A Genealogy of Christianity: Why I Teach Nietzsche at a Christian University
For this semester I’ll offer my reflections on an introductory, freshmen-level course on western core texts that I am teaching.   Christianity for Nietzsche was the greatest catastrophe in world history. The religion denied our will to dominate and embodied a guilty conscience that was the interior expression of ressentiment. According to Nietzsche, morality was… The post A Genealogy of Christianity: Why I Teach Nietzsche at a Christian University appeared first on VoegelinView.

Date

source

share

For this semester I’ll offer my reflections on an introductory, freshmen-level course on western core texts that I am teaching.

 

Christianity for Nietzsche was the greatest catastrophe in world history. The religion denied our will to dominate and embodied a guilty conscience that was the interior expression of ressentiment. According to Nietzsche, morality was nothing more than what members of the ruling class did and affirmed, so the strong ruthlessly triumphing over the weak by violence was considered “good.” Likewise, the “bad” was defined by the ruling class as weakness, the submission to the strong. There was no objective morality for Nietzsche, rather it was merely a manifestation of power of the strong over the weak.
Resentiment began when the weak started to teach radically new ideas. First, they claimed there was free will so the violent acts of the strong was a result of their choice and not simply what they did. Second, the weak’s failure to triumph over the strong was also a result of choice: they refrained from such action because it was sinful. While the strong embraced and encouraged sinful behavior, the weak defined themselves by resisting it. Thus, a transvaluation of values took place: what was formerly considered bad (weakness) was Christianized to the highest good and what was formerly considered good (strength) was transformed into evil.
To complete this “slave revolt” was the creation of the “ascetic ideal” that replaced the life-affirming valuation of the strong. This Christian God was above all other gods, to whom each of us owed a debt (original sin) so great that we were unable to discharge without His grace. The Christian God was so transcendently good that our attempts to emulate His holiness fell short. The result was that this ascetic God negated the world by His very existence. This life-denying condition was what Nietzsche called nihilism.
What is a Christian to make of Nietzsche? On the one hand, he is to be commended because he takes religion seriously: it is a response to the existential problems of suffering and mortality that builds a meaningful community from these experiences. On the other hand, his condemnation of humility and hope for an afterlife are to be rejected by Christians since these (among others) are fundamental principles to their religion. Nietzsche’s affirmation of “master morality,” which considers the strong, powerful, and ambitious as good, also strike Christians as contrary to their core beliefs.
Nevertheless, Nietzsche poises a direct and serious challenge to Christians to provide a defense of their values like compassion, generosity, and love. Why should one prefer this set of values over Nietzsche’s and on what basis? These questions are even more relevant in today’s “post-Christian” world in which Christianity is no longer the dominant civil religion in some western societies. While there are no ready-made answers to these questions, they are worth wrestling with as we try to build a meaningful life for ourselves. So, in some sense, whether we agree or disagree with Nietzsche is immaterial, for he has granted Christians a great gift in forcing them to reconsider what it means to Christian and why.

The post A Genealogy of Christianity: Why I Teach Nietzsche at a Christian University appeared first on VoegelinView.

Originally appeared on VoegelinView Read More

More
articles

More
news

Book to consider: Memorabilia

by Xenophon An essential text for understanding Socrates, Xenophon’s Memorabilia is the compelling tribute of an affectionate student to his teacher, providing...

What Holds Russia Together?

Endre Sashalimi. Russian Notions of Power and State in a European Perspectives, 1462-1725: Assessing the Significance of Peter’s Regin. Boston:...