By Joel Hess –
My town rocks more – Cadillac, MI! Salt of the earth!
Ok, on to deeper but not more important thoughts.
A couple weeks ago I heard yet another red faced preacher quoting Nietzsche’s famous proclamation “God is dead” to shock his audience with an undiluted taste of our secularized culture. And predictably he replied to his spitzbart donning straw deutscher denker before his state school educated pew sitters, “God says – Nietzsche is dead! Ha!”
I have often cringed when I hear this quote in a sermon. Cynically I assume the proclaimer had never actually read Nietzsche but either got the quote from Google or worse, lifted it from another red faced preacher.
Though I don’t wear a beret, I thoroughly enjoy Nietzsche’s writing. Yes, I got into him in college when I fancied myself an existentialist and blasted the Smiths out the windows of my two tone brown Chevette. I’m sorry. I don’t agree with his conclusions, but I strongly believe his critiques and observations are worthy opponents with which to wrestle.
In fact the ‘parable of the madman’ from which the above misused and overused quote is robbed actually could provide a pastor with some fodder to attack not so much atheism, but our current ‘emperor’s new clothes’ morality shared by our growing non thinking majority. The religion of Americans, these days, deny any specific talk of God, yet promotes certain good works and a general worldview as if there is a final judge or divine overseer. Elvis has left the building – so stop waiting for an encore.
The goal of Nietzsche’s parable is not to support atheism per se, but to shock people living in a Christianity or a general moral world of their own invention. What Nietzsche says through the madman is ‘God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.”
The Christianity surrounding Nietzsche had become one removed of revelation, miracles, and specifics. Jefferson had removed the miracles from his bible. Kant had invented an inner divinity. Hegel spoke about the evolutionary revealing of the divine. I don’t dare enrage our seminary nerd by discussing Schleiermacher. Nietzsche despised these popular heroes of ‘thinking’ men and accused them of ignorantly killing God yet constructing a world where He artificially existed! On a side note Nietzsche had the cajones to dismiss even Plato and Aristotle as being slaves to an unseen master and alien morality.
In his famous parable the madman shouts at his amazed audience, “We have killed him – you and I. All of us are his murderers…what were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there still any up or down? Are we not straying, as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space?”
And later, “how shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?”
But the madman’s audience was silent and astonished. The madman discovers that his announcement is too early. He concludes, “This deed is still distant from them than most distant stars…And yet they have done it themselves.”
Of course Nietzsche’s belief was that humanity must truly throw off the bonds to a now dead God. The bonds of morality, right and wrong, abstract purposes, etc. Yet still his message is awakening to those who have casually and quietly defanged the Lion, yet still live in fear of Him (or some greater entity).
This is the absurd world we live in today as we watched the buffoons at the Oscars and see churches worshipping an unknown God.
As Paul himself argues in II Corinthians, “if there is no resurrection, than we should be pitied above all men!” Nietzsche would agree.
One little problem though. There has been a resurrection.