Nietzsche and a Pastor: The Domestic Animal


“The problem I have here is not what ought to succeed mankind in the sequence of species ( — the human being is a conclusion — ):  but what type of human being one ought to breed, ought to will, as more valuable, more worthy of life, more certain of the future.

           This more valuable type has existed often enough already:  but as a lucky accident, as an exception, never as willed.  He has rather been the most feared, he has hitherto been virtually the thing to be feared — and out of fear the reverse type has been willed, bred, achieved:  the domestic animal, the herd animal, the sick animal man — the Christian . . .”

1

 If the world we live in is, as Nietzsche asserts, one in which immaterial substances, or ideas, or forms, or gods do not exist, then it is utterly preposterous to believe that the,  “human being is a conclusion.”  On the contrary, it is painfully obvious that the physical world is as Heraclitus observed long ago: constantly in a state of flux — constantly evolving.  Within a matter of years every molecule within your body will be replaced; physically speaking, you will be an entirely different person.  Everything changes; nothing stays the same; the species is forever evolving.  On naturalism, there is nothing to ground your identity in and absolutely no good reason to believe that the evolution of human beings has come to a close.  In fact, there is absolutely no good reason to believe that human beings, as we know them, will always exist.

Modern naturalists have come to embrace this view with great enthusiasm.  As Gregory Stock notes with great excitement:  “we know that Homo Sapiens is not the final word in primate evolution, but few have yet grasped that we are on the cusp of profound biological change, poised to transcend our current form and character on a journey to destinations of new imagination” — It is a hallmark of current naturalistic thinking to believe that mans ever increasing power over nature, thanks to advances in science and technology, has brought about profound liberation – total freedom to control our destiny; to shape man into whatever image seems most desirable.

Therefore, Nietzsche’s attempt at redefining the ideal man, under the assumption that man, “is a conclusion”, is incredibly limited in scope when compared to the aspirations of contemporary naturalists.  Nevertheless, like contemporary naturalists, it is equally incoherent . . .

2

It should be clear now, that if we accept the naturalistic framework, it is impossible to say objectively, “what type of human being one ought to breed, ought to will, as more valuable, more worthy of life.”  Without a transcendent reference point, there simply is no concrete answer to this question.  In point of fact, there is no ought at all; there is simply what you think is the ideal man or what society believes is the ideal man.  At the end of the day, those with the strongest will to power will determine what the ideal man is—and this is nothing more than tyranny.  Consequentially, Nietzsche’s discussion about the ideal man (as if such a thing actually existed within the naturalistic worldview) seems rather disingenuous; or, at least, naïvely optimistic.

Considering the total fluidity of reality and the complete absence of absolute universal truths entailed by naturalism it is surprising, to me, that Nietzsche actually believes in his ideal man.  It is also surprising, to me, that he believes his ideal man actually exercises a certain amount of freedom—in contrast to the wretched domesticated animal.  At the end of the day, even Nietzsche’s ideal man is completely subject to the mindless and impersonal laws of nature which, if we accept naturalism, dictate his every thought and action.  Not even the super man can escape the laws of physics or transcend the controlling influence of his biochemistry.

3

In the final analysis, Nietzsche’s diatribe only communicates two things—his subjective opinion of what the ideal man is and his personal distain for Christians.  Perhaps, thirdly, it communicates the dissonance in his own thought—the inconsistent ramblings of a man bent on refuting objective values while simultaneously arguing for that which he deems most valuable.  At the end of the day, in order to fully embrace Nietzsche’s worldview, we must abandon the notion that there is an ideal human being and accept the fact that ideals are simply subjective opinions generated within the human brain through the brute physical processes of nature.  We must be willing to embrace the fact that human beings do not have a nature and that we simply reflect one fleeting moment in a constantly evolving reality.  We must also accept, in spite of the claims of contemporary naturalists, that mankind has absolutely no control over his destiny.

4

Freedom is, arguably, the chief aim of naturalism: freedom from a controlling omnipotent God, freedom from outmoded and irrational religious dogmas, freedom from puritanical ethical systems, freedom to redefine the human race and guide the course of evolution . . .

