Tag Archives: Philosophy

Reflections on “the problem of evil”

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I have been reflecting on Uncle Tom’s Cabin, it has made me think about “the problem of evil.” In fact, at the end of the book Tom himself, one of the spiritual heroes of the book, is wrestling with the problem himself. In the book, there are all sorts of terrible realities that represent actual events. Injustice after injustice happen to the people in the story, and again, these stories are based on actual real life events.

One could try to do away with these sad and confused thoughts by just saying that slavery ended long ago. However, this does not solve the problem. Evil continues, injustice continues, ramifications continue. Further, there is still slavery. There is still abuse. Some live life as a mere dash in-between agony and futility. That is all they know, tossed on an endless wave of seemingly nothingness. So one does not escape the question by saying things are now good, or at least not so bad. What then is the answer to the pain, the suffering, the injustice?! Why do people, millions of people, live painful lives, just to die in greater pain?

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Jesus and Jihad (part one)

 

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Introduction

Islam has many expressions. It is not monolithic. We are wrong if we think we understand Muslims because we have met one or read the Qur’an. That is a simplistic and false understanding. “Islam is a dynamic and varied religious tradition.”[1] In the same way, if you have met a Christian and read the New Testament, for example, that does not mean that you understand Christianity. “The range of contemporary Muslim religiosity varies tremendously. One of the reasons for this is that people understand and ‘use’ religion in a variety of ways; that is true whether we are dealing with Islam or Christianity or any other religion.”[2]

As Christians have different beliefs regarding certain doctrines, Muslims have different beliefs as well. Christianity has many expressions, liberal and fundamental and various particular denominations. In this post (and in part two), we will explore the Islamic understanding of jihad and contrast it with Christianity. Our first observation is to realize the multifaceted nature of our exploration.

Many Expressions of Islam

As we have briefly seen, not all Muslims are the same and not all Muslims understand jihad in the same way. So, some Muslims emphasize the more peaceful passages (e.g. surah 5:32; 2:256; Allah is also repeatedly said to be “most gracious, most merciful”) and that the Qur’an seems to teach to not begin the fight (2:190; 22:39). However, others believe that those who have not confessed Allah and his prophet have already essentially made war with Muslims and should be subjugated.[3] Some Muslims are strict adherents to Islam and some are secular. Muslims are not homogeneous. (For example, we see two very different narrative accounts in Nabeel Qureshi’s, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus and Mosab Hassan Yousef’s, Son of Hamas). In fact, “not all Muslims believe that the Qurʾān is the literal and inerrant word of God, nor do all of them believe that Islam requires strict conformity to all the religious and moral precepts in the Qurʾān.”[4] We could group Muslims into three broad groups: secular Muslims, traditional Muslims, and fundamentalist Muslims.

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“Whatever’s right for you”

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What is right? What is wrong? Is there right and wrong? Or is everything relative to the situation or the individual? Can we answer these questions?

These are complex, important, and very relevant questions. Especially because “Americans are both concerned about the nation’s moral condition and confused about morality itself.”[1] Actually, “A majority of American adults across age, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status and political ideology expresses concern about the nation’s moral condition—eight in 10 overall (80%).”[2] Continue reading


Nietzsche: Prophet of Doom (Part 7)

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Significance for Christian Practice
Nietzsche is certainly good at reminding us that if God does not break into human experience then we are hopelessly lost. Nietzsche shows us what the antithesis of Christianity looks like. Nietzsche is correct, if God is dead, “if atheism is true, there is no moral accountability for one’s actions… If life ends at the grave, it makes no difference whether one lives as Stalin or as a saint.”[1]

Apologists need to show people the world as it is, and existentialists like Nietzsche can do a good job at shaking us awake to the realities of our broken world. Ironically, understanding Nietzsche could help people become “poor in spirit,” a prerequisite to the Kingdom of heaven. Through, the dark and dooming picture that Nietzsche paints we can see our existential need for God. Thus, understanding Nietzsche’s philosophy can actually be helpful for Christians. Continue reading


Nietzsche: Prophet of Doom (Part 5)

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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. Continue reading


Nietzsche: Prophet of Doom (Part 4)

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Nietzsche’s Ideal
I want to look at the functionality of Nietzsche’s philosophy. What kind of world does Nietzsche’s philosophy create? Nietzsche’s philosophy creates a world in its own image, one in which people bite and devour each other.

