To Murder God is to Murder Society as We Know It


A few years ago The Daily Mail ran an op-ed concerning how the world is better off without autistic children and people with disabilities. The reasoning isn’t because such people lower the utility of a society or dilute the gene pool – both of which are horrendous arguments to begin with – but rather because they just make life tough on the parents and caretakers. And that’s the entirety of the reasoning right there; “They hurt me, so I should kill them.” The focus is on the individual and value simply isn’t extended beyond the individual.

Of course, with modern arguments for infanticide, it’s no stretch to believe that toddlers who are discovered to have autism or some other handicap could easily be murdered. What if a child is born healthy, but due to an accident or disease, is left crippled? Well, then the child becomes a burden on the parents, so we should kill him. The child can’t walk? Kill him. Your 17 year old son is in a car accident and placed in a coma? You should kill him, because there’s no promise that he’ll come out of it functioning normally. After all, why should you suffer through the burden of helping someone else?

Sadly, Hitler was far nobler than these people. Hitler’s argument wasn’t about the individual, but rather for society; in order to better society, Hitler argued that those who were disabled and undesirable simply had to be killed. As sick as Hitler was in what he did, at least his goal was better than what we are arguing for now! And that’s not to defend Hitler; what he did was disgusting and we rightfully revile him for it. Rather, I’m saying the people who argue for killing the disabled simply because the disabled are an “inconvenience” are worse than Hitler, they’re more evil than him, they are more twisted than he is.

That’s not an emotional outburst either, it’s objectively true. Hitler killed the disabled and sterilized them, things that we rightfully condemn today. Yet, here we have people making the exact same case, only for a much darker purpose; rather than trying to help society, they just care about themselves and say you should too.

The Western-World is becoming more and more “post-Christian,” which is really nothing more than the world was when it was “pre-Christian;” a place where tyranny reigned freely and the oppressed had no hope beyond death. The ancient Spartans had no qualms about killing infants they deemed unworthy. The Romans thought nothing of leaving children in the wilderness to die if the child was viewed as potentially weak. They also had no problem killing slaves or those deemed as inhuman.

While many in the Western-World continue to dance on God’s grave, the one that Nietzsche made, they blissfully ignorant of Nietzsche’s proclamation. “God is dead” they say with glee, yet they forget what comes with that. Nietzsche writes in the parable of the madman (found in The Gay Science):

“Whither is God” he [the madman] cried. “I shall tell you. We have killed him – you and I. All of us are his murderers. But how have we done this? How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What did we do when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now?Whither are we moving now? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there any up or down left? Are we not straying as though an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night and more night coming on all the while? Must not lanterns be lit in the morning? Do we not hear anything yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we not smell anything yet of God’s decomposition? Gods too decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we, the murderers of all murderers, comfort ourselves? What was holiest and most powerful of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives. Who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must not we ourselves become gods simply to seem worthy of it? There has never been a greater deed; and whoever will be born after us – for the sake of this deed he will be part of a higher history than all history hitherto.” (from Walter Kaufmann’s translation)

Nietzsche points out that if we are truly going to kill God, we must live with the fact that we cannot act as though He is alive. Thus, the idea of humans having rights, having innate value, of not killing someone just because they annoy us, and the like have absolutely no meaning in light of God’s death. Nietzsche saw this and any atheist who is honest with himself recognizes this as well. It’s not that atheism lacks an ethos (it can develop one quite well enough), but simply that it cannot piggy-back on Christian morality.

So we approach this issue of murdering children because they become a burden to us. We look at the original article and the reasoning given is, “Autistic children are difficult to deal with, so why let them live?” The same question could be asked of any two-year-old. A child draws on the wall and keeps doing so, after not being told. To the gas chamber with her! But we find this deplorable, but why? If God’s funeral is over and spoken of how natural He looked in repose, we must fling ourselves away from this Christian morality. In doing so, we end up with the arguments from egoism, stating that I should look out for myself first. We end up with arbitrary lines on what is and isn’t human.

Within Christianity, however, all humans are equal for all humans are made in the image of God. The more I must sacrifice for a child, the more I must show I love him. Why do I sacrifice? Because in Christianity, to show love one must sacrifice. The less likely someone is to pay me back for my kind deed, the more sacrifice I have made; the less likely I am to be repaid, the more I have loved.

Thus, in comparison we have the world sans God and the world with God. Post-God’s dead, we have no way to really give value to humans beyond, “We give value to humans.” Humans become nothing more than currency; a piece of cloth with a dead president on it only means something because we say it means something. If we drop $1 million in $100 bills to a culture who knows nothing about the US, the paper will be kindle for a fire. It has no value. In a world without God, man becomes the currency. We only have value because we say we have value and should a majority of us determine that this type of man has no value, then we can rob him of value. In the world with God, however, man has value because he is made in the image of God. To kill him is to commit a crime against God.