Sadly, this supposed freedom is completely illusory.  Consider these two points: (1) human beings are a part of nature, and hence, themselves locked in the endless, and fundamentally, meaningless, cycle of material causes and effects, and (2) those human beings currently in existence will ultimately decide the fate of those human beings (or other humanoid species) in the future.

Regarding the first point, although human beings seem to be gaining more knowledge of and, hence, better control over nature, human beings are not transcendent from nature.  Therefore, human beings are just as much subject to the laws of physics and chemistry which guide the rest of the universe.  Accordingly, on naturalism, human decisions, in fact, our very thoughts and emotions can be explained in terms of purely physical processes.  In other words, our very thoughts and actions are exclusively determined by the mindless physical laws of nature.  Under such circumstances, any freedom we imagine having over our destiny is truly delusional–in fact, the very notion of freedom, itself, was brought about by an unbroken chain of physical causes and effects completely out of our control.

We must also face the fact that all succeeding generations will be subject to the biological and psychological manipulations enacted by those scientists, academics, and politicians who currently control the new eugenics project.  In fact, the leaders of every generation will exercise total control over the genetic and psychological outcome of the next.  In essence, our species (or any new species) will forever be enslaved to the choices of those in the past.  A similar formulation of this argument can be found in C. S. Lewis’s book The Abolition of Man. 

In summary: there is no real freedom under the naturalistic framework–just enslavement:  enslavement to the blind, impersonal, unbroken laws of nature, and enslavement to those who exercise greater power over the weak (and even over those who do not yet exist).

5

True freedom can only be found in Christ because it is only in Christ that we understand, objectively, who we are and what it means to live.  For it is only if we have a transcendent reference point that we can say, definitively, that there is an ideal man, and in fact, an ideal way to live.  Jesus is our transcendent reference point—“the way, and the truth, and the life”–and, therefore, truly the ideal man.  Ironically, it is only the domesticated animal who can know, objectively, “what type of human being one ought to breed, ought to will, as more valuable, more worthy of life, more certain of the future.”

This is part three of a series; to read the rest of the series click here.

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Nietzsche and a Pastor: The Will to Power


This is part two of a new series–to read the introduction click here.

“What is good? — All that heightens the feeling of power, the will to power, power itself in man.
What is bad? — All that proceeds from weakness.
What is happiness? — The feeling that power increases — that a resistance is overcome.
Not contentment, but more power; not peace at all, but war; not virtue, but proficiency (virtue in the Renaissance style, virtu, virtue free of moralic acid).
The weak and ill-constituted shall perish:  first principle of our philanthropy.  And one shall help them to do so.
What is more harmful than any vice? — Active sympathy for the ill-constituted and weak — Christianity . . .”

It’s important to remember that any definition of the good or of happiness proceeding from a naturalistic framework, such as Nietzsche’s, is completely arbitrary and, if I dare say, totally farcical — that is to say, it is a rather deceptive act in which moralistic language is ascribed to fundamentally neutral, amoral, categories.  So, when Nietzsche speaks about the good as being, “the will to power, power itself in man,” it’s important to remember that he is not outlining a system of morality; rather, he is simply describing a brute process of nature using moralistic terminology.

Any student of Biology can tell you that life is a power struggle — those organisms with the strongest will to survive and the power to do so will inevitably outlast other organisms with a weaker constitution.  In evolutionary terms, this is commonly described as the survival of the fittest.  Consequentially, a brute physical process, such as this, can hardly be described as “the good” in any objective moral sense on naturalism.  For this would imply teleology within nature — which is precisely the thing that a naturalistic view of reality denies.  Hence, to assign the, “feeling of power, the will to power, power itself in man,” or, “all that proceeds from weakness,” the terms “good” or “bad” says absolutely nothing about the true goodness or badness of such things — it is merely to state a brute fact about reality.

According to naturalism, values are completely dependent upon the observer and therefore totally subjective.  In other words, they have very little to do with reality and everything to do with one’s personal opinions or feelings.  What we are left with, under this  scheme, are merely objects and events.  How we interpret the objects and events we find in nature is purely a matter of personal taste.  This mindset explains  why we often hear the term “meaning-making” used to describe values.  What this heart warming little term is actually communicating is that nature, in and of itself, has no intrinsic meaning; you, the observer, must make meaning.

