friedrich nietzsche was exactly right about christianity

date header separator

Sunday, October 18th, 2009

friedrich nietzsche was exactly right about christianity

indeed, friedrich nietzsche was exactly right about christianity.

well, not about everything. but certainly, he got a few things right.

while i have had the, um, pleasure of dabbling into a very small amount of nietzsche’s philosophies during my time at the seminary (mostly in relation to moral/faith development), i don’t claim to be an exhaustive authority on all things nietzsche. what i can say, though, is that nietzsche, among others who have offered critiques, spoke very sharply about a certain notion of god and christianity. i’m not saying that he particularly liked some other notion of god, but it seems fairly clear that nietzsche primarily responded to a certain brand of god that didn’t seem compatible with philosophical modes of engaging/viewing people and the world around him. (some have even argued that in spite of his famous god is dead declaration that nietzsche wasn’t an atheist, though i digress.)

what nietzsche did get right was a quote i stumbled upon earlier tonight: the christian resolution to find the world ugly and bad has made the world ugly and bad.

nietzsche was dead on.

to an extent, at least.

much like nietzsche and many other critics, i also have a dissonant reaction to a certain notion of god and christianity.

specifically, it’s the ever-present theology of—just as nietzsche states—people, the world, all creation being totally devoid of any bit of good. it’s connected to the theology of total depravity (though not necessarily intrinsically connected) and therefore tends to be propagated frequently by those with calvinist leanings (though, again, not necessarily exclusively).

it’s the idea that humans are lowly, dirty, tainted creatures who are to be spat upon by a mighty god who is disgusted by the “original sin” of his people. i would like to say that that sentence deals with hyperbolic amplification of a theology, but i’ve heard it stated nearly that exact way, both in word and even in song. even within the last couple weeks, i simply shook my head in disbelief as someone boldly twittered, everything inside me is wicked and crude and unable of anything good except jesus christ!


the problem here is twofold.

on one hand, i simply don’t find this sentiment running the course of the narrative of scripture. if you follow the arc of both the hebrew and christian scriptures, you find the story of a god who creates people to look like and be like him and in spite of their disobedience, literally sacrifices himself to be in relationship with them. it’s the story of a god who despite being god, partners with humans to make himself known to the world. it’s the story of a god who instead of obliterating the world full of wretched people, he brings it back into shalom.

god breathed into humans, making us look like and be like him. we came from the dust of the earth, but we certainly aren’t dirt. we were made to be something more—something that looks like god. beautiful. loving. giving. certainly prone to sin, but not disconnected from our origins of god-breathed life.

the other problem is more to the point of what nietzsche was getting at with his quote. we become what we believe. more importantly, though, not only do we become what we believe but the people and the world around us become what we believe about them. what we believe becomes a reality. it’s akin to the concept of self-fulfilling prophecy.

when we believe that the world is ugly and wicked and completely depraved, then it is. it is all those things. if you tell a child he or she’s stupid every day of his or her life, then the child will most certainly be stupid—whether he or she actually is. others become what we believe about them.

the world is beautiful. it’s bright. it’s full of god. unless we crusade against that. unless we declar that it’s not. unless we strip away all that god has made—all that god has breathed into and spoken into.

friedrich nietzsche was exactly right about christianity. a certain notion of christianity, that is.

the choice is now ours if we choose to propagate that particular notion.