I've read, in the mainstream press, suggestions that Christians have a lot to learn from Nietzsche.

Is there any reason to think that his corpus is dedicated to improving, rather than destroying, Christian thought?

Or is his use by a Christian, by definition, problematically selective.

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    I do not understand how Nietzsche's philosophy is nihilistic in the first place. – Philip Klöcking Mar 27 '16 at 20:20
  • nietzsche says has left the whole of nihilism behind but also calls himself the "perfect nihilist". he creates values only because all of them are bunk, and in this respect the act of doing so is nihilistic. – user6917 Mar 28 '16 at 20:32
  • hey it annoys me when people leave critical comments but won't discuss it. so am i wrong that nietzsche's starting point is nihilistic @PhilipKlöcking ? – user6917 Mar 29 '16 at 13:47
  • Hey, keep cool man. I am writing an essay right now and will leave a comment as soon as I find my time to do some research, probably this evening, maybe it can take some days. – Philip Klöcking Mar 29 '16 at 13:50
  • i'm not angry, sorry if i inflected that. do whatever – user6917 Mar 29 '16 at 13:51

I've heard this line of thought - that Christians should read Nietzsche and can learn from him from two thinkers, Merold Westphal and Bruce Benson.

Neither would say Nietzsche is generically sympathetic to "Christianity." As Jo points out, Nietzsche has a pretty polemical attack on "Christianity" inter alia.

As far as I gather, the main way this works is to keep the quotes around Christianity and maintain that what Nietzsche critiques and does well is something like cultural Christianity or Christianity with its own idols (often masked in the guise of piety and other religious elements).

Obviously, this strategy is going to face problems with Nietzsche's views on things like the resurrection. But I think it works pretty well with the "god is dead" passage in Thus Spoke Zarathustra insofar as part of the point there is to critique a godless society that keeps talking about God (whether the critique is then supposed to say the idea of god has always been stupid or merely that it's stupid to hold onto the idea when no one believes I don't know).


Please see the answers to the following two posts on this site:

In what works does Nietzsche give a critique of Christianity?

Is it fair to characterise Nietszche as a reformer of Christianity, rather than a destroyer?

Nietzsche's work is clearly devoted to attack and to criticize the main values of Christian religion, e.g., compassion with weak and infirm people.

I consider Nietzsche's message, e.g., as stated in Zarathustra, and the Christian message contradictory. Hence I do not see what Christian's could learn from Nietzsche.

  • thanks for the links and the clear expression of your opinion – user6917 Mar 27 '16 at 19:27

Nietzsche recognizes Christ as a Creator. As I see it, his intention is to address the slave morality that grew up around Christianity, rather than the teachings of Christ per se.

Liberation Theologians like George Pixley in "The Kingdom of God" and other writings have proposed that this is not implicit in the religion as proposed, or practiced by early followers. If you strip away the effects of Pauline overstatements further amplified by Roman Catholic history, the original message is far from what we consider Christian now. As quoted at length in http://www.theperspectivesofnietzsche.com/nietzsche/nchrist.html, Nietzsche himself blames Paul and the context of Judaism for the worst parts of historical Christianity.

Statements by Christ in the Gospels like "Those you hold bound to their sins, are held bound." and "I come not with peace, but with a sword..." are not consistent with slave morality to begin with. They convey a power of real judgment that is meant to be used, not handed back over to God, and they suggest that it be defended with widespread and continual violence, if only of a metaphorical nature.

For instance directives to "Turn the other cheek." and to "Go the extra mile" can be seen as paradoxical techniques for manipulating oppressors into internal conflicts with their own honor, rather than as calls to submission. E.g. http://mattdabbs.com/2007/11/05/what-does-it-mean-to-turn-the-other-cheek/

Such sentiments inject a countercurrent into the message itself that can be broadened by criticism like Nietzsche's. It can be argued that Christianity, as presented in the words of Christ, is intentionally invested in paradox, rather than in the straightforward reversal of the moral value of slave and master roles that it turned into, which ultimately 'kills God.'

  • what does nietzsche say on violence anyway? – user6917 Mar 28 '16 at 20:24
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    At one point in The Gay Science he lists a number of things, including violence, that current moralities try to limit, and declares this sad because "The poison by which the weaker nature is destroyed is strengthening to the strong individual — and he does not call it poison." But in other contexts, e.g. discussing Wagner's use of dynamics, and arguing with his illness as a bully, he dismisses 'assault' as being 'in poor taste'. So one must assume he is advocating more subtle forms of violence as tonic. – jobermark Mar 28 '16 at 21:26

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