Nietzsche’s philosophy creates all sorts of problems. For example, Nietzsche was not an anti-Semite; he disagreed with his sister and brother-in-law who were. But, it is hard to say upon what grounds. When there is no morality, when “god is dead,” it is hard to criticize morality in other people. Yet, we see him do this time and time again. When we say there is no God, when we say there is no morality, if we are to be consistent we must realize there is no morality and we must come to terms with the world that it creates. So, I am not necessarily pointing out that Nietzsche was wrong, though I think he was, but I want to point out that he and many who have come after him are inconsistent. We cannot hold up Nietzsche’s ideas in the many forms they take and not expect a torrent of injustices to overwhelm us that harken back to Auschwitz.

Nietzsche hated Christianity’s morality that was based, in his opinion, on “pie in the sky.” However, Nietzsche’s morality, or lack thereof, leads to hell here. Nietzsche very likely would not have supported Nazism, and it seems as if he was not anti-Semitic, but many of his writings support the atrocities of the holocaust.

If Nietzsche is right that God is dead then his morality is right as well. That is, there is no right, there is no wrong, there is in sum, no morality. As Ivan Karamazov said in Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s book The Brothers Karamazov, “If God is dead, everything is permitted.” In fact, morality is unhelpful. Nietzsche basically says that morality is nihilistic. He says, “Morality is a way of turning one’s back on the will to existence.”[1]

However, we cannot really live in a world like that, we, at least, would loathe that world. But, that’s the bitter truth if God is dead. If God is dead there is no killing a billion devils. Hell may not then be literal, but hell on earth is. If God is dead, humanity is “free;” free to wallow in its own mire. Free to oppress, free to enslave, free to hate, free to do whatever it is we feel to do, so long as we are more powerful than the powers that be…

So, Nietzsche’s atheistic “morality” might be freeing, if you’re at the top of the food chain. But if you’re a minority or a small off-shoot fringe group that’s not accepted by the powers that be, you are likely to be stubble for the Übermensch’s flame. Freedom it seems only would come to the “god” of this world, the “god” that is strong enough to enslave others (of course you might say, that even that “god” is then enslaved to continually fight for his so-called “godhood”). And so, we see that Nietzsche provides no freedom, he just provides a different master, one that (Romans 6 reminds us) brings a litany of death, debauchery, chaos, and everlasting curse. Nietzsche and his morality—and Darwin and Dawkins[2]—do not finally bring freedom and fun or hope of heaven on earth, they bring a very real type of hell to life on earth; they, when their philosophy is lived out to its logical conclusion, nearly have the power to give demons flesh.[3] They, short of incarnating evil, do image their master the devil. They carry out his deeds by their acts; acts of rape, acts of mutilation, acts of vile debauchery and calculated cruelty, they glory in their shame and they praise and promote those who do the same. They do this because they did not see fit to honor God, they thus become futile in their thinking, and do the works of their father the devil.

My goal is not so much to prove Nietzsche wrong, in my opinion, he has done that himself. My goal is to prove that if “God is dead” it follows that there is no morality and that makes for a terrible world. This is immediately relevant to our current culture. We desire Eden—healthy people and planet, peace, and prosperity—all the while saying there is no God and we can do as we like.[4]

It seems then that Hitler’s Mein Kampf was influenced by Nietzsche’s work. It seems to me that a seed was planted in Nietzsche’s work that Hitler would later cultivate to very destructive ends.[5] Nietzsche may not have foreseen or intended all the Nazi party carried out but it seems that what they did is in line with his thought So, although Nietzsche himself may not have supported the Nazi party, his thought when taken to its logical conclusion, does seem to lead to many of the things that the Nazi party did. Nietzsche, from my reading of him, would certainly have no grounds to criticize anything that they did.

The brutality that Hitler and his regime carried out was necessary as Nietzsche described: “man’s sacrifice en bloc [all together] to the prosperity of one single stronger species of man—that would be progress.”[6] Thus the brutality and sacrifice would be worth it in Nietzsche’s mind because it would bring about a new and better age. Nietzsche, I am sure, could concur with these words from Hitler: “Those who want to live, let them fight, and those who do not want to fight in this world of eternal struggle do not deserve to live.”[7]

Nietzsche said this in Beyond Good and Evil:

The crucial thing about a good and healthy aristocracy… is that it does not feel that it is a function… but rather its essence and highest justification—and that therefore it has not misgivings in condoning the sacrifice of a vast number of people who must for its sake be oppressed and diminished into incomplete people, slaves, tools. Its fundamental belief must simply be that society can not exist for its own sake, but rather only as a foundation and scaffolding to enable a select kind of creature to ascend to its higher task and in general to its higher existence.[8]

As we have said, we can extrapolate, especially with hindsight, that Nietzsche’s philosophy had an impact (though to what degree we cannot say) on Nazism. If there is no right and no wrong, only what is desirable and undesirable for the particular individual, then we allow, even give precedence, for all sorts of moral degradation (because, after all, moral degradation does not actually exist, only the will to power). Thus, we see Nietzsche’s ideal, his philosophy, ultimately promotes violence and all sorts of vile practices. 