Thus, one must realize that to say “God is dead” (that is, God doesn’t exist) is to reject the Judeo-Christian ethic. One simply can’t embrace it because one has rejected its foundation. How absurd to request a mushroom sauce, but demand the cook remove the mushrooms because you find them so distasteful. How absurd to request a Christian ethic, but demand the ethicist remove God because you find Him so distasteful. Therefore, if you be bold enough, abandon Judeo-Christian morality if you’re going to abandon God. However, if you find that you cannot live in such a world, then from an existential perspective, perhaps you should begin to realize that God is very much alive, regardless of your objections.

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.

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.

How to Neuter Nietzsche or, Why it is Better to Sit at the Feet of Christ than Zarathustra, to Learn from the Son of Man Rather than the Overman


Dr. Sean Kelly, who holds a chair at Harvard’s philosophy department, recently wrote about Nietzsche’s nihilism and how such a nihilism opens up the culture for other narratives. He reflects on Nietzsche’s proclamation that “God is dead” and how this actually referred to a culture without meaning; that such a culture actually paves the way for other narratives. After all, if humans are judged outside of God, we can be quite a bit more inclusive in our society.

Unfortunately for Dr. Kelly – and I say this hoping it’s not too presumptuous – he needs to re-read Nietzsche. I would say, “Who am I to question a professor of philosophy at Harvard University,” but such a question would go against everything Nietzsche stood for. For one’s degree does not matter to Zarathustra, merely if one is a free spirit, an emerging man, a Übermensch. Thus, the degree doesn’t count as much as the knowledge. With this knowledge, I set out to challenge Kelly’s understanding of Nietzsche.

Did Nietzsche truly pave the way for a society of multiple orders and values? The answer, quite simply, is no. Note what Kelly says here concerning the implications for the “death of God” in modern society:

Whatever role religion plays in our society today, it is not this [a central, fundamental role] one.  For today’s religious believers feel strong social pressure to admit that someone who doesn’t share their religious belief might nevertheless be living a life worthy of their admiration.  That is not to say that every religious believer accepts this constraint.  But to the extent that they do not, then society now rightly condemns them as dangerous religious fanatics rather than sanctioning them as scions of the Church or mosque.  God is dead, therefore, in a very particular sense.  He no longer plays his traditional social role of organizing us around a commitment to a single right way to live.  Nihilism is one state a culture may reach when it no longer has a unique and agreed upon social ground.

The idea that Nihilism somehow paves the way for a heterogenic society that succeeds is absurd. Rather, as John Caputo correctly notes, Nietzsche bought into a type of heteromorphism, whereas what Kelly is supporting (or so it seems) is far more heteronomic. The two words refer to two different types of nihilism (if nihilism can be a type, if nihilism can be split). Both acknowledge that nothing in the world matters, that 4.5 billion years from now when the world comes to an end, the cosmos won’t care two bits about what you did, that the stars we gaze at now do not gaze back at us, because we do not matter to them. But where they differ is that heteromorphism, “…is unresponsive, unmoved by the call of the other (alter), the response to which it says is essentially reactive. (pg. 67)” Nietzsche wanted to avoid being reactive to another because to be reactive would force one to be a slave to the other, which ruins the idea of the Übermensch. How can I be a free spirit if I am constantly obliged to the other? Continue reading

An Empty Generation


At what point did Americans begin to classify who they are by the stuff they have rather than their essential identity? The idea that, “I could be somebody if I did this or had that” is really a shallow way of looking at life. With my degree in philosophy I’m asked all the time, “Yeah, but what can you do with it?” Of course, being sarcastic my reply is usually something to the effect of, “Anything I want” or “Your job, only better.” After all, a business degree teaches you terminology and what to think while philosophy teaches you how to think. Regardless, a philosophy degree teaches you about the world, how it functions, what moves it, and so on.

But when people ask, “What can you do with that degree,” they essentially mean, “How can that degree get you stuff?” My degree is only as valuable as the paycheck it will bring me. No mother is aghast when her child decides to be a doctor or a lawyer because those vocations create capital. But if that child decides to be an artist or an English major, there is immediate panic; not because these are useless vocations, but because the mother has been trained (via industrial Capitalism) to evaluate degrees based upon the amount of money they produce.

What, exactly, has this produced in our society? There are less artists (or at least people who can legitimately be called artists), less thinkers, and less culture. When we look to a culture, especially the great cultures of history, their thinkers, artists, musicians, literary writers, and even their historians define them. Rarely do we think of a culture as great because of their litigious nature or how much stuff the people had. In fact, a Roman who had a lot of “stuff” means nothing to us; we have better “stuff” now. But a Roman who was educated in philosophy is immortal.

