The ideas of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche are pervasive throughout our culture. While critics of Christianity say, “God is dead,” history tells the tale of a diminishing view of God. Pastor Lutzer draws our eyes upward to God’s incomparable power. As the West turns its back on God, where does this leave North American culture?
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Transcript: Welcome to “5 Minutes with Pastor Lutzer.” I’m so glad that you joined us again today as we embark on a long journey, entitled, “The Eclipse of God in American Culture.” If you were with us last time you know that we stressed an article that appeared in the economist, entitled, “Nearer My God to Me.” No judgment, no wrath, no worries. I want to go back to Friedrich Nietzsche in the eighteen hundreds. You know, of course, that he was very famous for proclaiming the death of God. Let me give you in vivid language the way in which he describes the death of God. He says,
Do we not hear the noise of the grave diggers who are burying God? Do we not smell the divine putrification? For even God’s putrify. God is dead. God is dead and we have killed him. How shall we console ourselves, the most murderous of all murderers?” - Nietzsche.
“God is dead.” You must understand that he was writing at a time when Karl Marx had already said that religion was the “opium of the people.” Darwin had suggested that there could be a different theory of origins other than the Bible. And so Nietzsche stared into the emptiness of the philosophal world and came to the conclusion that God could no longer be dependended upon. God was dead. Now, Nietzsche hated Christianity and let me explain why.
In fact, Stephen Hicks. in his book, helps me understand exactly the way we should understand Nietzsche. Let’s suppose that you were to interview a sheep and ask a sheep, “What is best for you?” The sheep would say, “Well, of course, it’s grazing in peace along a mountainside, along with some others who are just like me.” But if you were to interview a wolf, the wolf would say, “What is best for me is to run after the sheep, to tear them to smithereens, and to gulp them down.” Now, how would you like to have a peace conference between, you know, the sheep and the wolves. We want to see whether or not we can agree on some basic moral principles. Well, that would go nowhere. Nietzsche was saying, in effect, that Christianity teaches us to live like sheep in a world that is run with wolves. “Turn the other cheek.” “The meek shall inherit the earth.” “Be humble.” “Be forgiving.” Now, he said that Christianity used to say that if you live this way you will be rewarded in a future existence in heaven. But God no longer exists. Heaven no longer exists. So the future belongs to the wolves, so to speak, to those who are strong, to those who are mighty, to those who are brutal.
By the way, has it ever occurred to you that that might be one of the reasons why Hitler loved Nietzsche so much? As a matter of fact, he kept Nietzsche’s books beside his bed, I’m told. And he gave a copy to Mussolini. In fact, I remember — and it’s just coming to mind as I’m speaking here that Hitler once asked the question, “Why cannot we be as cruel as nature?” If we’re wolves, let’s act like wolves. Well, you know what happened after that.
But why do I introduce Nietzsche? It’s because he said that in light of the fact that God is dead we have to stare into the abyss. We have to look that tiger in the eye, without flinching. We are like a teenager who is awakened in the middle of the night and told that his parents are dead, and he has to go it alone. That’s how we find ourselves. Of course, eventually he knew that it would lead to Nihilism, meaninglessness, all kinds of ethical lapses, but it was what it was and Nietzsche also said that what we need is in German an “Übermensch,” that is to say a “Superman.” No wonder Hitler liked that too. But I mentioned Nietzsche for this reason. We in America are not yet prepared to simply say that God is dead, though we have some atheists that we will be commenting on in future episodes. So what we have done is we have erected idols that take the place of God. So we say that we believe in God but we have greatly diminished Him.
I want to emphasize that this series on the Eclipse of God in American Culture is very critical. I’m setting this up for next time when we talk about the idols of our culture. What is the attraction of idolatry and can we still hang onto belief in God even when we have diminished Him? Nietzsche was honest. He believed that we were on our own, and he lived that way. Well, I don’t want to leave you there of course. I’d like to give you some passages of scripture that encourage you and remind you that God is God. Do you remember, in fact, that T-shirt? I think it was available even when I was in college many years ago. The front says “‘God is dead,’ signed Nietzsche.” The back says “‘Nietzsche is dead,’ signed God.”
Let me read the scriptures. “‘To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like Him?,’ says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high: Who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name; by the greatness of his might and because he is strong in power not one is missing.” I’m skipping some verses here that you can read on your own in Isaiah 40. And then going to this verse, “…they who wait on the Lord will renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Nietzsche was wrong. But still our culture wants to pretend that it believes in God.
More of that next time. Be sure to subscribe, follow, and share as we continue this discussion of the Eclipse of God in American culture and as for today — well, you know what you must do you, just go with God.