Modern Pensées

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Posts Tagged ‘Michel Foucault

Why Nietzsche is Helpful for the Christian

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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.”

Your thoughts?

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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 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)

The 25 Most Destructive Books Ever Written…

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Darwin: Origin of Species

…and why you should read them (or at least be familiar with them).

These are books that have had a deleterious affect on humanity (almost exclusively Western in their thinking).  Some of them had “good intentions”* but fell flat on their face with horrible unintended consequences.  The Christian has the responsibility to defend the truth of the Gospel.  One part of defending the truth is refuting all untruth.  We need to be reading primary sources of the things we are seeking to deconstruct – not summaries, the wikipedia article, or a blog post about it.

*1.  The Origin of Species: By Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life by Charles Darwin
I do not think Darwin would agree with half of Neo-Darwinianism or macroevolution.  He makes massive concessions that geology and microbiology would need to corroborate his thesis.  He was a good scientist who followed the evidence, I think he would be in the intelligent design camp (perhaps this is a controversial statement, but read Origin for yourself).  I have listed this as #1 as this work was critical in pretty much all of the destructive thoughts of the past 150 years:  Eugenics, Scientific Naturalism, Nietzschean atheism, New Atheism, Liberal Protestantism, and Communism.

2.  Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant

This book is probably the most influential book in philosophy since the ancient Greeks.  Kant seeks to synthesize the great debate of the history of philosophy:  Being vs. Becoming aka Plato vs. Aristotle.  In the process, Kant comes to the conclusion that our minds cannot have knowledge of things that are not physical – ie. God and many other absolute truths.  In defense of Kant, his thinking did begin to change in his third work as he makes some wiggle room for faith as being a legitimate pathway for knowledge (but almost no one reads his third volume).

3.  The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels

20,000,000 dead under Stalin, 6-8,000,000 dead under Lenin, 40,000,000 dead under Mao Zedong, 1,700,000 dead under Pol Pot… case and point.

4.  On Religion: Speeches to Its Cultured Despisers by Friedrich Schleiermacher

This guy birthed liberal Protestantism.  His ideas split Protestantism and millions think they know Jesus when they don’t.

5.  Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche

Nietzsche decries how humanity has killed God through our apathy.  He then espouses why humanity needs to move beyond God, morality, truth, and the good, in favor of embracing exerting power and control over the weak.

*6.  Meditations on First Philosophy by Rene Descartes

Descartes had every intention of proving through pure axiomatic reasoning that God existed.  In short, his arguments for God’s existence were awful and his arguments for doubting everything were excellent.  His legacy is solid argumentation for skepticism.  Epic Fail.

7.  Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler

11-17,000,000 dead.  Hitler sees Judaism, capitalism, and communism as the three major threats to Germany.  The Final Solution means purging all associated with these things and the result is the Holocaust.  Awful.

8.  Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity by Richard Rorty

In my view, this is the most important book to be read today for the Christian.  For an explanation why, read my previous blog post on post-modern-pragmatism.

9.  The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli

In order to be successful in life you must exercise control through power and manipulation.  Morality hurts your ability to exert your will.

10.  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.

11.  Discourse on the Origin of Inequality Among Men by Jean Jacques Rousseau

Society is corrupt, man is good.

12.  The Pivot of Civilization by Margaret Sanger

Sanger promoted sexual liberation and then birth control, abortion, and eugenics.  39,000,000+ babies dead worldwide… this year from abortion.

13.  Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes

Humans are immoral, therefore only Leviathan is the solution… Leviathan is a strong and aggressive central government.

14.  The Essence of Christianity by Ludwig von Feuerbach

Christianity is superstition that will soon be replaced by humanism.

15.  The Future of an Illusion by Sigmund Freud

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

16.  Various Writings by Pelagius

Denial of the doctrine of original sin, denial of efficacious grace, and the denial of the sovereignty of God.  1600 years later his teachings still plague the church.

17.  Sexual Behavior in the Human Male by Alfred Kinsey

This was just painful to read (and I was unable to finish) and I am not endorsing actually getting a copy (hence no link).  Kinsey basically says that no sexual behavior or orientation is immoral.  All is permissible.

18.  The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels

Some bit of gnosticism had to make this list.  I wrestled with what to choose here.  Pagels is your run of the mill critic who says that the gnostic “gospels” are the real story and history.  These ideas are ridiculous due to their pseudepigraphic nature, date of writing, and mutually exclusive theologies.

19.  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.

20.  Why I am Not a Christian by Bertrand Russell

Russell is one of the few atheists other than Nietzsche that I respect.  His thoughts are well ordered and argued.  The New Atheists (Dawkins, Hitchens…) wish they could hold a candle to Russell.

21.  Process and Reality by A.N. Whitehead

Whitehead argues for Process Theology.  Read about Process Theology here.

22.  The Council of Trent

Justification by faith alone is anathematized.  Veneration of Mary and saints upheld.  Transubstantiation upheld.  I love my brothers and sisters who are Christians in the Catholic church despite the Catholic church.  Trent had the opportunity to listen to the Reformation and return to God’s Word for truth.  It did not and left in its wake countless eternal casualties.

23.  His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman

Pullman sought to write the opposite of Milton’s Paradise Lost.  He seeks to commend humanism and ultimately atheism as the commendable life path.  His Dark Materials is aimed at young adults and has been recently popularized by the Golden Compass film.

24.  Protagoras by Plato

For clarity sake, these are sayings ascribed to Protagoras and not Platonic thoughts.  The famous quote is “Man is the measure of all things.”  Protagoras is the first person to espouse a kind of moral relativism.

25.  Coming of Age in Samoa by Margaret Mead

The logical consequences of naturalism and Darwinianism applied to anthropology and sociology.  What is primitive is good, therefore the sexual inhibition she evidenced in primitive Samoa ought to be writ large.

Some thinkers who nearly made this list:

Leon Trotsky, Mao Zedong, Jean-Paul Sartre, Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Victor Gollancz, Lillian Hellman, Cyril Connolly, Norman Mailer, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Bertolt Brecht, Johann Fichte, Georg Hegel, Arthur Schopenhauer, John Dewey, Joseph Smith, Percy Shelley, Henrik Ibsen, Edmund Wilson, James Baldwin, Kenneth Tynan, Jean-François Lyotard, Claude Levi-Strauss and Noam Chomsky.

What did I miss?

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