Access to the full content is only available to members of institutions that have purchased access. If you belong to such an institution, please log in or find out more about how to order.


Existentialist theology

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-K020-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved April 24, 2024, from

Article Summary

Existentialist theology is a term used to describe the work of a number of theologians, chiefly from the twentieth century, whose writings were strongly influenced by the literary and philosophical movement known as existentialism. Because of the diversity of the movement, it is difficult to say much that is illuminating about existentialist theology as a whole. In general, however, these theologians attempt to understand God in relation to the situation of the concretely existing human individual. Their analysis of human existence is one that emphasizes the freedom of individuals to shape their own identities through choices, and the paradoxical, ambiguous or even absurd character of the reality that humans encounter. Religious faith is seen as closely related to feelings of alienation and despair; faith may grow out of such emotions or it may provide the key to overcoming them, or both these relations may be present at once.

Though the designation of any particular theologian as ‘existentialist’ is a controversial matter, Karl Barth, Rudolf Bultmann and Paul Tillich are among the more important thinkers whose work exhibits existentialist themes. The entire movement has been strongly influenced, directly or indirectly, by the nineteenth-century Danish philosopher-theologian Søren Kierkegaard, while the works of the Russian novelist Fëdor Dostoevskii and the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, both from the late nineteenth century, have also been important.

Citing this article:
Evans, C. Stephen. Existentialist theology, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-K020-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

Related Searches



Related Articles