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[1] Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power, par. 11.

[2] Richard Dawkins follows Nietzsche in saying that “In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference” (Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life [New York: Basic Books, 1995], 133).

[3] If morality was just a “misfiring” or a “Darwinian mistake,” even a “blessed, precious mistake” (Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion [New York: Mariner Books, 2008], 253) it would not be grounds for living a moral life. Yes, one certainly could still live a moral life, as apparently, Dawkins claims to. He even makes fun of the consideration that people would need a judge in the sky to make us moral. However, Dawkins does not take into account various atheists that attest to the truth that we need a judge in the sky to keep humanity from caring out acts of atrocity on others (cf. e.g. Richard Wurmbrand, Tortured for Christ). If there is no evil, no true transtemporal truth, then there really are no real acts of atrocity. If God is dead, all things are permissible. They may not always be efficient or wise but they are permissible. Efficiency itself becomes the criteria of right and wrong (cite eugenics, euthanasia, Trump’s taxes, etc.). Efficiency becomes a parallel to Nietzsche’s “will to power.” The person that rises above the system (e.g. moral, political), uses the system, or beats the system is the “over-self” that bends the world to its own ends. This is the new “morality,” striving and thriving to subdue life and life’s systems to whatever end is desirable. The true “over-self” may not call themselves a disciple of Nietzsche, it may even be unwise of them to make that claim, but if they live in the ways mentioned above then they are a disciple of Nietzsche even if they don’t know it. They may claim they’re not, they may claim to be pragmatists but they seem to be Nietzsche’s disciples nonetheless.

[4] It reminds me quite a bit of the first sin: forgetting God and doing as we desire. Here we see the danger of autonomous reasoning. From the beginning, even before the Fall, we have been dependent upon God for everything, revelation directing us to know what we should desire. In fact, I think Nietzsche would be happy in that it seems like the only morality today seems to be to do whatever suits the particular individual (unless it infringes upon what someone else wants to do or is really nasty). So, there seems to be no rules, except do not make rules for others or do “really bad things” (like pollution, Christian hypocrisy, and pedophilia).

[5] The Stanford Encyclopedia says “during the 1930s, aspects of Nietzsche’s thought were espoused by the Nazis and Italian Fascists, partly due to the encouragement of Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche through her associations with Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. It was possible for the Nazi interpreters to assemble, quite selectively, various passages from Nietzsche’s writings whose juxtaposition appeared to justify war, aggression and domination for the sake of nationalistic and racial self-glorification” (Wicks, “Friedrich Nietzsche” in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).

[6] Par. 12 of the Second Essay in On the Genealogy of Morality.

[7] Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, 289.

[8] Nietzsche, Beyond God and Evil, par. 258. Cf. Darwin’s thoughts on the queen bee. He said, “we ought to admire the savage instinctive hatred of the queen-bee, which urges her instantly to destroy the young queens her daughters as soon as born, or to perish herself in the combat; for undoubtedly this is for the good of the community; and maternal love and maternal hatred, though the latter fortunately is most rare, is all the same to the inexorable principle of natural selection” (Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species [London: Penguin, 1968], 230).


Nietzsche: Prophet of Doom (Part 3)​

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Nietzsche’s Critique: Christianity is Nihilistic
Nihilism,[1] for Nietzsche, is something that happens when “slave morality”[2] is followed. It seems like Nietzsche is saying that when you follow the Christian teaching then you no longer care about yourself, you put your hope in “pie in the sky,” and you become nothing. Ironically, as we will see, Nietzsche’s philosophy is the ultimate view that leads to nothingness. In his system, there is no ultimate reason for meaning or morality. Thus, what he criticized Christians for is most fully realized in his own position.

