Ben Myers over at Faith and Theology has been conducting a series of guests posts called For the love of God: why I love... in which a variety of his friends and enemies have been sharing autobiographically about formative theological influences: theologians who float one's boat. Ben very kindly invited me to post on Augustine, since I'm working on a project on his eschatology and politics (at least in theory: the lack of work indicated by lack of posts on the wonderful bishop of Hippo). Said lack of progress prompted me to reach back a little to an earlier theological influence: Friedrich Nietzsche, aka 'The Antichrist'. Here is my attenpt...
‘Is not every unbeliever who has a reason for his atheism and his decision not to believe a theologian too? Atheists who have something against God and against faith in God usually know very well whom and what they are rejecting, and have their reasons. Nietzsche’s book The Antichrist has a lot to teach us about true Christianity.’
-Jürgen Moltmann, Godless Theology.
My early years as a Christian were spent in a fairly dualistic Christian culture. Creation and redemption were frequently opposed: salvation meant redemption from the world, from worldliness, from distractions and secondary things. Explicitly and implicitly I received the message that anything not a gospel-matter didn’t matter.
Friedrich Nietzsche awoke me from my Platonic slumber. I began with Beyond Good and Evil: ‘Christianity is Platonism for “the people”’. Nietzsche’s humorous, vigorous, irreverent and megalomanic take on Western culture and thought helped me to see the world-denying resentment behind much that passed for Christian thought. Reading Zarathustra and the Bible, I rediscovered a world-affirming faith. Not a naïve optimism, nor Nietzsche’s heroic Übermensch, but a realisation that the author of salvation is none other than the creator who declared everything ‘good, very good’. The God who raises the dead brings not redemption from the world, but the redemption of the world.
Nietzsche seeks to vanquish the shadows of god that linger on in Western culture after it has rejected Christianity. The god he banishes is one to whom I’d also like to bid good-riddance. Nieztsche, a self-styled anti-Christ(ian), does Christians a great service through his iconoclasm. Although usually pegged as a philosopher (he briefly held a university position as a philologist), he is also able to ‘theologize with a hammer’, sounding out the hollow idols and ideals of the Western tradition. This task is integral to any Christian theology worthy of the name.
‘I beseech you my brothers, remain faithful to the earth, and do not believe those who speak to you of otherworldly hopes! Poison-mixers are they, whether they know it or not. Despisers of life are they, decaying and poisoned themselves, of whom the earth is weary: so let them go.’
- Nieztsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Prologue, §3.Image in public domain.