Monday, 27 March 2006

Dead or alive

If God did not exist, I would die. That is twofold: firstly if God did not exist, then I would not exist - I would not have been brought into being or sustained in every molecule, sub-atomic particle and breath. And secondly if I were convinced that God did not exist and it turned out that I still existed in some way then I would be a nihilist and die. Without God there is no reason to live: for love of others - but whence love of others? For love of life - but what life? For love of self - but what self? For from him and through him and to him are all things.

Nietzsche reasoned that if (since) man did not act as if God exists, then God was (effectively) dead. But if man acts as if God does not exist, then it is not because God is dead, but that man is dead. It has been so since Genesis 3. Man acted as if God did not exist as God, and died. (Further, Nietzsche's nice idea that this 'death of God' creates unimagined possibilities for those strong enough to meet them is strikingly similar to the devil's idea: 'You will not surely die... You will be like God...'!)

So then, since I am convinced that were God not to exist, I would cease to exist or die, and that if I were convinced otherwise I would be dead, in what ways do I act as if God did not exist? When do I act as if he doesn't exist, good, sovereign and righteous? Because whenever I do, I'm a dead man walking.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience - among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ ... For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. [Eph 2:1-5,10]

Update: Ref21 ponders "Could it be that Nietzsche is actually one of the most influential evangelical thinkers of all time?" in a blog post.


David Shedden said...

Interesting thoughts, Rosemary. Have you read much Nietzsch (or however you spell it)!? Do you think he was really an atheist? I liked your thought about walking dead when we don't obey God's will.

étrangère said...

Hi David, thanks for commenting. Unfortunately I must admit I have committed that cardinal sin of having commented on Neitzsche without having read any of his writing, only having read of his writing in philosophical and theological textbooks etc. I'd go back and study philosophy if I could, but at this stage it would come as a waste of time and money.

Therefore I'm unqualified to comment on Nietzsche's personal beliefs (there are always those claiming that well-known characters were really Christian (or at least deist) after all).

Generally, all we have to judge a person by is his writings, and if we assume that writing communicates faithfully, we could say that if one's writing doesn't portray a framework of belief in a personal, trinitarian God revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord, it would be difficult to say that the person wasn't an atheist. To believe in other gods, or have other ideas about god, is to believe in no god at all. It would seem from the secondary sources I've read that Nietzsche's writing doesn't communicate that belief in the one true God, (and if) so he was an atheist!

Since you asked the question though, it sounds to me like you know a lot more on this than I do - what d'you reckon from what you've read? And for that matter, do you know where any of his writing (translated) is available online?

David Shedden said...

Sorry Rosemary, perhaps i misled you if you thought I knew something about him. I know a little more about NT Wright though. (I noticed your latest blog post. What NT Wright stuff have you read?)

Perhaps we can assume too much about people? I think there are very few pure atheists. But I agree that writing in terms that deny God's nature as revealed in Christ is a serious sign of unbelief, especially all those clever 19thC folks.

It's difficult being a blogger or a preacher because you have to either pretend you know stuff, or be good at writing or speaking in vague abstract terms. I try not assume too much when I write or speak, i know there are plenty of Christians and non-Christians who know far more than me. From your interests and reading, you seem to be one of them!

étrangère said...

Yes, the trouble as a blogger is that you write of connections and thoughts made in your head and don't have time, space or footnotes for multiple disclaimers that admit you don't really know what you're talking about. As in conversation, it's up to others to chip in with corrections etc. But then, so it is with much conversation. If we each never ventured to make statements on the basis of our (relatively little) knowledge, then we'd never be corrected or filled in and learn more from those who learn more! We learn in community. Then again, this post was a bit unusual - I was aware when typing it that philosophically and logically I'd pull it to threads if I wasn't the one writing it!

As for NT Wright, I've not read any of his books whole as I only developed an interest in doing so last May or so, so he didn't have time to reach the top of my 'too buy and read' list before I moved to Belgium. I've listened to various lectures he's given - a series of 4 that he addressed to some emerging conf in the USA which were online, a couple that my Dad had on cassette and once when he lectured in Nottingham where I was. I think I've possibly read articles or glanced through books too but I can't really remember. That's given me a fair flavour, and when I'm back in the English-speaking world he'll be back on my 'too read' list! What have you read of him and which would you recommend most as representative of his thought (not limiting to NPP necessarily)?

David Shedden said...

I've more or less read the first two volumes of his Christian origins series. Glanced at his third volume on the resurrection. Fresh Perspectives, and a few lectures and essays. I had the chance to do this through my degree course over the last three years. It's fascinating stuff. In a sense his contribution to the NPP debate is merely secondary to his whole methodology. I find much of the critique of Wright from evangelical and Reformed people extremely poor - it's way too dogmatic.

Not sure if I would recommend much of Wright to people in general. You can't appreciate his contribution without knowing the wider discussions about 1st century history, the last 150 years of biblical (especially NT) studies, and the current malaise in systematic theology.

I fear our conversation could stretch somewhat. Your reply suggests that you are going to return from your current post - how come?

Check out my blog for my background. I hope to add a few posts over the next month about what I'm about in life and work, although this is growing increasingly unclear. You might be able to work this out by reading between the lines of some of my posts.

étrangère said...

"In a sense his contribution to the NPP debate is merely secondary to his whole methodology." That's what I thought, hence why I said 'not limiting to NPP especially'. Thanks for the comments.

"I find much of the critique of Wright from evangelical and Reformed people extremely poor - it's way too dogmatic." From my very limited study, this is often the case. For your average reformed pastor, he wants to warn his people of error as part of teaching them truth, and is easier for same pastor (who has at least 10 things to do for each one he can) to issue a dogmatic warning/response than to study each new area or theologian to such a level sufficient for teaching his flock to a sufficient level of discernment that he can be less dogmatic about it. The reformed theologians are mostly in Seminaries where they are conscient of training men to be pastors. That builds up into being overcautiously dogmatic, rather than the greater effort and risk of being less so.

While I don't know all the background you suggest for reading Wright, I do read, so have some small awareness in those areas. But then supposedly a little knowledge is a dangerous thing! I'll chew over Wright sometime.

As to your final question, this post in Belgium was a one year volunteer placement with only possibility of extension for one more; I'll be going to England for a job also in student ministry from August for the next 5 years.

David Shedden said...

I'm sure your job in England will be great. I think you should study too with a view to teaching theology. Interesting that you did Maths! All the great theologians were also great mathematicians - best example I know is John Murray.

Take care - Dave