Nietzsche: Prophet of Doom (Part 5)

Nietzsche’s Ideal Implodes
Salaquarda points out that “Historical criticism remained Nietzsche’s most important argument against religion up to the beginning of the 1880s.”[1] However, there are many persuasive arguments that have been made that support, for instance, the resurrection of the Jesus.[2] So, in my opinion, a convincing case can be made for why we can and should believe in the resurrection of Jesus and for the reliability of the Old and New Testaments. Thus, the bedrock of Nietzsche’s criticism is unfounded. In the end, it is his foundation that is shaky (Nietzsche does not even believe in true truth!). Nietzsche also claimed that God was dead and told people that they should live in light of that reality. However, good arguments can be made that conclude that God is alive and well.[3] Truly, even as we look at the world we live in it seems apparent that it is the fool that says there is no God (Ps. 14:1; 53:1).

Nietzsche said, “atheism and a sort of second innocence belong together.”[4] If God is dead there is not only no morality, there is innocence. No one is guilty. No one should feel guilty. Each person can freely do what they see as right in their own eyes. However, human experience tells us otherwise. Nietzsche seems to paint hell as heaven. If we apply his logic he seems to hold up the carnage of Auschwitz as a return to Eden.[5] As William Lane Craig has said, “If God does not exist, then in a sense, our world is Auschwitz: there is no right and wrong; all things are permitted.”[6]

The world will eventually burn up in the death of the sun. There is no meaning. We are decaying matter that will soon be planted. If we are merely matter in motion then we have no morals. We cannot say man descended from apes and thus has no final importance and also say that we must love one another. That reasoning does not follow.

If there is no transcultural and transtemporal truth or meaning and we are all just the products of Darwinian chance then it follows that human dignity and morality has no ultimate grounding. If it is the case that our most fundamental urge is to survive, even if it literally means that the strong will eat the weak, then that is fine. Each should do what is right in their own eyes. However, as we will see, Nietzsche is deceived and his doctrine brings nothing, nothing but death, despair, and cruelty. What Nietzsche said about nihilism is very ironic considering it is his philosophy that actually, in the final analysis, leads to nihilism. If we kill God, we necessarily kill our conscience too (Cf. e.g. Rom. 1) and all manner of chaos and curse ensue. Nietzsche believed he was anti-nihilistic and thus believed he should be anti-Christian and anti-compassion, but he was really anti-life and anti-flourishing. However, Nietzsche’s ideal implodes for a lot of reasons.

What Nietzsche and sadly many others do not see is that this “freedom” is man being given up to their own devices. We need God. We need morality. What we sow we reap. What we work for is what we get paid. The punishment of sin seems to be intrinsic, affixed within its very nature.

What is very interesting is that Nietzsche did have a sort of moral code. Nietzsche, for example, criticizes Christianity but holds up his maxims of what we should live for as right. So, “Nietzsche did have an explicit moral ontology, even if it was not conventional.”[7] As Roger Scruton has said,

Nietzsche… argues that there are no truths, only interpretations. But you need only ask yourself whether what Nietzsche says is true, to realise [sic] how paradoxical it is. (If it is true, then it is false! – an instance of the so-called ‘liar’ paradox.)… A writer who says that there are no truths, or that all truth is ‘merely relative’, is asking you not to believe him.[8]

Nietzsche was committed to a set of values[9] and he says that Christianity is actually nihilism. Christianity for Nietzsche led essentially to nonbeing, to the denial of the will to power, the will to life. It’s clear from reading Nietzsche that he thought that there are some forms of morality that are better than others. However, the sense of morality that Nietzsche seems to be supporting is the morality of an animal bent on survival at all costs.

