(Re)Reading Kierkegaard Along with Paul Holmer

by Phil Johnson

The Paul L. Holmer Papers, Vol. One, On Kierkegaard and the Truth, by Paul L. Holmer. Foreword by Stanely Hauerwas. Cascade Books, Wipf & Stock Publishers. 300 pages.

The late Paul and Phyllis Holmer regularly attended the various meetings of Pietisten. I know that all of us present felt honored by their company. A number of meetings were hosted by Bruce and Deanna Carlson, and one could expect Elder Lindahl and Glen Wiberg with a couple of the rest of us sitting by the fireplace listening to and talking with Paul. The conversation tended to be philosophical, but also always personal.

Paul Holmer grew up in Salem Covenant Church, Minneapolis. Clarence Nelson, later President of the Evangelical Covenant Church, served as his pastor. They had a lively group of young people in the 1930s and ‘40s. Paul said that Clarence Nelson encouraged their questions and explorations, and Paul always spoke well of him. Donald Frisk, gentle heavyweight theologian and long-time North Park Seminary Professor of Theology, was also in this group.

Paul Holmer became known to me through Mel Soneson and Elder Lindahl, my philosophy teachers at North Park in the spring of 1960. Soneson studied under Holmer. The impression I had — I am confident that it was generally shared — was that Holmer could be counted on to give you reason to believe in Christianity, and that he could do more than just hold his own with the Logical Positivists then in control of the field of philosophy at the University of Minnesota, where he then taught. His subsequent move to Yale University that very year derailed my plan to take classes from him at Minnesota.

Paul Holmer distinguished himself at Yale. This newly published book, put out by his students at Yale, is evidence of this. I invite anyone interested to get hold of a copy of this book, and send Pietisten your reflections, whether formally or casually, about Paul Holmer, Kierkegaard and the passions of truth. It would be good to remember and reconsider other dimensions of the life and thinking of Paul Holmer in the Pietisten community.

There are several articles by Dr. Holmer in past issues of Pietisten. One of them is “On Believing in Heaven” and another on the movie “Shadowlands” [read these and the tribute to Paul Holmer by Bruce Carlson at pietisten.org]. I know a number of you readers encountered Paul Holmer at Minnesota very intensely and I would like to hear from you in particular. As to the publication, two more volumes are underway: Thinking the Faith with Passion, and Communicating the Faith Indirectly: Selected Sermons, Addresses, and Prayers.