Saturday, June 02, 2007

[THO] Antichrist

I spent yesterday reading Nietzsche's Antichrist, let me tell you he doesn't pull out any punches! I am giving a short presentation on Nietzsche's critique of Christianity Monday morning. I read a bit more than Antichrist, but the bulk of my analysis is from this work. I pulled out three key criticisms:

1) Christianity precludes the more rational atheism of Schopenheaur and Feuerbach.

This is interesting because from my reading on these young Hegelians, the Christian God is God in man's image. In fact Nietzsche's project seems to be a positive one of trying to adopt Schopenheaur's atheism without also taking up Schopenheaur's pessimism. But apart from my obvious objections to claiming atheism is the only rational option there is something valid about Nietzsche's critique. Christianity hasn't played well with the other disciplines, especially science. While we shouldn't have to sacrifice our theism to engage with science and philosophy, it seems that even in Nietzsche's day fear ruled this crucial relationship. Thank God there are those who have decided to broaden the dialogue partners of theology in our day.

2) Christianity focuses on an otherworld and ignores the natural world.

I've echoed this criticism many times on this blog. I don't buy Nietzsche's efforts to connect this to the slave morality of a vengeful priestly class, but it is an important criticism to consider. Are we too heavenly minded to be any earthly good? I think so. The track record of Christians in response to the environmental crisis is the strongest affirmation of this indictment. There is obviously a need for understanding the Kingdom of God, but it is too easy to miss that the Kingdom is a reality that breaks into the natural reality. It is too easy for talk of heaven to be a lotus causing us to miss the call of the prophets for justice and mercy.

3) The doctrine of sin prevents Christians from growing as moral individuals.

Nietzsche rails against the idea of pity. His concern is that this idea is used to make the claim of equality. Hence the slave morality is enforced and Christians remain content with their lot in life. While Nietzsche takes this in some bizarre directions, he is right that Christianity hasn't been good at developing whole, mature moral individuals. The problem is that we focus so much on personal sin that we miss that there is so much more to life. Nietzsche is heir to the Lutheran emphasis on personal sin, he knows what he is talking about here. We need to be careful not to miss the great themes of life and scripture, yes sin is part of that, but it is not all there is to the Christian life.

Nietzsche is a hard read, like I said earlier he doesn't pull his punches. While I am not convinced by his philosophy of morality, I do find his critiques worth wrestling with. Maybe I'll try something a little less inciting next time though.


nakedpastor said...

Sometimes we reject the message because of the repugnance of the messenger. I agree: we should listen to the critics.

One of Freedom said...

Thinking critically about our faith is not something Christians do well. This is sad to me because there is so much about how we live out a faith that needs to be challenged. But too many hear that as a desire to compromise the "gospel". To not think critically is to compromise the gospel - if Jesus wasn't a critical reforming voice in Judaism then what illusion of Jesus do we have? I seem to think emulating Jesus is sort of the point.

byron said...

Reading Nietzsche rocked my world (in a good way!) as a 19 year old Christian. You might have already seen this, but here are some of my reflections.

One of Freedom said...

Yeah I remember that article, it was good to read it again. I think you were the reason I actually decided it was time to go out and find the Viking Portable Nietzsche. I have that and a complete copy of Beyond Good and Evil so far. But I've only really read snippets, all of Antichrist and most of Thus Spoke Zarathustra. So far anyway.