Nietzsche is not intending to promote nihilism but sees himself as fighting against it.[3] Nietzsche clearly sees Christianity as nihilistic. He promotes the animal instinct of the will to life, of fighting tooth and nail to exploit whatever can be exploited. In reading Nietzsche, it seems like the ideal world for him would be one in which we live like animals. Nietzsche’s ideal world seems to be a rough and wild animal kingdom where the powerful rule.[4]

Nietzsche concludes that Christianity is nihilistic and believes that the Übermensch who is anti-nihilistic will one day come to save the world.[5] He over and over again, bemoans weak and wicked, guilt ridden, Christianity.[6] He awaits the dawn of the superior man of the future that will deliver the world from its nauseating and nonsensical fascination with compassion and grace.[7]

In On the Genealogy of Morality,[8] Nietzsche says that large birds of prey do nothing wrong in eating and attacking lambs, they are only doing what comes natural to them. The lambs might say that the birds of prey are bad and that whoever is least like them, like a lamb, is good. However, it seems like Nietzsche is saying that that reasoning does not make sense. The lambs are not any better, any more “good,” than the birds of prey. Their criterion of “good” is subjective and they are merely trying to protect themselves by defining “good” as they themselves already are.[9] Within the paragraph Nietzsche says, “a good person is anyone who does not rape, does not harm anyone, who does not attack, does not retaliate, who leaves the taking of revenge to God,… avoids all evil and asks little from life in general.”

It seems like for Nietzsche the “good person,”[10] who does not do bad things, corresponds to the lamb; and the “bad person,” who does bad things like rape and attack, corresponds to the bird of prey. Therefore, Nietzsche seems to be making the point that the “bird of prey,” the so-called “bad person” that rapes, harms, and attacks is really not evil because “evil” after all is something that the “lamb,” the so-called “good person,” made up. Therefore, we see that in a world where God is dead and morality is subjective[11] then there is nothing ultimately wrong with raping, harming, and attacking others.[12] Actually, Nietzsche basically says that the “lambs,” i.e. the early Christians and Jews, made up their morality to get back at the “birds of prey,” the masters that treated them badly.[13]

Plantinga concurs with my observation. He says,

Nietzsche’s… complaint: that religion originates in slave morality, in the ressentment [sic] of the oppressed. As Nietzsche sees it, Christianity both fosters and arises from a sort of sniveling, cowardly, servile, evasive, duplicitous, and all-around contemptible sort of character, which is at the same time envious, self-righteous, and full of hate disguised as charitable kindness. (Not a pretty picture).[14]

Nietzsche said, “I expressly want to place on record that at the time when mankind felt no shame towards its cruelty, life on earth was more cheerful than it is today,… The heavens darkened over man in direct proportion to the increase in his feeling shame at being man.[15] He is saying that man should not feel shame at “being man,” that is, following his animal instincts (perhaps to rape, harm, and attack like the “bird of prey”). For Nietzsche, it was sermonizing that led the animal “man” to feel ashamed of his instincts.[16]

For Nietzsche, “life functions essentially in an injurious, violent, exploitative and destructive manner, or at least these are its fundamental processes and it cannot be thought of without these characteristics.”[17] Thus, he seems to reason that any system or person that fails to acknowledge this and function in this way is hostile to life and attempts to assassinate the future of man, and follows a path to nothingness.[18] Nietzsche in fact says that “life itself in its essence means appropriating, injuring, overpowering those who are foreign and weaker; oppression, harshness, forcing one’s own forms on others, incorporation, and at the very least, at the very mildest, exploitation.”[19] Nietzsche even says “Perhaps I can even be allowed to admit the possibility that pleasure in cruelty does not really need to have died out.”[20]

Nietzsche said that “people everywhere are rhapsodizing, even under the guise of science, about future social conditions that will have lost their ‘exploitative character’—to my ear that sounds as if they were promising to invent a life form that would refrain from all organic functions.” This seems so apparent to Nietzsche because “the original fact of all history” is that “’Exploitation’ is not part of a decadent or imperfect, primitive society: it is part of the fundamental nature of living things.”[21] Thus, utopia, Eden, heaven, etc. will never be our home. Our nature, since the beginning has been to exploit and Nietzsche would conclude there is nothing wrong with that, it is perfectly normal and realistic.

Nietzsche believes that it is a terrible thing that “the animal ‘man’ is… taught to be ashamed of all his instincts.”[22] Man, at his core, is an animal following his will to life. Christianity, conversely, says we are not animals but that humans, male and female, are created in the image of God and thus have intrinsic worth. We also see that we do not have to follow are base sinful, not merely animalistic, instincts. Nietzsche is hitting on something. We do have instincts, but they come from Adam and the Fall, not animals. Nietzsche’s solution to the inner problem that we all face is wrong as well. The solution is not to give in and forget guilt. The answer is to become a new creation in the better Adam.

