So, I’ve been chewing on some Nietzsche for the better part of the last 8 months (I mentioned a few things I was struck by here) . I think Nietzsche is very helpful for Christians and is worth reading/understanding. There are at least four reasons why this is the case:
First, Nietzsche is helpful because he presents a worldview almost completely antithetical to Christianity. From my experience, total opposites often have a lot in common and typically this is the case because opposites employ the same categories to divergent conclusions. Nietzsche takes many of orthodox Christianities’ categories and turns them on their head. He preaches the opposite of the Sermon on the Mount, encouraging master morality over slave morality. He preaches that humanity has killed God through our lack of worship of God and as a result there is no such thing as good/evil, right/wrong, or black/white because all of these depended on God for their existence. He preaches that all that humanity has is power through the assertion of one’s will.
Second, Nietzsche and Christianity have a few common assessments and aims (The Fall, Telos, and Pleasure). In my opinion, there is definitely a sense of the brokenness of things in Nietzsche’s philosophy. While not coming from a theistic framework, he sees that humanity needs to rise above its current pitiful state to something higher. While he might not refer to the ubermensch as redeemer of humanity, it is certainly Nietzsche’s telos for humanity. Nietzsche and the Christian see very eye-to-eye when it comes to a promotion of life-affirmation (given, from very different angles). Some may accuse Christianity of being prudish or oppressive but they haven’t read C.S. Lewis on joy, Jonathan Edwards on affection, or John Piper on Christian hedonism. Both Nietzsche, Lewis, Edwards, and Piper all put forth a very life-affirming, full-bodied, joy-filled, and pleasure-seeking vision of life.
Third, Nietzsche is correct in his assessment that the death of God necessitates nihilism (a rejection of all morality). For Nietzsche a large portion of his philosophy was devoted to the reevaluation of everything in light of the death of God (particularly morality). Unlike the New Atheists who want to have their cake and eat it too (atheism with some semblance of morality), Nietzsche obliterates this notion. Nietzsche rejects all transcendence in light of the death of God, for if God is the only transcendent thing/being in existence, then the death of God also destroys anything transcendent. The only meta-narrative (for Nietzsche) left is the assertion of power and pleasure in the face of the harsh world.
Fourth, Nietzsche’s worldview is horribly unlivable. The unlivability of the Nietzschean worldview is probably the greatest critique of his thinking. I won’t even delve into the fact that Nietzsche spent the last decade of his life severely mentally ill and institutionalized (as this has been abused by Nietzsche’s critics). It is no great secret that Nietzsche’s most faithful disciple was Michel Foucault. Foucault was an influential post-structuralist and post-modern thinker who sought to live Nietzsche’s worldview to its logical end. Power and pleasure were at the center for Foucault and Nietzsche and as such Foucault delved deep into the world of homosexual sadomasochism. It was not uncommon for Foucault to have 6-12 such encounters in a single night (facilitated by the bath-houses of 70s era Southern California). He was quite open and would brag about his sexual power and prowess. He was one of the first public figures to die of AIDS. He wanted to die in his native Paris and upon his triumphal entry to his city, 2 million people lined either side of the Champs-Élysées. Those celebrating his return carried posters with Foucault’s motto, “Be Cruel.”