What do Christians think of Nietzsche? (1 of ?)
|December 18, 2014||Posted by Joseph Keysor under Blog|
I saw this question on an internet forum while doing some research on Nietzsche. If the thread had not been a few years and old and no longer active, I would have been interested in making a few comments there.
What do Christians think of Nietzsche? My own feeling is – but immediately we are confronted with the problem of there being so many different kinds of Christianity. Not only are there the traditional divisions of Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox, there are also numerous subdivisions within those divisions. Evangelicals, Fundamentalists, Charismatics, Liberals, with many different ideas and emphases between and within those sub-groups – it seems as if the word “Christian” has now become so ambiguous as to have little meaning.
There are Christians who believe that evolution is a scientific fact, and Christians who believe (as I do) in the creation account given in the book of Genesis. There are Christians who believe abortion is a woman’s right, and Christians who believe it is a crime, and nothing less than murder (this last being my own view).There are Christians who believe that Jesus is the only way to God, and others who say he is the best way among others. There are Christians who believe that homosexuality is a sin – not the worst sin or the only sin, but still wrong and against God’s laws – while an increasing number of those who call themselves by the name of Christian are willing to accept such a practice as normal.
One could go on and on, but the point is clear – there are many different kinds of Christian and also many different responses of these people to the ideas of Nietzsche. Not wanting to try and summarize all of the different possible views of Nietzsche, I will present my own reaction to his writings. For the sake of clarification, I should add that I consider the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John as presented in the King James Version of the Bible to be fully historically accurate and factual narratives of Christ’s life, free from error or distortion of any kind.
I believe that this physical world we see around us is not the only reality, but that there are higher and invisible spiritual realities; that the soul lives after death and will be held accountable by God for what was done in this life; that there are eternal punishments for the wicked and an eternity of paradise for those who have received forgiveness from God for their sins.
If I had to put a label on myself I would opt for “fundamentalist evangelical Protestant” – fundamentalist in adhering to the literal truth of the divinely inspired Bible and to basic doctrines concerning the Trinity, the Deity of Christ, his sacrificial death and resurrection; “evangelical” in seeking more understanding of and communication with the world (as opposed to excessive isolation and withdrawal); Protestant in accepting the main ideas of the Protestant Reformation especially as later articulated by John and Charles Wesley, George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, John Bunyan, Francis Schaeffer and of course many others.
Much more could be said along these lines, but that should suffice to put my response to Nietzsche within a specific context. So, what do Christians with my views think of Nietzsche – or, more generally speaking, what do people who are widely regarded as “fundamentalists” or “evangelicals” think about Nietzsche’s radical ideas?
To begin with, it must be recognized that there are many Christians of this sort for whom Nietzsche has no significance whatever. They do not read his books or come across his ideas, and if they should find it necessary to respond to some admirer of Nietzsche they can do so under the general subject of atheism.
Some I am afraid to say overestimate Nietzsche. They know of the high regard he is held in by the world, and feel obligated to come to terms with him in some way. They seem to feel obligated to show that even though they are Christians they are capable of understanding Nietzsche and disagreeing with him within the confines of approved academic discourse. This means, of course, that they are not allowed to respond with the bitter personal attacks of the sort Nietzsche so often made against Christians. Were they to do so, it would immediately be claimed that they felt threatened by Nietzsche and were upset by his critiques.
Dare one suggest that Nietzsche’s attacks on Christianity were not purely objective, but were themselves the product of hidden emotional issues, including fear, hatred, and resentment? What if I were to suggest for example that Nietzsche felt threatened by the idea of God, and attacked Christianity so bitterly because it exposed his many personal inadequacies? Nietzsche used that kind of logic and approach all of the time. He called for a re-evaluation of traditional values. May we call for a re-evaluation of Nietzsche?
Nietzsche constantly and reiteratively assigns the basest motives to Christians for their beliefs – they hate life, they fear truth, they want to destroy what is good in life, they are full of resentment against their superiors, priests are motivated solely by a love of power. But what if it was Nietzsche who was full of hostility and various emotional problems? What if his ideas were motivated by a hatred of people who were better than he was? A case could be made for this argument, but I am digressing. To return to the main point: many Christians have nothing to do with Nietzsche; some respect his importance and want to deal with him too much on his terms, or within the parameters laid down by an academia that is generally sympathetic to Nietzsche and skeptical of if not openly hostile to the claims of Christianity.
A third Christian approach would be to try and refute Nietzsche directly, pointing out the numerous ways in which his indictments of Christianity are far removed from ordinary Christian life and practice. I have seen a few comments along these lines, but only here and there, within the context of larger arguments. Certain errors and negative aspects of Nietzsche’s books have been pointed out, but there have been few Bible-believing Christians people who have been willing to confront Nietzsche’s ideas directly. Of course, I should add that there have been very many books written about Nietzsche, and there is much I am unaware of. Should someone more knowledgeable than I am about Christian responses to Nietzsche happen to run across this blog somehow, I welcome correction and further information.
My personal observations about Nietzsche will follow after the holidays. Since this is supposed to be a season of good cheer, I am afraid that a more detailed discussion of Nietzsche’s ideas would be inappropriate at this time.