Holmer’s contributions: essays on Kierkegaard; essays on Wittgenstein; Theology, Understanding, and Faith; and Emotions, Passions, and Virtues. Taken together, these essays invite in-depth exploration of the thought of this important American philosophical theologian.

Edited by David J. Gouwens and Lee C. Barrett III, Thinking the Faith with Passion is the second volume of The Paul L. Holmer Papers, which also includes On Kierkegaard and the Truth (Volume 1), and Communicating the Faith Indirectly: Selected Sermons, Addresses and Prayers (Volume 3), both of which are available from James Clarke and Co Ltd.

Additional information

Dimensions 229 × 153 mm
Pages 374

Trade Information JPOD

About the Author

Professor Paul L. Holmer (1916-2004) was Noah Porter Professor Emeritus of Philosophical Theology at Yale Divinity School (1960-1987), having previous taught at Gustavus Adolphus College and the University of Minnesota. He was widely recognised as a leading authority on Kierkegaard, and was the author of books and papers on the subject, including the two-volume Kierkegaard’s Edifying Discourses.

David J. Gouwens is Professor of Theology at Brite Divinity School. He is the author of Kierkegaard’s Dialectic of the Imagination (1989) and Kierkegaard as Religious Thinker (1996).

Lee C. Barrett III is Stager Professor of Theology at Lancaster Theological Seminary. He is the author of The Heidelberg Catechism (2007), Foundations of Modern Theology: Kierkegaard (2009), and co-editor of Kierkegaard and the Bible (2010).


Foreword by Don E. Saliers
Editors’ Preface

Part One: Essays on Kierkegaard
1. Kierkegaard and Philosophy
2. Kierkegaard and Logic
3. Kierkegaard and Theology
4. About Being a Person: Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling

Part Two: Essays on Wittgenstein
5. Wittgenstein and Kierkegaard: The Subjective Thinker
6. Wittgenstein and the Self
7. Wittgenstein and Theology

Part Three: Theology, Understanding, and Faith
8. The Academic Game and Its Logic
9. About Linguisticality and Being Able to Talk
10. About “Understanding”
11. About Understanding and Religious Belief
12. The Nature of Religious Propositions

Part Four: Emotions, Passions, and Virtues
13. Theology and Emotions
14. About Emotions and Passions
15. The Human Heart – The Logic of a Metaphor
16. About Happiness and the Concept, “Happiness”
17. Something about what Makes It Funny
18. The Case for the Virtues
19. About Thankfulness

Afterword: Paul L. Holmer: Self-Effacing, Swaggering, Nonpareil, by David Cain
Appendix: Paul L. Holmer: A Select Bibliography

Index of Names
Index of Subjects


Endorsements and Reviews

Disciplined by a careful, undogmatic appropriation of Wittgenstein’s later achievements, Paul Holmer may just be the best balanced and most plainspoken expositor of Kierkegaard’s ethical-religious thought in the English language to date. Holmer was an outstanding teacher, and this collection is a treasure for those privileged to hear his lectures and for those who did not.
Robert L. Perkins, Stetson University

This collection of previously published and unpublished essays by Paul L. Holmer on a wide range of topics demonstrates his incisive thought and writing on some of the perplexing ‘knots of understanding’ in philosophy and theology, which he sought to untie with exceptional acuity and conceptual clarity by way of Kierkegaard, Wittgenstein, and his own pioneering efforts in the rehabilitation of virtue ethics in our time.
Sylvia Walsh, Scholar in Residence, Stetson University

Holmer convincingly argues that Kierkegaard is a careful and rigorous thinker whose strictures against Hegelian rationalism and Complacent Christendom should not be read as mere subjectivist irrationalism. Rather Kierkegaard wishes to relate philosophy and theology to the subjective human condition as he had experienced it. … University students in philosophy and theology, both undergraduate and postgraduate will find much in these essays to stimulate.
Christopher Villiers, in Theological Book Review, Vol 26, No 1

Highly esteemed by colleagues and students alike, this collection of essays enables those unfamiliar with Paul L. Holmer to better glimpse the sagacity of the man who had significant influence on the academic study of theology in the United States. Of the nineteen essays that comprise this volume eleven are published here for the first time.
Andrew R. Johnson, in The Expository Times, Vol 127, No 9