Nietzsche: Prophet of Doom (Part 6)

The Christian Ideal and the Answer to what Ails Us
Apologetics sees the questions in philosophy and religion and points to how Scripture ultimately answers them. Scripture answers Nietzsche’s questions (though perhaps unvocalized) about meaning and hopelessness.

Nietzsche is basically stuck on the Fall but does not understand the rest of the Biblical story that explains our reality. He does not realize that because God does exist and has revealed Himself and made us in His image that we have access to and can know truth. We also see in Scripture that there is more than nothing (nihil), there is hope in Christ. In fact, hope of everything that Nietzsche acknowledged as so wrong being fixed.

Interestingly, we see that we desire a superhero, a savior. We see this truth in all sorts of examples (e.g. The Avengers, Matrix, Batman, Superman, etc.). For Nietzsche, it was the Übermensch that he hoped in.[1] In all of this, we see humanities need for meaning and morality and for a Savior to fix all that we sense is so wrong. What explains all of this? The biblical worldview.[2]

Already men are partway to the gospel, for they too believe that man is dead, dead in the sense of being meaningless. Christianity alone gives the reason for this meaninglessness, that their revolt has separated them from God who exists, and thus gives them the true explanation of the position to which they have come.[3]

When we deny God and His Word, we reenact the Fall and the casting out of Eden and bring curses upon ourselves. We are given up to debased minds, to do what ought not to be done (Rom. 1). It is irrational to reject God (various Scriptures teach us this but it is empirical as well). However, Nietzsche was blinded by the god of this world and so was without hope and without God in the world (cf. 2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 2:12).

Notice how Ecclesiastes can be applied to Nietzsche’s philosophy. We see that Nietzsche understood rightly the “vanities of vanities;” however, because he did not believe in God he was hopelessly stuck there. He was stuck with nothing and nothingness or “nothingism” (nihil = Latin “nothing”). Nietzsche calls us to be courageous and follow our wills no matter what that may mean; but Nietzsche’s courage too is meaningless.

Life under the sun is absurd, that’s what Ecclesiastes tells us. But, thank the LORD, we are not left there. We also see the end of the matter: Fear God. That is, live for God. He will bring all things to light. He will, we see from the fuller scope of Scripture, set all things right. God will, in the end, fulfill our deepest longings (sehnsucht).

We see from reflection on Scripture that bad things are bad because they are not in accord with God’s character and, thus, apart from being bad they do not finally work with the way things are. In short, they are against the universe. Against existence. Against the way things are. Against the way things work. This is because God is good, supremely good. And creation is meant to operate in a certain way. Sin, evil, and rebellion are not innate within God’s good creation. They do not “work” and will one day soon be expelled from the whole system. Then, and only then, will all things be put right and made new.

The consequence of sin is not arbitrarily imposed; it is instead the inevitable outworking of the implications of sin.[4] Turning away from God is like a diver cutting off the air to his breathing tube, it’s unplugging your own life support.[5] The consequence of turning from the Lord is built in. And it’s been that way since the beginning: “On the day you eat of it, you will surely die.” Adam and Eve died a thousand little deaths before they took their last breaths.

To turn from God, to sin, is not only wrong but also foolish. Why? Because “God is our final good, our maker and savior, the one in whom alone our restless hearts come to rest. To rebel against God is to saw of the branch that supports us.”[6]

Sin is humanity’s death wish in every way.[7] To be separated from God is to die, physically and spiritually. Human flourishing, true shalom, is bound up with God. Apart from union with God, we can seek but we won’t find. So, Nietzsche’s “killing of God” is actually the murder of humanity.

Thus, sin is not good because it is innately against human flourishing.[8] Sin is not good because it is humanity’s death wish in every sense. Nietzsche’s ideal implodes.

When we anonymously try to create our own utopia we leave a trail of mutilation. Whether we listen to Nietzsche, Nazi ideology, or the Planned Parenthood idea that says, with our culture, “have it your way,” “listen to your heart,” “do what feels right.” When we “have it our way,” “listen to our heart,” and “do what feels right,” “will to power,” then “might will make right” because there will be no higher authority and we may just have a reincarnation of the atrocities of Dachau and Auschwitz. We might just have people “aborting” “clumps of cells” in their wombs because that is just what they want to do, it is what is convenient; we might just have “doctors” sell “clumps of cells” as human organs. We “might” just have 54,559,615 lives lost through gruesome child sacrifice (abortion) in the USA; a number that can seem to make insignificant the 407,300 lives lost by Americans as a result of WWII.

