The “Death of God” and Reason in the Postmodern Wilderness of Unthinking
It is not about salvation from hell. It rather announces a radically different message, unheard of in generations past: that God is already dead. That in this new state of affairs.
Philippines · 12 JUNE 2015 · 09:58 CET
Considered a mad man by most of his contemporaries, though not at all taken as such by not a few modern intellectuals and academics when he openly proclaimed through his parabolic poem Thus Spoke Zarathustra that “God is dead,” Friedrich Nietzsche was a certified God-killer; indeed, of the highest order.
Nietzsche has been the widely recognized prime architect and preacher of the “death of God” gospel, which lies at the heart of contemporary Western culture now being largely shaped, one way or the other, by the postmodern way of thinking.
No, it's not about salvation from the eternal fires of hell. It rather announces a radically different message unheard of in generations past. That God is already dead.
That in this new state of affairs, humans need not be constrained anymore by traditional moral principles His "misguided" followers have imposed upon humanity. It is, in short, a gospel of emancipation from centuries old terror of this late Moral Law Giver.
This, according to Nietzsche, is good news, the only real good news.
Of course, this syphilis-stricken evangelist of the "death of God" gospel eventually suffered his own death, too. But his gospel would remain alive, under whose spell the West would be born anew, with an anti-theistic framework of the mind in pursuit of a new socio-cultural arrangement that would seek to break free with all its might from the moral restraints put forth by the Judeo-Christian worldview.
But now that God is dead, at least philosophically if not literally, Nietzsche still managed to maintain his sanity, if only for a moment, to anticipate the inevitable: the eventual madness of the West now intoxicated by its newly found libertarian freedom.
If humanity is to survive in such a new godless socio-cultural rearrangement, so Nietzsche thought, somebody, or better yet something else, must take the place of God.
About which there proved to be no other candidate but Reason (spelled here with the capital R for having declared its autonomy), which having already shaped the so-called Enlightenment world of the 18th century and beyond, was generally recognized to hold the right to fill such a vast empty space vacated by God.
Reason had a very promising Utopian dream to offer in the absence of God. An ideal modern world. Indeed, an Eden-like Paradise of its own making. Where everybody lives in harmony, in perfect peace and health, forever prosperous, not anymore lacking in every need except the need for God.
But given the bankruptcy of its premises and the emptiness of its promise to bring about a nearly perfect world apart from God for all humanity, such a grand story narrated by Reason to our so-called enlightened souls eventually dwindled, albeit gradually, showing itself rather impotent to deliver to the people of the modern age its own ideals of peace, health and prosperity.
Why? Because its highly sophisticated philosophical system and technologically advanced modern gadgets and equipments, far from having supplied a sure answer to the woes of civilizations that include wars, human sufferings, and barbaric acts of atrocities, among others, only contributed more threat to the survival of the modern world.
In fact, the 20th century, arguably the most "enlightened" of all centuries, eventually gave birth to a handful of godless ideologies so as to make it so far the bloodiest in world history, in fulfillment of what Nietzsche himself had predicted.
In spite of it all, the West still remained stubbornly unwilling to return to its Judeo-Christian roots, never inclined at any moment to renounce its faith on the major tenets of the "death of God" theology. In place of the Enlightenment ideals, which, having borrowed a great deal from the Judeo-Christian worldview, championed the certainty and objectivity of truth, a new way of thinking called existentialism would then emerge in Western soil.
Inspired by the writings of existentialist philosophers like Jean-Paul Sartre and his disciple Albert Camus, a radically different presupposition suddenly fed the Western mind of the ultra-modern world.
That existence precedes essence, that "truth" is therefore just a matter of human construct, inevitably subjective and inescapably relative to every individual. People then began to formulate their own reason for existence, to make up their own purpose for living, to invent their own meaning in life, relying on no other but their own intuition instead of searching for truth outside of themselves.
In the decades to follow, along with some other schools of thought then being disseminated in the public square and academic centers of the West, existentialism would pave the way to what is known today, for lack of a better term, as postmodernism.
So that like "the death God" in decades past, Reason from this point on has also been dethroned and put into exile in the postmodern wilderness of unthinking, waiting to finally breathe its last.
Lest you think it's all bad news now for those who believe in God, Nietzsche and his ilk have actually failed to execute Him. For if they have ever killed a god, it appears to be just the abstract god of philosophical speculations, if not the demigod of semi-pagan, semi-Judeo-Christian religious superstitions.
No, that cannot be the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, of the prophets and the apostles. Who in the person of His Son Jesus Christ also suffered death, yes, but only to rise again, decisively victorious over it forever and ever. Amen.
Carson, D. A. The Gagging of God: Christianity Confronts Pluralism. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996
Nietzsche, Friedrich. Thus Spoke Zarathustra, trans. R. J. Hollingdale. London: Penguin Books Ltd, 1961.
Zacharias, Ravi. Can Man Live Without God. Nashville, TN: W Publishing Group, 1994.
Edwin Mejia Vargas, Bi-vocational evangelical minister and writer-researcher. Manila, Philippines.