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Let us call the unknown God. It is only a name we give to it. Now it hardly occurs to the understanding to want to demonstrate that this unknown exists. If, namely, God does not exist, then of course it is impossible to demonstrate it. But if he does exist, then it is also foolishness to want to demonstrate it, for in the very moment the demonstration commences, you would presuppose his existence. Otherwise you would not be­ gin, easily perceiving that the whole thing would be impossible if he did not exist.

One never reasons in conclusion to existence, but reasons in conclusion from existence. For example, I do not demonstrate that a stone exists but that something, which exists, is a stone. The court of law does not demonstrate that a criminal exists but that the accused, who does indeed exist, is a criminal. Whether you want to call existence an addition or the eternal presupposition, it can never be demonstrated.

If, for example, I wanted to demonstrate Napoleon’s exist­ence from his works, would this not be most curious? Isn’t it Napoleon’s existence which explains his works, not his works his existence? To prove Napoleon’s existence from his works I would have in advance interpreted the word “his” in such a way as to have assumed that he exists. Moreover, because Napoleon is only a human being, it is possible that someone else could have done the same works. This is why I cannot reason from the works to his existence. If I call the works Napoleon’s works, then the demonstration is superfluous, for I have already mentioned his name. If I ignore this, I can never demonstrate from the works that they are Napoleon’s. At least I cannot guarantee that they are his. I can only demonstrate that such works are the works of, say, a great general. However, with God there is an ab­solute relation between him and his works. If God is not a name but a reality, his essence must involve his existence.

God’s works, therefore, only God can do. Quite correct. But, then, what are God’s works? The works from which I want to demonstrate his existence do not immediately and directly ex­ist. Are the wisdom in nature and the goodness or wisdom in governance right in front of our noses? Don’t we also encounter terrible tribulations here? How can I demonstrate God’s exist­ence from such an arrangement of things? Even if I began, I would never finish. Not only that, I would be obliged to con­tinually live in suspense lest something so terrible happen that my fragment of demonstration would be ruined.

The fool says in his heart that there is no God, but he who says in his heart or to others: Just wait a little and I will prove it to you – ah, what a rare wise man he is! If, at the moment he is supposed to begin the demonstration, it is not totally unde­cided whether God exists or not, then, of course, he cannot demonstrate it. And if that is the situation in the beginning, then he will never make a beginning – partly for fear that he will not succeed, because God may not exist, and partly because he has nothing with which to begin.

In short, to demonstrate the existence of someone who al­ready exists is the most shameless assault. It is an attempt to make him ludicrous. The trouble is that one does not even sus­pect this, that in dead seriousness one even regards it as a godly undertaking. How could it occur to anyone to demonstrate that God exists unless one has already allowed himself to ignore him?

A king’s existence is demonstrated by way of subjection and submissiveness. Do you want to try and demonstrate that the king exists? Will you do so by offering a string of proofs, a series of arguments? No. If you are serious, you will demonstrate the king’s existence by your submission, by the way you live. And so it is with demonstrating God’s existence. It is accomplished not by proofs but by worship. Any other way is but a thinker’s pious bungling.

Written by Søren Kierkegaard: Provocations: Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard. Compiled and Edited by Charles E. Moore p. 74-76

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