Sunday Meditations & Devotions: Friedrich Nietzsche

“The Madman. Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market place, and cried incessantly, “I seek God!” As man of those who did not believe in God were standing around just then he provoked much laugher… The madman jumpted into their midst and pierced them with his eyes. “Whither is God?” he cried. “I shall tell you. We have killed him-you and I.”

This isn’t the first time the “God is dead” statement has been used but, it is usually attributed to Nietzsche (1844 – 1900). Moreover this is the text that some scholars use as evidence of Nietzsche’s atheism. There is no doubt that Nietzsche offered his criticisms of Christianity but it would be overly simplifed to attribute this passage as a critique of Christianity. Nietzsche was a complex person who has much more to say in this statement than to simply announce his own distaste for Christianity  (incidently this isn’t to say Nietzsche wasn’t an atheist, or then again maybe he wasn’t). In his work on Nietzsche Walter Kaufmann has this to say:

“Nietzsche prophetically envisages himself as a madman: to have lost God means madness; and when mankind will discover that it has lost God, universal madness will break out. This apocalyptic sense of dreadful things to come hangs over Nietzsche’s thinking like a thundercloud. We have destroyed our own faith in God. There remains only the void. We are falling. Our dignity is gone. Our values are lost. Who is to say what is up and what is down?”

Most people that I’ve talked to who have rejected God wouldn’t agree that they are in a “void”. But, when man becomes the measure of all things he can’t escape the subjective arbitrary nature of his own judgements which at some point is alot like living in a void. I think that is what the apostle Paul is getting at when he asks the questions somewhat rhetorically “Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” Something to think about.





3 thoughts on “Sunday Meditations & Devotions: Friedrich Nietzsche

  1. Yes the “death of God” has had several understandings. I haven’t studied Nietzsche closely enough to speak authoritatively on it. Walter Kaufmann seems to be a pretty good Nietzsche scholar and I have been able to pick a little more insight from his book Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist. If you’re interested in Nietzsche this is a good read. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me.

  2. It just came to mind that a local professor here in So Cal wrote the Cambridge Companion to Nietzsche which I have heard is one of the best books on Nietzschian philosophy. I don’t remember his first name I just know him as Dr. Magnus.

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