Nietzsche says, “In the whole New Testament, there appears but a solitary figure worthy of honour… Pilate.” And the only saying that has any value in the New Testament to Nietzsche “is at once its criticism and its destruction: ‘What is truth?…’”[10] So, what can we do with a philosophy that claims that there is no objective truth? We can deconstruct it and show the position’s absurd conclusions.[11]

Nietzsche believed that since “God is dead” there is no morality. Yet, Nietzsche said, “All religions are, at their most fundamental, systems of cruelty.”[12] However, on what basis can Nietzsche call something “cruel”? Truly, as Francis A. Schaeffer said, “It is impossible for any non-Christian individual or group to be consistent to their system in logic or in practice.”[13] Or, as Craig has said, “If God does not exist, then life is objectively meaningless; but man cannot live consistently and happily knowing that life is meaningless; so in order to be happy he pretends that life has meaning.”[14]

Greg L. Bahnsen has rightly pointed out that

The very denial of the possibility of knowledge transcending experience is in itself a metaphysical judgment. Thus the question is not whether one should have metaphysical beliefs, but it comes down to the question of which kind of metaphysic one should affirm.[15]

Nietzsche kills our rational, saying God is dead because we killed him, and then (irrationally) says we must live. However, why?! And to what end? Nietzsche cuts us down at the knees and tells us to run on with full vigor. However, we cannot. We have no meaning and no direction so how should we use our will? Further, whose will? We contradict each other. So, we are left with warring wills. Mine against yours and yours against mine.

Of course, there are many other inconsistencies that we could look at, including Nietzsche’s lack of argument for his conclusions in On the Genealogy of Morality or the various “straw men” that he erects.[16] “Nietzsche’s criticism… has neither actually done away with Christianity nor worked out a logically irresistible refutation.”[17] There are many points that we could make against Nietzsche and his thought but the main thing we can acknowledge at this point is that his ideal implodes, his philosophy is unfounded.

_______________

[1] Salaquarda, “Nietzsche and the Judaeo-Christian tradition,” 99. In fact, “As reason for his renunciation of Christianity, in his notes young Nietzsche offered historical criticism” (Ibid., 92).

[2] E.g. Michael R. Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2010), N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003), and William Lane Craig’s smaller but still helpful book The Son Rises: The Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishes, 2000).

[3] J. P. Moreland and William Lane Craig, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (Grand Rapids: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 463-500.

[4] Par. 20 of the Second Essay in On the Genealogy of Morality.

[5] “At Auschwitz it was as though there existed a world in all the Ten Commandments were reversed.” William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008), 80.

[6] Craig, Reasonable Faith, 80.

[7] Diogenes, Philosophy for Understanding Theology, 239.

[8] Scruton, Modern Philosophy, 6.

[9] In Nietzsche’s “zeal to overturn Christian morality (and most traditional forms of morality), it seems that he did value some kinds of human behavior above others. In the same passage that he dismissed the concepts of right and wrong, he affirmed, “It is an historical fact that the aggressive man, being stronger, bolder, and nobler, has at all times had the better view, the clearer conscience on his side.” While claiming to spurn morality, then, he often simply inverted morality, calling good evil and evil good” (Richard Weikart, The Death of Humanity: and the Case for Life [Regnery Publishing], Kindle Locations 3346-3352).

[10] Nietzsche, The Antichrist, par. 46.

[11] So, for example, Frame points out that “Irrationalism can only be asserted on a rationalistic basis. How can we know there is no truth or meaning?” (John M. Frame, The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God [Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1987], 361).

[12] Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals, par. 3.

[13] Francis A. Schaeffer, Trilogy (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1990), 133.

[14] Craig, Reasonable Faith, 79.

[15] Greg L. Bahnsen, Always Ready: Directions for Defending the Faith ed. Robert R. Booth (Nacogdoches, TX: Covenant Media Press, 1996), 183.

[16] For example, “it does follow… that the Judaeo-Christian tradition has from its very beginning been nothing but the outcome and expression of resentment” (Jörg Salaquarda, “Nietzsche and the Judaeo-Christian tradition,” 109.

[17] Ibid., 91.

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About Paul O'Brien

I am a lot of things; saint and sinner. I struggle and I strive. I am a husband and father of three. I have been in pastoral ministry for 9 years. I went to school at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary but most of my schooling has been at the School of Hard Knocks. I have worked various jobs, including pheasant farmer, toilet maker, construction worker, and I served in the military. My wife and I enjoy reading at coffee shops, taking walks, hanging out with friends and family, and watching our three kid's antics. :)

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