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[1] The word “nihilism” comes from the Latin word nihil, which means “nothing.” Nietzsche basically says that nihilism is the predilection for and overvaluation of compassion (see par. 5 in the Preface of On the Genealogy of Morality cf. the end of par. 12 in the First Essay par. 24 in the Second Essay). As Clare Carlisle says, “Although Nietzsche’s philosophy is sometimes mistakenly described as ‘nihilistic’, the opposite is in fact the case, for the purpose of his writing was to halt and to reverse this process of decline” (Clare Carlisle, “Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil: ‘Why insist on the truth?’” in Richmond Journal of Philosophy 4 (Summer 2003). It does seem ironic that Nietzsche’s own philosophy would later be termed nihilistic, which I think is accurate. Nietzsche’s philosophy does lead us to conclude that all values are baseless and that nothing can be known; thus leading us to nihilism. So, although Nietzsche said Christianity was nihilistic, in the final analysis it is his own thought that is. Nietzsche says that Christians have “an imaginary teleology (the “kingdom of God,” “the last judgment,” “eternal life” (The Antichrist, par. 15) and yet Nietzsche has no teleology, Nietzsche is left with nothing—nihilism.

[2] In a sense, so-called “slavery morality” comes from Christ Himself and can be traced all the way back to God the Father. God had pity on Adam and Eve, Israel in Egypt, and on the hopeless state of humanity. Nietzsche is essentially damning humanities only hope of redemption. In fact, the rescue mission included Jesus becoming a man and taking the form of a slave, and dying, dying on a roman cross. Nietzsche who seemed to respect Jesus in many ways hated what Jesus was actually doing. Christ emptied Himself, Christ had pity.

[3] “Pity thwarts the whole law of evolution, which is the law of natural selection. It preserves whatever is ripe for destruction; it fights on the side of those disinherited and condemned by life; by maintaining life in so many of the botched of all kinds, it gives life itself a gloomy and dubious aspect. Mankind has ventured to call pity a virtue (—in every superior moral system it appears as a weakness—); going still further, it has been called the virtue, the source and foundation of all other virtues—but let us always bear in mind that this was from the standpoint of a philosophy that was nihilistic, and upon whose shield the denial of life was inscribed. Schopenhauer was right in this: that by means of pity life is denied, and made worthy of denial—pity is the technic of nihilism. Let me repeat: this depressing and contagious instinct stands against all those instincts which work for the preservation and enhancement of life: in the rôle of protector of the miserable, it is a prime agent in the promotion of décadence—pity persuades to extinction… Of course, one doesn’t say “extinction”: one says “the other world,” or “God” (Nietzsche, The Antichrist, par. 7). One translation says, “pity is the practice of nihilism” (par. 7).

[4] “There is no place in Nietzsche’s picture of the ideal man for pity: pity is nothing more than a morbid fascination with failure. It is the great weakener of the will, and forms the bond between slaves, which perpetuates their slavery” (Roger Scruton, Modern Philosophy: An Introduction and Survey [New York: Penguin Books, 1994], 297).

[5] See par. 24 of the Second Essay in On the Genealogy of Morality.

[6] “I condemn Christianity; I bring against the Christian church the most terrible of all the accusations that an accuser has ever had in his mouth. It is, to me, the greatest of all imaginable corruptions; it seeks to work the ultimate corruption, the worst possible corruption. The Christian church has left nothing untouched by its depravity; it has turned every value into worthlessness, and every truth into a lie, and every integrity into baseness of soul. Let any one dare to speak to me of its “humanitarian” blessings! Its deepest necessities range it against any effort to abolish distress; it lives by distress; it creates distress to make itself immortal… For example, the worm of sin: it was the church that first enriched mankind with this misery!—The “equality of souls before God”—this fraud, this pretext for the rancunes of all the base-minded—this explosive concept, ending in revolution, the modern idea, and the notion of overthrowing the whole social order —this is Christian dynamite… The “humanitarian” blessings of Christianity forsooth! To breed out of humanitas a self-contradiction, an art of self-pollution, a will to lie at any price, an aversion and contempt for all good and honest instincts! All this, to me, is the “humanitarianism” of Christianity!—Parasitism as the only practice of the church; with its anæmic and “holy” ideals, sucking all the blood, all the love, all the hope out of life; the beyond as the will to deny all reality; the cross as the distinguishing mark of the most subterranean conspiracy ever heard of,—against health, beauty, well-being, intellect, kindness of soul—against life itself… .

