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Nietzsche vs. Christianity: Part 5

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Lecture five consisted of a series of talking points.  Aside from Alvin Plantinga’s evolutionary argument against naturalism… this lecture explores what Christianity and Nietzsche have in common.  The content suggests that Nietzsche’s Dionysian thinking is not entirely incompatible with Christianity.  It is my contention that C.S. Lewis, Jonathan Edwards, and John Piper have carved out common ground between Christianity and Nietzschean Dionysianism.

Audio of the lecture if available here.

Nietzsche vs. Christianity, Part 4

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer

This lecture focuses on Christianity’s response to Nietzsche and the problem of Foucault.

Audio is available here.

I.  Recapping Nietzsche’s objections to Christianity:

A.  Intellectually impossible

B.  It demeans humanity

C.  Its morality is fatal to life

II.  In Christianity’s Place are Nietzsche’s Affirmations:

  1. Be a free-spirit
  2. Be curious
  3. Be nomadic

III.  Christian Responses

Abraham Kuyper

Dostoevsky – Brothers Karamazov

Blaise Pascal – Pensees

Karl Barth

Francis Schaeffer – true/livable

St. Augustine

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

IV.  The Problem of Foucault

V.  Talking Points

A.  Is the Nietzschean worldview true?

B.  Is the Nietzschean worldview livable?

C.  Does Foucault present a problem for Nietzsche’s worldview?

D.  Does Nietzsche really understand Christianity?

Nietzsche vs. Christianity: Part 3

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Lecture 3 focused on four things:  1.  The intellectual backdrop to Nietzsche  2.  Nietzsche’s 3 main objections to Christianity  3.  Nietzsche’s positive affirmations in place of Christianity  4.  The Nietzschean Catechism.  Audio is available here.

I.  Intellectual Backdrop

19th century Western (Continental) Europe was unkind to Christianity.  Some of the major works floating around were:

The Origin of Species: By Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life by Charles Darwin

Replaces need for God in cosmology

The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels

Inherently atheistic

On Religion: Speeches to Its Cultured Despisers by Friedrich Schleiermacher

Book basically splits Protestantism in two

Origins of the History of Christianity by Ernest Renan

The New Testament is essentially myth.  This revisionist history was seminal in classic liberalism and influential in the later Jesus Seminar.

The Essence of Christianity by Ludwig von Feuerbach

Christianity is superstition that will soon be replaced by humanism

The Future of an Illusion by Sigmund Freud

Humanity has invented God and this delusion is a kind of mental illness.

Prolegomena to the History of Israel by Julius Wellhausen

Wellhausen espouses that the first five books of the Old Testament were not written by Moses but by editors from four schools of thought.  A flood of Bible criticism followed Wellhausen.  Tubingen.

History of Materialism and Critique of its Present Importance by Friedrich Lange

Atomistic Materialism and Darwinism.


1.  Intellectually impossible (this is assumed a priori without argumentation)

2.  It demeans humanity (herd mentality, Dionysianism…)

3.  Its morality is fatal to life (slave morality, Dionysianism…)

Nietzsche is more concerned with assessing the damage that Christianity has done rather than tearing it apart limb from limb.  Nature was determinant and all metaphysics are to be rejected.

III.  Nietzsche’s Positive Affirmations

1.  Be a free-spirit

2.  Be curious

3.  Be nomadic (as well as will to power, master morality…)

IV.  The Nietzschean Catechsim

Nietzsche ends book 3 of The Gay Science with 8 hypothetical questions and answers (see page 142):

1.  What makes one heroic?

To approach at the same time one’s highest suffering and one’s highest hope

2.  What do you believe in?

In this, that the weights of all things must be determined anew.

3.  What does your conscience say?

You should become who you are.

4.   Where lie your greatest dangers?

In compassion

5.  What do you love in others?

My hopes

6.  Whom do you call bad?

He who always wants to put people to shame

7.  What is most human to you?

To spare someone shame

8.  What is the seal of having become free?

No longer to be ashamed before oneself.

Nietzsche vs. Christianity: Part 1

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Here is the AUDIO for the first lecture.

I was struck by a few things in doing my research on the life, thought, and influence of Nietzsche.  First, I am struck at how dark, bleak, and sick was Nietzsche’s early world.  Second, I was struck by the damning affects of the poison that flowed from the Tubingen School, particularly in the thought of Strauss, Feuerbach, and Schopenhauer (Tubingen was the school that started all of the criticism of the Bible that eventually led to the splitting of Protestantism into its conservative and liberal branches).  Third, I am struck by how different Nietzsche’s thought changed over time and how he moves beyond all of his influences.  Fourth, I am struck by both the radicalness and the consistency of Nietzsche’s atheism, he is the one atheist who says that morality is contingent on the existence of God.  Fifth, I am struck that Nietzsche is really a kind of Greek thinker in the vein of Dionysus and that the goal of his whole philosophy is life affirmation.  Sixth, I am struck by how much I agree with Nietzsche both in what bothers him and what he affirms.  Finally, I couldn’t agree more with David Hart when he says, “The only really effective antidote to the dreariness of reading the New Atheists, it seems to me, is rereading Nietzsche.”

Below is the outline and audio from the first lecture:

I.  Biography and Psychology

A.  Death

B.  Boarding School at Pforta

C.  Chronic Illness

D.  Bonn/Leipzig

E.  University of Basel

F.  Franco-Prussian War Medical Orderly

II.  Intellectual Influences

A.  David Frederick StraussDas Leben Jesu

B.  Ludwig von FeuerbachThe Essence of Christianity

C.  Friedrich LangeHistory of Materialism and Critique of its Present Importance (Geschichte des Materialismus)

D.  Dionysus

E.  Arthur Schopenhauer

F.  Richard Wagner

III.  Nietzsche’s Thought

A.  “The Death of God”

B.  Nihilism

C.  Master and Slave Morality

D.  Übermensch

E.  Will to Power (der Wille zur Macht)

F.  Eternal Recurrence (ewige Wiederkunft)

IV.  Nietzsche’s Influence

A.  William Butler Yeats

B.  Martin Heidegger

C.  Albert Camus

D.  Michel Foucault

E.  Jacques Derrida

F.  Martin Buber

G.  Adolf Hitler (sort of)

Nietzsche vs. Christianity: Introduction

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Earlier this spring, I taught a course with the Encore program at NC State University entitled Nietzsche vs. Christianity.  In case any of you who were in the course (or who weren’t) wanted the audio or lecture outlines…  I will post those here.

The outline of the course is as follows:

I.  Nietzschean Thought

II.  Christian Thought

III.  Nietzsche’s Objections to Christianity

IV.  Christianities’ Response to Nietzschean Objections

V.  A Potential Synthesis… and Talking Points

VI.  Collision DVD

Written by Michael Graham

April 12, 2010 at 2:09 pm

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