Request an Exam Copy
You’ll need to sign up or sign in to access textbookplus+ resources.
Products / Kierkegaard


A Single Life
Stephen Backhouse
Not Available Request an Exam Copy


Discover a new understanding of Kierkegaard’s thought and his life, a story filled with romance, betrayal, humor, and riots.

Kierkegaard, like Einstein and Freud, is one of those geniuses whose ideas permeate the culture and shape our world even when relatively few people have read their works. That lack of familiarity with the real Kierkegaard is about to change.

This lucid new biography by scholar Stephen Backhouse presents the genius as well as the acutely sensitive man behind the brilliant books. Scholarly and accessible, Kierkegaard: A Single Life introduces his many guises—the thinker, the lover, the recluse, the writer, the controversialist—in prose so compelling it reads like a novel.

One chapter examines Kierkegaard’s influence on our greatest cultural icons—Kafka, Barth, Bonhoeffer, Camus, and Martin Luther King Jr., to name only a few. A useful appendix presents an overview of each of Kierkegaard’s works, for the scholar and lay reader alike.

About the Author

Stephen Backhouse (DPhil, Oxford) is the founder and director of Tent Theology, a venture that designs and delivers theology programmes to local churches. He is the Dean of Theology in the Local Church for Westminster Theological Centre and was formerly the Lecturer in Social and Political Theology at St Mellitus College. He is a historian of Christian thought, an expert on the work of Søren Kierkegaard and a recognised authority on the political theology of nations and nationalism. He is the author of many publications, including the award-winning popular biography Kierkegaard: A Single Life (Zondervan, 2016) and the Zondervan Essential Companion to Christian History (Zondervan, 2019). He has lived in the United States, and makes his home in Britain and Canada.


Stephen Backhouse’s Kierkegaard: A Single Life is an extremely useful book that makes Kierkegaard accessible to those just beginning to know him. Backhouse’s account of Kierkegaard’s life is exemplary but particularly useful is his summary of Kierkegaard’s works. -- Stanley Hauerwas, Gilbert T. Rowe Emeritus Professor of Divinity and Law, Duke University

Stephen Backhouse has given us a wonderfully lively and sympathetic portrait of one of the greatest minds of the nineteenth century, sparing us nothing of Kierkegaard’s abrasive, contrarian personality, but also illuminating the extraordinary courage and spiritual depth of the man. We have waited a long time for such an accessible introduction, growing out of deep study of the abundant original sources and bringing them alive with a light and sure touch. -- Rowan Williams, Master of Magdalene College and former Archbishop of Canterbury

Drawing on the wealth of new biographical material that has become available in the last twenty years, Backhouse's life of Kierkegaard sets the Danish thinker in his time and place and does so with confidence and verve. Few books about this most subtle and elusive of figures could be described as page-turners, but Backhouse combines a fast-moving style with a strong grasp of the big issues that makes this a compelling read. For those who have not yet read Kierkegaard himself, this will leave them wanting to do so - which must be the best outcome for any work of this kind. -- George Pattison, Professor of Divinity, University of Glasgow

This is an extraordinarily likeable book about a not-very-likeable, though fascinating, figure. This is not hagiography; Backhouse gives the full measure of Kierkegaard, and loves him in all his weirdness. Backhouse is a great storyteller---witty, imaginative, and with an eye for irony and humor. This book fills a need for an introduction for the educated nonspecialist to Kierkegaard’s life and thought, which are inseparable. How lucky we are that this need has been filled with such flair. -- Dr. William T. Cavanaugh, Director, Center for World Catholicism and Intercultural Theology, DePaul University

Almost every road in modern Christianity leads back, at some point, to Kierkegaard. Yet few appreciate this fact because we’ve lacked a knowledgeable and accessible guide. Finally, we have one in Stephen Backhouse. I’ve waited my whole life for this book. And so has the church. -- Dr. Richard Beck, Associate Professor of Psychology, Abilene Christian University

Stephen Backhouse has written a lively, accessible and expert introduction to an often misunderstood but hugely influential and prophetic thinker. This is an ideal place to start understanding Kierkegaard’s life and thought, which has much to say to the contemporary church and world. -- Graham Tomlin, Bishop of Kensington, President St Mellitus College

Starting with the astonishing scenes at Kierkegaard’s funeral, Stephen Backhouse traces the life and impact of this extraordinary, elusive, passionate critic of passionless Christianity. Backhouse’s book is both learned and accessible, so that the issues that Kierkegaard wrestled with walk off the page to challenge us again today, while the man himself haunts us, calling us and hiding from us, as he did his contemporaries. -- Dr. Jane Williams, Assistant Dean and Lecturer in Systematic Theology, St Mellitus College

Kierkegaard believed that to understand an historical figure, one must be able imaginatively to become the person’s contemporary. In this gripping biography, Stephen Backhouse helps us become contemporaries of Kierkegaard himself. In these pages the Danish thinker comes alive. This book gives us an extraordinary portrait of an extraordinary human being. -- C. Stephen Evans, University Professor of Philosophy and Humanities, Baylor University

This book is a fascinating read about a fascinating person. Stephen has skillfully created a glimpse into the life and work of a perplexing and brilliant character. -- Luke Norsworthy, Podcaster and Pastor. Organization- Newsworthy with Norsworthy Podcast and Westover Hills Church

Kierkegaard: A Single Life Instructor: Stephen Backhouse

Discover a new understanding of Kierkegaard’s thought and his life.

Course Details
  • 15 Units
  • 3.25 hours of video
  • Self-paced
  • Beginner
View Course
For Instructors and School Administrators
Enhance your school’s traditional and online education programs by easily integrating online courses developed from the scholars and textbooks you trust. Learn more.
For Students
Pursue a deeper knowledge of God through self-paced college- and seminary-level online courses in Old and New Testament studies, theology, biblical Greek, and more. Browse courses.
  • Product Details
  • Page Count: 304
  • Format: Hardcover, Jacketed
  • ISBN: 9780310520887
  • Release: August 16, 2016
Related Titles