This eternal accusation against Christianity I shall write upon all walls, wherever walls are to be found—I have letters that even the blind will be able to see… I call Christianity the one great curse, the one great intrinsic depravity, the one great instinct of revenge, for which no means are venomous enough or secret, subterranean and small enough,—I call it the one immortal blemish upon the human race… The transvaluation of all values!…” (Nietzsche, The Antichrist, par. 62).

[7] “Love and compassion, for instance, especially for the weak and sick, was in Nietzsche’s view, contrary to the “life-affirming” philosophy of the Overman” (Richard Weikart, The Death of Humanity: and the Case for Life [Regnery Publishing, 2016], Kindle Locations 3353-3354).

[8] Par.13. Diogenes makes the interesting observation that “Nietzschean genealogy is effective at undermining master narratives precisely because it provides a counternarrative” (Allen Diogenes, Philosophy for Understanding Theology [Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1985], 236-37). David F. Wells believes that Nietzsche’s writing on “slave morality” has had a very large impact. He said that perhaps what laid the groundwork for Nietzsche “becoming the godfather to our morally collapsing world was his contrast between master and slave moralities” (Wells, Losing Our Virtue: Why the Church Must Recover Its Moral Vision, 151).

[9] So the “lamb” (i.e. the Christian and Jew) says, “’Only those who suffer are good, only the poor, the powerless, the lowly are good; the suffering, the deprived, the sick, the ugly, are the only pious people, the only ones saved, salvation is for them alone, whereas you rich, thenoble, and powerful, you are eternally wicked, cruel, lustful, insatiate, godless, you will also be eternally wretched, cursed and damned!’” (Par. 7 in the First Essay of On the Genealogy of Morality). Adolf Hitler said in Mein Kompf that “the Jew knew that by an able and persistent use of propaganda heaven itself can be presented to the people as if it were hell and, vice versa, the most miserable kind of life can be presented as if it were paradise. The Jew knew this and acted accordingly.”

[10] Nietzsche seems to believe that a regressive trait lurks in the “good person.” Morality itself is to blame for man not reaching its highest potential of power and splendor. Morality itself is the danger of dangers (see par. 6 in the Preface of On the Genealogy of Morality).

[11] Jean-Paul Sartre said, “There is this in common between art and morality, that in both we have to do with creation and invention. We cannot decide a priori what it is that should be done” (Sartre, “Existentialism Is a Humanism”). We are “free” to believe and do whatever it is our hands find to do. There is no plum line by which to measure what is morally right and morally wrong and thus, it seems in this view, all things should be permitted. The Lord is dead, in Nietzsche’s thought, so we are lords of our own lives. We decide what is right and we take that path not matter where it leads and no matter what the world says about it.

[12] Yes, it remains true that the “bird of prey” may inconvenience others by his actions and may even reap consequences from his actions but in the final analysis what he did was not evil and thus not really wrong. It should be noted that the bird of prey’s actions will more likely occur when birds of prey are more numerous than lambs; in a system where birds of prey hold sway. This is because the bird of prey will be less likely to have their actions checked by penalties. Benjamin Wiker explains a similar reasoning: “Since the universe is purely material result of chance, it is amoral, a conclusion ultimately drawn from the belief that the universe is not designed (and therefore has no intrinsic moral order) and has no designer (And therefore no extrinsic moral orderer). Given such a universe, it is not difficult to see that the most we could hope for is the maximization of our desire and the minimization of pain” (Benjamin Wiker, Moral Darwinism: How We Became Moral Hedonists [Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2002], 166). Further, it seems in societies where it is believed that there is no true evil, “bird of prey” actions would be expected as the norm.

[13] Nietzsche said that “Jesus of Nazareth, as the embodiment of the gospel of love, this ‘redeemer’ bringing salvation and victory to the poor, the sick, to sinners—was he not seduction in its most sinister and irresistible form…?” Nietzsche goes on: “Did Israel not reach the pinnacle of her sublime vengefulness via this very ‘redeemer’, this apparent opponent of and disperser of Israel? Is it not part of a secret black art of a truly grand politics of revenge, a far-sighted, subterranean revenge, slow to grip and calculating, that Israel had to denounce her actual instrument of revenge before all the world as a mortal enemy and nail him to the cross so that ‘all the world’, namely all Israel’s enemies, could safely nibble at this bait? And could anyone, on the other hand, using all the ingenuity of his intellect, think up a more dangerous bait?… Israel, with its revenge and revaluation of all former values, has triumphed repeatedly over all other ideals, all nobler ideals.” (Par. 8 in the First Essay of On the Genealogy of Morality cf. par. 9). Later he says that “the Jews were a priestly nation of resentment par excellence” (Ibid., par. 16). See also Nietzsche, The Antichrist, par. 24.