We live in a shallow culture, one that was created by and is now perpetuated by pragmatic Capitalism. In order to make money, companies had to convince people that without the company product, individual lives simply weren’t fulfilling. “Your life isn’t complete until you drive our newest car.” “With our dress you can stick out in a crowd.” “If you drink our brand then people will be drawn to you.” It all plays off narcissism and, in many ways, increases our tendency towards self-centeredness.

In all of this we have adopted an individualistic hive mentality. The use of the contradiction is intentional as we live contradictory lives; we think we’re individuals and we want to stick out in a crowd, but we buy into the hive mentality that x is popular and therefore we’ll wear x in order to “stick out.” At the end of the day, we look like everyone else and have nothing to show for it. Continue reading

Nihilism and the Bible – The Vanity of Knowledge


Solomon ends chapter 1 of Ecclesiastes by writing:

I the Preacher have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. And I applied my heart to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven. It is an unhappy business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind. What is crooked cannot be made straight,
and what is lacking cannot be counted.

I said in my heart, “I have acquired great wisdom, surpassing all who were over Jerusalem before me, and my heart has had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.” And I applied my heart to know wisdom and to knowmadness and folly. I perceived that this also is but a striving after wind.
For in much wisdom is much vexation,and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.

This passage might be more difficult for someone like me to accept, that even striving after knowledge is vanity. But why does Solomon say this? It seems that the Bible goes against thousands of years of philosophical knowledge. In fact, the irony is 600 years after Solomon, the Greek philosopher Socrates would teach that the pursuit of knowledge is good in and of itself.

In the modern age we love to use the phrase, “Knowledge is Power.” We encourage students to learn all that they can, but what use is it? All that we know goes with us to the grave. Even if we write it down, we suffer the same fate as those who engage in the pursuit of fame; the pursuit of knowledge, while more practical and a higher pursuit than fame, still has the same conclusion in nothingness.

What good is our knowledge if it is only temporary? What good is our knowledge if it only tells us how bad the world is and how vain the world is – as it did with Solomon – but tells us nothing of a solution? How wise is Nietzsche, who recognized the vanity of life, but who’s solution in the Overman was that of a madman? How wise are the postmodern skeptics who question this world, but then offer untenable solutions that further perpetuate the despair they sought to avoid? What good is knowledge when it cannot free us from despair?

Only knowledge founded in the pursuit of God is knowledge worth having. This does not mean we should only study theology, but merely in everything we learn it should, in some way, point back to God. When it is founded in God, it is eternal and therefore good. If it is not found in God, then it is temporal and therefore worthless.

A Nietzschean Parable of sorts


A long time ago in an ancient kingdom, the young peasant decided one day to go throw rocks at the king’s castle.

As the young peasant was walking along the street with an angry look on his face, an old fellow with a big bushy mustache and a thick German accent came up to the young lad with an inquisitive look upon his face.

“And where might you be going?” asked the old man.

“I am heading to the castle to throw rocks at the king’s windows.”

“And why might you want to do that?”

“What concern of yours is it old man?” the young peasant replied.

“Ah, have you not heard of me? I am the greatest spectacle this town has ever seen. My name is Zarathustra. Many find me crazy. Many others hate me. But I hold out hope that one day someone will grasp my teachings. Until then, it is my curse to be mocked – ever since I came down the mountain to enlighten this…this…herd I have had nothing but mockery!” Zarathustra let out a frustrated laugh that made the young peasant think that this man was truly mad. “Now, let us walk to the castle to throw stones at the windows and along the way tell me why you have such a desire.”

As they walked along the path, the young peasant opened up to Zarathustra and began to tell him why he desired to throw rocks at the king’s castle. The peasant said it all began when his farm was burned to the ground five years ago. He had just inherited it from his father and was beginning to make a profit on the land when raiders from the underworld burned his crop to the ground. The king did not send an army for vengeance; in fact, the peasant theorized there was no army at all. This had happened to other farmers as well – so if there was an army, why weren’t they fighting?

The second incident that raised the ire of the young peasant was that the local town – which was supposedly under the sovereignty of the king – was left lawless. People were left to fend for themselves or to form police forces. This, however, did not stop the constant fighting, brawling, rapes, and even murders. It seemed that if the king were sovereign over such a town, certainly he would intervene to stop such lawlessness.

The third and final incident was when the young peasant passed a group of starving orphans. These children had not eaten for days, but the king’s generosity was no where to be found. The young peasant decided that the king must be responsible for these evils.

Continue reading