Lessons from the life of Friedrich Nietzsche (Yes, the "God is Dead" Guy)
I have been scolding myself lately. A lot. Scolding myself for valuing too highly things that don’t matter. For putting temporal nonsense on the same plane as those things that are of eternal value. For pouring too much of my time into stuff that doesn’t make a difference and too little on stuff that does. For being ignorant of God’s word, when I should have grasped his truth years ago. But most of all I’ve been scolding myself for not working hard enough; for finding excuses for not working hard enough; for engaging in an extravagant self-justification of my own laziness, lack of planning, stupid decisions, and lack of diligence. This blog is not necessarily for any of you as much as it is letting you in on the conversations I have with myself. Yes, it’s true, I talk to myself. (Is that bad?)
I admire Friedrich Nietzsche: not for his intellect; which was prodigious; not for his theology, which was indescribably bad; not for his philosophy, consistent though it was, it was naturalistic hogwash; not for his piety, although it was known to be great; but for his persistent commitment to work hard. I’ll get back to Nietzsche in a moment.
Many of us are ignorant critics of what is going on in the church and the world. (Maybe I should say it this way – ‘Many of us are ignorant. Critics.’) We are willing to criticize things, though most of us do so in ignorance of the viewpoint or practice we are criticizing. In fact, most of us criticize not really knowing what we should believe, we just ‘know’ we shouldn’t believe that other thing. Or worse we think we know, when in fact we don’t and then we criticize. In fact, this does not simply make us ignorant critics, it makes us ineffective evangelists and disciple-makers. Let me give a few examples. We may criticize the Emergent church - but have we taken the time to understand what they are saying before we do? We may criticize charismatic groups - but have we taken the time to understand them and the Bible on these issues? We may criticize crazy end-times preachers - but have we taken the time to understand Scripture on these matters? We may criticize secular viewpoints on evolution and the like - but have we spent time delving into this kind of worldview so as to figure out what they are saying and why?; do we know what Scripture actually says about the origins of the universe? Far too often we as Christians lob our Christian opinion grenades from great distances at thoughts, practices, and values that we deem to be non-Christian or less-than-ideal-Christian. We keep our heads down while lobbing our grenades at the enemy, yet we never really know who they are, where they are, or what kind of threat they are. We just lob away hoping we hit something eventually. It is this kind of attitude and action that causes Christians to be ineffective in discipleship, evangelism, and, quite frankly, they make us a laughing stock for non-Christians. A lot of this, I think, is because we are lazy. We need to critique our culture and the church, but we must do so in the right way. Ignorant, unaware, lazy Christians have no place saying anything against either culture or church.
Back to Nietzsche. Douglas Groothuis, in his book Truth Decay, writes about the great dangers of Nietzsche and his legacy. He even affirms an appraisal of Nietzsche that refers to him as “a devil’s hack.” But as he brings his discussion of his philosophy to a close he quotes a section from a Bernard Ramm book whose title you need not know. It’s a quote to which I return often when I need a kick in the backside. Ramm writes – “What is the devil’s due that Evangelicals can glean from Nietzsche? It is the willingness to be driven like Nietzsche. It is the willingness to spare no pains in the search for truth. It is the willingness...to work into the late hours of the night, or to start in the earliest hours of the day; to pick up a new project as soon as we have finished an older one; to grow weary and exhausted in our quest for truth; to have...our eyes watery from too much reading, and our bodies bent over from long, weary hours at the study desk. No evangelical whose reading habits are a disgrace to the seriousness of Christian ministry, or who spends more time before a television set than he does in serious reading in his study has the right to damn Nietzsche from the pulpit to some gruesome place in the Inferno.”
Ouch. . . true, but ouch. But there is more. It is the conclusion that Groothuis draws from Ramm that is even more painful. He writes, “... if this brilliant but deceived man could expend so much cognitive energy without God’s direction and power, what is possible – and necessary – for those who believe the truth of the gospel?” Ouch again.
Faithfulness, faithfulness is what I long for Faithfulness is what I need Faithfulness, faithfulness is what You want from me (So) Take my heart and form it Take my mind, transform it Take my will, conform it To Yours, to Yours, Oh Lord
Soli Deo Gloria