[14] Alvin Plantinga, Warranted Christian Belief (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 136.

[15] See par. 7 of the Second Essay in On the Genealogy of Morality.

[16] Nietzsche, Second Essay in On the Genealogy of Morality, Par. 7.

[17] Nietzsche, Second Essay in On the Genealogy of Morality, Par. 11.

[18] Cf. par. 11 in Ibid.

[19] Nietzsche, Beyond God and Evil, par. 259.

[20] Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals, par. 7.

[21] Nietzsche, Beyond God and Evil, par. 259.

[22] Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals, par. 7.


Nietzsche: Prophet of Doom (Part 2)

5198900758_1e654c81a9_bNietzsche was Right, but He was also very Wrong
What I hope to show in my paper is that Nietzsche’s philosophy was either very accurate or very wrong. That is, Nietzsche’s conclusions if God is “dead” lead inevitably to certain conclusions. In my evaluation, I take three of Nietzsche’s late period writings (1886-88) as my main point of interaction.[1] This is for a two reasons. First, Nietzsche’s writings are large and this paper is not. Second, because his philosophy is more likely to be further established in his later writings.

In Nietzsche’s writings, he shows over and over again that his thought is the converse of Christianity; this is true if we look at his doctrine of eternal recurrence or his writings on slave morality. And as Nietzsche said, philosophy “always creates the world according to its own image, it cannot do otherwise”[2] and for Nietzsche’s thought, when extrapolated and applied, it makes hell. That is what I hope to argue, I hope to show how Nietzsche’s thought, when applied, makes a world in its own image, one that is terrible, filled with war, rape, and violence. I want to show this because I believe it is the inevitable outcome of the path he started. Since the beginning, it has been true that when we turn away from God we turn to our own destruction (Ps. 16:2; Jer. 2:5; Rom. 1; 3:12; etc.).

So, how is Nietzsche right? Nietzsche is right in that he paints a powerful portrait for us of what it means to be given up to our own devices (cf. Rom. 1). Nietzsche shows us the fallout from the Fall of humanity. But, Nietzsche was also gravely wrong. God is not dead!

Nietzsche’s philosophy is most clearly the converse of Christianity. Nietzsche says God is dead.[3] He says there is no truth. He says to assert yourself and make your own way. He says there is no heaven so live each moment today like it will occur eternally. In short, I hope to show that in the throwing off the “shackles” of morality and the hope of heaven Nietzsche has fettered those who follow him to hell on earth. Nietzsche’s writings and subsequent history show us that a world where right and wrong do not exist, is a world where lots of pain and oppression do.[4]

Ideas and beliefs have consequences, profound consequences. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15 that if Christ has not been raised then let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die. Elijah says in 1 Kings 18:21 that if God is not God then don’t live for Him, live for whatever it is that you believe is true, whether Baal or, I believe he would say, whatever applicable philosophy. So, as we look at Nietzsche’s thought, which is the converse of Christianity, we can begin to understand and better appreciate Christianity. 

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[1] That is, Beyond Good and Evil: A Prelude to the Philosophy of the Future (1886), On the Genealogy of Morality (1887), and The Antichrist (1888).

[2] Nietzsche, Beyond God and Evil, par 9.

[3] Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, par. 108, 125, 343. Cf. e.g. Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra, “Zarathustra’s Prologue,” par. 2 and 3.

[4] “By denying human equality and human rights, and by devaluing the lives of the masses, Nietzsche’s philosophy is really a loveless, forlorn philosophy of death, cruelty, and oppression” (Weikart, Richard, The Death of Humanity: and the Case for Life [Regnery Publishing], Kindle Locations 3394-3395.


Nietzsche: Prophet of Doom (Part 1)

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Introduction
What follows is important and relevant for individuals, society, and the world. The water is deep at places but must be forded for us to get to solid ground. The world, I fear, is in a swamp of uncertainty, but the water is rising, every day the need for solid ground is more apparent but harder to reach. Wade through this with me, and perhaps we can find something solid to build upon. Something that will stand through the next wave, whatever that wave may be. As we set out, we will use Friedrich Nietzsche as our marker, though he is no North Star, he helps us map the mire.

First, we should know some about Nietzsche. Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was born on October 15th, 1844 and died on August 25th, 1900. Nietzsche lived a sickly life and died at the age of 55 of pneumonia.[1] Nietzsche’s father was a Lutheran pastor. “Nietzsche’s uncle and grandfathers were also Lutheran ministers, and his paternal grandfather, Friedrich August Ludwig Nietzsche (1756–1826), was further distinguished as a Protestant scholar.”[2] Nietzsche faced many difficulties from a young age. His father died when Nietzsche was only four years old and just six months after the death of his father his younger brother died.

