Document Type


Date of Completion




Academic Major


Faculty Advisor

Dr. Heath Carpenter


The study of metaethics contains the question of where value comes from. Different theories of goodness encourage tracing goodness back to God, saying that goodness is that which is like God (the resemblance thesis) or that which perfects nature (the perfection thesis). Kierkegaard participates in these questions of goodness, and in Fear and Trembling concludes that the moral absolute of the akedah reveals a good, Divine mystery. Fear and Trembling is a work of Christian existentialism that encourages an internal faith that embraces mystery rather than attempting to conquer it. Rather than trying to understand exactly who God is, Kierkegaard promotes reverence and faithfulness in light of a baffling absolute. Terrence Malick’s film To the Wonder (2012) bears theological similarities to Kierkegaard’s writing in that it honors the mystery of God and encourages reverence. However, To the Wonder stands in contrast to Kierkegaard’s leap into internal faith, presenting instead a leap into communion with the Divine. The characters in the film leap into communion in two different ways--the woman Marina through play (self-forgetting), and the priest Father Quintana through service (self-giving). For these two, internal faith has proved inadequate to resolve their internal struggles. They look outside of themselves and find peace in communion with others and with God. Through the symbols of water and light, Malick directs his audience’s attention to the presence of Divine love throughout the characters’ lives. Though often polluted and diluted, love is always present. The film closes with uncertainty, but the characters have found peace through play and service as the goodness of God redeems their unknowing and turns it into wonder.