17 October 2006

God Is Dead

Because of those three little words, the church proclaimed Nietzsche her nemesis. Gladys, keep away from that Nietzsche. He’s bad news. Ptooey. Root of everything evil, including that postmodern devil thing.
While I don’t agree with all of Nietzsche’s conclusions, I can certainly understand his claustrophobia. Stuck. Trapped. What a nice, safe, little world you have there, Nietzsche would say. Everything wrapped up in neat boxes. What’s that you have there? The search for the historical Jesus? Huh. Some faith. Just put on a pair of clean clothes, stay out of the mud, and you’ll be happy. Except Nietzsche wasn’t happy. The little minister, as he was nicknamed as a child, went crazy instead.
The institution of the church, the empty virtue of her people, her reasonable faith that explained away all miracles, that did away the need for faith, all this disillusioned Nietzsche. So Nietzsche chunked it all.
Live, Nietzsche commanded. Live with the pain. Through away the medications. But live. Forget those rules and do nots. It doesn’t work. Find the standard in yourself. Just as long as you live.
And as far as all the reason mumbo-jumbo, who sees objectively on this earth, without the filters of their tradition and culture? The whole elephant story with the three blind men. Each described something disparate. Same elephant. So who’s perspective is correct? Maybe we don’t all have the whole perspective. So, Nietzsche said, experience becomes the priority. Your experience.
He’s right, you know. Mostly. The church he saw with her long list of rules and clean clothes and reason that cut the Bible to pieces (i.e. Jefferson) doesn’t work. She forgot how to live, forgot how to love. Kierkegaard saw that, too.
And the different perspectives: I don’t see God fully. In fact, you may see a different aspect of God that I has been in my blind spot. My understanding of the world and of God comes trickled down through filters and blinders. But Nietzsche didn’t account for the Holy Spirit, and he forgot about the universal church, this historical and global body that has the opportunity to learn from one another, to listen to one another. Where Nietzsche gave up, we can hope.
I pity Nietzsche. He struggled with the same frustrations of most Christians and non-Christians. I don’t care if you are modern or postmodern or black or white or Italian or African or North American or Taiwanese. If you have been involved in the Christian life with Christian people, at some point in time, you have encountered some form of Nietzsche’s doubts and hurts.
As far as the whole “God is dead” thing. Maybe it wasn’t this great ontological statement. Maybe he jeered at this empty church. You have killed God.
I can’t argue with him there.


Pamela said...

I MUST come back and read this again slower...after work.

You always make me go deep
(and I always want things to be too simple)

Erin said...

I don't even know what "ontological" means! (Will soon find out! c/o www.RefDesk.com)

How do you define the term "post-modern"? I rather like the term, but that's according to how I interpret its meaning. Everyone defines it so differently...

Mirtika said...

Yeah, but the person who isn't blind and stands on platform about you and me and the elephant, that person knows what the elephant looks like in toto. And he can tell us it's not a snake, or a pillar, or a rope or a wall.

God is not blind, even we choose to be. We can know exactly what is what if we listen to the One who isn't blind.

I semi-pity Nietzsche (though I get a headache trying to remember how to spell his name). But he was right. If there is no God, then you can damn well live as you please, because morality is now meaningless.

Fortunately, God is not dead, and morality is revealed and understood by those to whom God chooses to reveal it, and to those who seek, ask, knock and approach.

Oh, there I go, pontificating.



Michelle Pendergrass said...

The church killed God.

That's a statement that a million words could be written about.

Guess nothing new is under the sun, eh?

L.L. Barkat said...

I guess we are prone to kill God again and again... but, fortunately, and in spite of our best (worst?) efforts, He always rolls away the stones and walks through the garden once again.

Erin said...

You were right, Heather. My black turtleneck was in the wash.

I reread your poetry, and you're so, like, ontological, man.

Snap. Snap. Snap.

Jennifer said...

I'm sort of with Pamela. Trying to digest. . . . Must. Think.

Kathleen Marie said...

An awesome post! I studied Nietzsche in philosophy and I really, really felt sorry for the man. He was so deceived by bitterness.

The difference I think between Christians and Nietzsche is that although we have our doubts, our questions and even our blind spots, faith and forgiveness are at the core of our being.

Deep down we know who are creator and Savior is and that comes through a personal relationship with Him.

Robin said...

Okay, Heather, so I've been gone forever, and I KNEW when I checked in on you I'd need some time. Apparently, I'll never have enough (a tiny lol here).

Good Lord, chile, this one goes deep. Marrow deep. It must be why you don't post more often...it takes too long to write and contemplate and bridge these thoughts together. Me? I can dash out most of my tripe in 20 minutes, but when I take the time to slow down...and muse through my faith struggles and questions, I rarely even finish the post. There's a dozen or more that are half-written, and I don't know that they'll ever be complete.