When we create a world where morality does not exist, then in a very real way, morality does not exist, at least, that is how people live. In this world, each will do what is right in his own eyes, might will make right, and atrocities will flourish. Various attempts at the “Final Solution”[9] will abound, and so will death and desolation.

We reap what we sow philosophically, so right now we’re reaping a whole host of debauchery as a society. Could it be that teachings have been tainted and thus a litany of death ensues? Maybe it is time to re-explore worldviews and their corresponding idea of human flourishing and the ability that they have to match reality to their claims.

Moral decay happens when something other than God is our ultimate good (cf. Ps. 14:1; 53:1; Rom. 1). Humanity spirals out of control and implodes in on itself whenever we make gods in our own image; whether infanticide in the Roman Empire, Auschwitz during the Nazi regime, or rampant abortion today. When we decipher and dictate anonymously and subjectively what is good and prosperous for ourselves and society, we damn ourselves and those around us. We, so to speak, eat again of the forbidden fruit and cast ourselves out of Eden. We fall into a pit we ourselves dug. We kill Abel, revel in Babel, and inculcate innumerable evils. We make life a sort of living hell; picture the living, walking, and tortured skeletons from the horrors of concentration camps engraved in our memories. Sin creates a sort of living hell.  

Christ brings life, hope, and love. Nietzsche, even if he did not realize it, was promoting nihilism. If God is life and our supreme good (summum bonum) then to “kill God,” is to kill life and meaning. Nietzsche’s philosophy and his followers show just how bad the vanity of vanities can be. They provide for us a cogent example of the hell of being given up to our own devices when we deny God and His abundant goodness.


[1] Cf. e.g. “The Superman [Übermensch] is the meaning of the earth” (Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra, “Zarathustra’s Prologue,” par. 3).

[2] Sadly we do not have space to got into depth about what a Christian worldview encompasses but here is a good start: Creation: God made the world and it was good, Fall: man sinned and all sorts of death and curse ensued, Redemption: Jesus brings restoration, life, and eternal shalom to all how trust in Him, and New Creation: is the final state of eternal bliss and restored creation that who have Christ as their Lord will enjoy. Nietzsche essentially focuses on all that is terrible in the world and says in the midst of it all we should fight on and defy the pointlessness of life by our will to power.

[3] Francis A. Schaeffer, Trilogy (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1990), 46. “Christianity is poles apart from any form of optimistic humanism. But it also differs from nihilism, though it is correctly realistic, nevertheless can give neither a proper diagnosis nor the proper treatment for its own ills. Christianity has a diagnosis and then a solid foundation for an answer. The difference between Christian realism and nihilism is not that the Christian worldview is romantic. We should be pleased that the romanticism of yesterday had been destroyed. In many ways this makes our task of presenting Christianity to modern man easier than it was for our forefathers” (Ibid.).

[4] Anthony N. S. Lane, “Lust: the human person as affected by disordered desires” 35 in EQ 78.1 [2006], 21-35.

[5] N. T. Wright, Evil and the Justice of God (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 109.

[6] Plantinga, Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, 123. “Sin dissipates us in futile—and self-destructive—projects. Sin hurts other people and grieves God, but it also corrodes us. Sin is a form of self-abuse” (Ibid., 124). “Sin against God is therefore outrageous folly: it’s like pulling the plug on your own resuscitator” (Ibid., 125-26). Thus “because it is futile, because it is vain, because it is unrealistic, because it spoils good things, sin is a prime form of folly” (Ibid., 126).

[7] “The association of sin with physical and spiritual death runs like a spine through Scripture and Christian tradition” (Plantinga, Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, 47).

[8] “Human flourishing” rather is “the same thing as glorifying God and enjoying him forever” (Plantinga, Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, 37-38).

[9] The “Final Solution” was the Nazi ploy to systematically exterminate the Jewish population through genocide. What I am saying here is that there will be various other hellish “solutions” that will be offered to humanity. Yet, they likewise will fall disastrously short and only unleash a torrent of pain and wickedness. Witness the deaths in the name of “utopian” communism.

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 10 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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