The reason I’ve gone through great pains to express the above point is that many, these days, mistakenly believe it is possible to have objective morality within the naturalistic framework.  This belief, however, is entirely incompatible with the naturalistic worldview.  For there is nothing, objective, to ground values in under this framework–and this is something that Nietzsche understood all too well.  This is precisely why he speaks of the desire for power and the will to power–because this is, essentially, what life boils down to in a world without God and without objective  moral standards or purpose.  So, do not be confused by Nietzsche’s use of the terms “good” or “bad” and suppose that he is speaking of morality; on the contrary, what he is proposing is the complete antithesis of morality.  He is proposing that those who believe God to be dead embrace the implications of this belief and recognize what life truly is:  a cold, and fundamentally meaningless, struggle for power; the brutal battle for survival.

It is no wonder that Nietzsche viewed Christianity with such contempt; for Christianity stands in complete contrast to this view of reality.  It teaches that there is an overarching meaning and purpose to reality and that values are grounded in the source of existence Himself.  It asserts that man is made in the very image and likeness of the source of his existence and is, therefore, intrinsically valuable and important.  It further insists that, as creatures made in the image of their Creator, man is accountable to Him and obligated to care for all the things which He has made–even the lowly.  Hence, Psalm 41 implores us to, “consider the poor,” and Jesus says, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it for me” (Matt. 25:40).

As  you can see, the Christians attitude towards the “ill-constituted and weak” and his mindset that our existence is rooted in notions like love, service, and self-sacrifice, stands in total contrast to the naturalistic worldview which explains human existence in terms of a desire for and will to power.  Under the naturalistic view such care for the weak is truly absurd: for, “the weak and ill-constituted shall perish:  first principle of our philanthropy.  And one shall help them to do so.”  This is simply a brute fact about reality that one must accept, or else, continue to live in a delusional state and be subject to the control and power of those few human beings who do accept it.

Now, you must ask yourself, at this moment, what view of reality you are prepared to accept.  If you truly believe that “God is dead” and that the physical world is all there is then you must be willing to embrace Nietzsche’s assertions with all of your being–for this is the only honest position to take.  However, if Nietzsche makes you uncomfortable, if you sense that love must somehow enter the picture, that the acquisition of power is somehow shallow and ultimately meaningless, that there is intrinsic value to all human beings–and, in fact, in every organism–that somehow morality must be objective and grounded in something, and that somehow you were made for a purpose, then you must come to terms with the fact that God may not be as dead as you had originally thought.

Nietzsche and a Pastor


In the forward to his attack on Christianity, The Anti-Christ, Fredrick Nietzsche wrote the following:

“This book belongs to the very few.  Perhaps none of them is even living yet.  Possibly they are the readers who understand my Zarathustra: how could I confound myself with those for whom there are ears listening today? — Only the day after tomorrow belongs to me.  Some are born posthumously.

The conditions under which one understands me and then necessarily understands — I know them all too well.  One must be honest in intellectual matters to the point of harshness to so much as endure my seriousness, my passion.  One must be accustomed to living on mountains — to seeing the wretched ephemeral chatter of politics and national egoism beneath one.  One must have become indifferent, one must never ask whether truth is useful or fatality . . . . Strength which prefers questions for which no one today is sufficiently daring; courage for the forbidden; predestination for the labyrinth.  An experience out of seven solitudes.  New ears for new music.  New eyes for the most distant things.  A new conscience for truths which have hitherto remained dumb.  And the will to economy in the grand style:  to keeping one’s energy, one’s enthusiasm in bounds . . . . Reverence for oneself; love for oneself; unconditional freedom with respect to oneself . . .

Very well!  These alone are my readers, my rightful readers, my predestined readers:  what do the rest matter? — The rest are merely mankind. — One must be superior to mankind in force, in loftiness of soul — in contempt . . .”

In the coming months, I, a lowly pastor, will attempt to scale the lofty mountaintops of Nietzsche’s thought; to brave the questions, “for which no one today is sufficiently daring,” to find the courage to ponder that which is forbidden.  I invite you to walk with me as I wrestle with the philosophical ravings of the “Anti-Christ” — perhaps, we will discover that we, indeed, are his “rightful” readers; or, perhaps, we will discover something altogether unexpected: a way out of the labyrinth . . .

Click here to read part two.