Anyway, back to your post...

Interesting what the response to N was (not even gonna try to spell it :) ). I've never studied him, know very little, so maybe this isn't even accurate, but it seems to me the institutional church felt threatened by him and his assertions, they were governed by fear in responding to his blasphemous thoughts. Which sadly, to me, is what "we" often do now when people question "business as usual" where church is concerned. We're threatened by questions, by doubt. We're offended by it. We receive it as a challenge to battle rather than a conversation to be engaged.

You know what kind of "Christian" I was for longer than I'd like to admit? The nodding, bobblehead dog kind...blindly shaking my head "yes" to things I didn't really believe; allowing so many (pastors, bible studies, authors, etc.) to "prescribe" my faith for me. And you know what that does in the end? It...kills...God. And I never even realized it until I was at the point of walking away from it....when I got to the point where I could no longer live a lie, professing these things I didn't honestly believe (because if I did, my life SURE would look a lot different).

Now I think you know I'm NOT saying God is dead. But because of the garbage I let take the place of Him, my faith was not first-hand experiencial, it was rhetoric, it was defintely tied up in the law, it was powerless, etc...ad nauseum...

In a "last ditch" kind of an effort, I began praying. It was mechanical, but demanding. I felt like I was praying to air, but I needed...desperately needed God to be REAL if I wasn't going to chunk it. And something began happening...something I had never before experienced.

He changed my mind.

The way I began looking at people changed. My response to circumstances changed. It became a pattern....and I began to notice...and I was blown away. Your post reminded me about it when you said the church had "forgotten how to live...how to love". I was loving in a way that was beyond me...not my natural response (even though I was "nice and empathetic" before), but somehow it was different. And I KNEW God was real...as I was on this great pursuit of Him, He revealed Himself to me EVERYWHERE...in creation, in His word, through my pastor...but mostly in the faces of people. I'm not just talking "christians" either.

Guess bottom lining it, I'm seeing a shift in (for lack of a better word or grasp of what's going on) our religious culture in America. There's something going on (reformationy??) that's pretty awesome :). I'm reading these young authors...and there's a departure from the "business of church" to living it again...and loving again...not from a distance, but with our neighbors, whoever they may be....

I hope you still speak to me after this comment, lol...it's long and meandering, and now I have no time to read your other stuff, and I'm afraid it'll only make sense to me...but thanks for triggering the thoughts. You absolutely, positively rock my world, sweets.

R.G. Ryan said...

And yet in "Beyond Good and Evil" section 188, pp. 106-9 he said, "The essential thing in heaven and earth is . . . that there should be a long obedience in the same direction; there thereby results . . . something which has made life worth living."

How could such a profound and blatantly Christian statement proceed from the thoughts of one such as he?

'Tis a mystery.

Heather said...

Erin - defining the term "postmodern" is almost impossible as everyone has their own definition (which is itself a nod at postmodernism). I would define it as a rethinking of modern philosophies, rethinking of Descartes and Leibnitz, even rethinking Plato.
I believe that God uses even Nietzsche to speak an aspect of His truth, a combination of the Imago Dei and God's omnipotence.

Margo Carmichael said...

Nietzsche would probably agree with Habakkuk. I know I do, where he said, 3:2,

LORD, I have heard of your fame;
I stand in awe of your deeds, O LORD.
Renew them in our day,
in our time make them known;
in wrath remember mercy. NIV

I am in awe of His deeds, and I want to see them in our day. And I suspect, so does He, since He told the Laodicean church to "do the first works." Works we don't see as much anymore? Heal the sick, raise the dead, cast out devils? And if the Laodicean church represents part of the church all through the ages, and if it also represents a church in time, could that be us? I tend to think so. But I'm a hopeful pre-Tribber, since Israel became a nation again in 1948 and once more, prophecy could apply to them, which it couldn't fifty years ago, hence the school of Preterism with which I don't agree. And my friends are perfectly free not to agree with me. : )

Blessed Sunday evening, all.

Margo Carmichael said...

Whoops! I was wrong! It happens! LOL

It was the church at Ephesus that was admonished to do the first works.

4Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.

5Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.

We, you will recall, if it is us who are Laodicean, are merely lukewarm and disgusting. And poor, wretched, blind, miserable and naked, that's all.

Maybe that's a definition of Post-Modern. Ack.

Anonymous said...

I rather like the term, but that's according to how I interpret its meaning.

learn chinese said...

I semi-pity Nietzsche (though I get a headache trying to remember how to spell his name). But he was right. If there is no God, then you can damn well live as you please, because morality is now meaningless.