In the book The Consolations of Theology we are treated to a series of essays into various emotions and conditions, and Peter Bolt examines anxiety. Here’s how he defines anxiety: “that feeling of apprehension and dread that comes with the perception that something bad might happen” (75).
How important is the concept of anxiety for your life and thinking and ministry? How do you deal with anxiety? How do we approach this issue — through psychotherapy? through theology? through an attentive awareness of both?
Two points: first, I’m not so sure this is the best way to define anxiety for this definition of Bolt’s is closer to worry than to panic (and this definition wavers over that line) but, second, this definition is so greatly expanded and adjusted in this chp that the definition simply serves to get us going. And get us going is what Bolt does.
He discusses the ages of anxiety, and just about loops all of history into an age of anxiety — and by the end of the chp he has done just that. This is a big point in this chp: anxiety impacts the whole human condition. I think we have to be careful not to overdo it — which is just what that introspective, melancholic Dane, Kierkegaard did. Before we get to him, though, Bolt guides us through a short study of “anxiety” in the NT. So we look at Matt 6:25-34 and some at 1 Cor 7:32-34. Then he shifts to good anxiety of Paul the apostle (2 Cor 11:28).
This leads to his discussion of Kierkegaard, who not only was personally swamped at times in existential anxiety, but wrote about it: The Concept of Anxiety is a famous book. And Bolt has a nice analysis of the themes:
1. Anxiety defined: it arises from the human act of becoming spirit (this is important to Bolt’s description), the ultimate aim of all humans. Thus, anxiety arises from the very human experience of freedom — hence, we are all in a condition of anxiety. The key to Kierkegaard is that so much is filtered through this term “anxiety” that it becomes code for a set of ideas surrounding what it means to be human, in this cracked world, as we live before God and with others.
2. Anxiety is connected to original sin: “Sin originates in a leap of freedom from innocence to guilt, under an awakened dread [=anxiety]” (91).
3. Objective anxiety: our mortal bodies, fear of death, a drive toward sin.
4. Subjective anxiety: “the dizziness of freedom.”
5. But it is necessary in order to be human in this world as we live before God with others.
6. Anxiety is about evil and about good.
7. And anxiety prompts faith.
Bolt then turns to the consolation of anxiety:
1. This is the age of anxiety.
2. This is the age of the Messiah who guides us through anxiety into love of God and others.
3. This is the age of anxious longing for the redemption of our bodies.