Nietzsche must have been gifted intellectually from a young age. For example, he composed piano, choral, and orchestral music as a teenager. He also received a good education at a first-rate boarding school. As a teenager, he read “David Strauss’s controversial and demythologizing Life of Jesus Critically Examined[3] and it had a big impact on him. Early on Nietzsche considered himself devout, he was even called “little preacher” when he was young, but eventually, he would deny the faith, though at first not publically.[4]

Second, it should be understood, that in my mind, Nietzsche’s ramblings are closer to rhetoric than to philosophy. Nietzsche often employees ad hominem arguments and attacks a person (e.g. the Apostle Paul[5]) rather than their arguments. Nietzsche also seems fond of constructing straw man fallacies for his argumentative flame.

Third, Nietzsche wrote in a very unique and even enjoyable style. However, his lack of precision in writing is dangerous; people can construe his writings in many ways, and they have. There is much disagreement over Nietzsche and his work, which must to a large degree, must be because Nietzsche seems to have communicated often more like a poet, using words to paint, and not as much for precision.[6] It is true that Nietzsche at times is very hard to discern and it is also true that his body of work is large and there is much disagreement upon what place Nietzsche’s unpublished work should play in Nietzschean scholarship. However, all that being the case, Nietzsche is still responsible for what he wrote and the way he wrote.

Yannick Imbert has said,

In the history of Western thought, Nietzsche most likely holds the distinction of being the most misunderstood and misrepresented philosopher. Understanding him represents a particular challenge for Christians, given Nietzsche’s radical criticism of anything related to Christianity. Let us consider more closely the philosophy of the so-called father of nihilism.[7]

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[1] See e.g. D. Demelsoet, K. Hemelsoet, and D. Devreese, “The neurological illness of Friedrich Nietzsche,” 9-16 in Acta neurologica Belgica (April 2008).

[2] Robert Wicks, “Friedrich Nietzsche” in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy ed. Edward N. Zalta (Fall 2016 Edition)(https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/nietzsche/#Life1844 accessed on December 5th, 2016).

[3] Ibid.

[4] “From his early boyhood, Nietzsche was expected to follow the family tradition and become a minister himself. As late as 1864, when he studied classics and theology at Bonn University, he seems to have adhered to his family’s expectations (if no longer wholeheartedly). When one year later he finally dropped theology, he proved a family crisis” (Jörg Salaquarda, “Nietzsche and the Judaeo-Christian tradition,” 90-118 in The Cambridge Companion to Nietzsche [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997], 92).

[5] E.g. Nietzsche says, “In Paul is incarnated the very opposite of the “bearer of glad tidings”; he represents the genius for hatred, the vision of hatred, the relentless logic of hatred. What, indeed, has not this dysangelist sacrificed to hatred!… The life, the example, the teaching, the death of Christ, the meaning and the law of the whole gospels—nothing was left of all this after that counterfeiter in hatred had reduced it to his uses. Surely not reality; surely not historical truth!… He simply struck out the yesterday and the day before yesterday of Christianity, and invented his own history of Christian beginnings… The figure of the Saviour, his teaching, his way of life, his death, the meaning of his death, even the consequences of his death—nothing remained untouched, nothing remained in even remote contact with reality. Paul simply shifted the centre of gravity of that whole life to a place behind this existence—in the lie of the “risen” Jesus… The figure of the Saviour, his teaching, his way of life, his death, the meaning of his death, even the consequences of his death—nothing remained untouched, nothing remained in even remote contact with reality. Paul simply shifted the centre of gravity of that whole life to a place behind this existence—in the lie of the “risen” Jesus… What he himself didn’t believe was swallowed readily enough by the idiots among whom he spread his teaching.—What he wanted was power…” (Nietzsche, The AntiChrist, par. 42).

[6] So, Alvin Plantinga has said, Nietzsche “writes with a fine coruscating brilliance, his outrageous rhetoric is sometimes entertaining, and no doubt much the extravagance is meant as overstatement to make a point. Taken overall, however, the violence and exaggeration seem pathological; for a candidate for the sober truth, we shall certainly have to look elsewhere” (Alvin Plantinga, Warranted Christian Belief [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000], 136).

[7] Class notes from Yannick Imbert’s lecture in “History of Philosophy and Christian Thought” on Oct. 12th, 2016.


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