Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Nietzche is dead, and he is wrong.

"The philology of Christianity. How little Christianity educates the sense of honesty and justice can be seen pretty well from the writings of its scholars: they advance their conjectures asblandly as dogmas and are hardly ever honestly perplexed by the exegesis of a Biblical verse. Again and again they say, "I am right, for it is written," and the interpretation that follows is of such impudent arbitrariness that a philologist is stopped in his tracks, torn between anger and laughter, and keeps asking himself: Is it possible? Is this honest? Is it even decent? What dishonesties of this sort are still perpetrated from Protestant pulpits today, how crudely the preachers exploit the advantage that nobody can interrupt them, how the Bible is pricked and pulled and the art of reading badly formally inculcated upon the people -- all this will be underestimated only by those who go to church either never or always. In the end, however, what are we to expect of the aftereffects of a religion that enacted during the centuries of its foundation that unheard-of philological farce about the Old Testament? I refer to the attempt to pull away the Old Testament from under the feet of the Jews -- with the claim that it contains nothing but Christian doctrines and belongs to the Christians as the true Israel, while the Jews had merely usurped it. And now the Christians yielded to a rate of interpretation and interpolation, which could not possibly have been accompanied by a good conscience. However much the Jewish scholars protested, everywhere in the Old Testament there were supposed to be references to Christ and only to Christ, and particularly to his cross. Wherever any piece of wood, a switch, a ladder, a twig, a tree, a willow, or a staff is mentioned, this was supposed to indicate a prophecy of the wood of the cross....Has anybody who claimed this ever believed it?" -

Nietzsche, on the Philosophy of Christianity.

I've always been fascinated by Nietzche as a person, as a writer and a philosopher. But his critiques against aspects of Christianity, such as this one, though interesting, usually only invoke similar feelings of rage and laughter by those who know a thing or two about the history of the Christian church, the history of Christian philosophy and the history of Christian philology.

Thesis 1: Nietzche cannot be angry with Christians for reading Christ everywhere in the Old Testament, because we learn more and more as we study Jewish Targums that those places where Christians supposedly farse by reading Christ into the text, Jewish Rabbis long before Christ even existed read the Messiah into the text. We've just put a name to him.

Thesis 2: Nietzche cannot legitimately say that the foundational periods of Christianity were supercessionistic, callng Israel merely a type of the church, calling the church the new Israel and calling the Old Testament the church's book. While I agree with most or all of these propositions (loosely), these were not the foundational positions. The apostles of Christ were prominant dispensationalists; as was Justin Martyr in odd ways, and especially Irenaeus. The earliest church Fathers had covenental theologies, as did certain Christian sects. Nietzche's statement is absurdly false. He is referring to a later development around the time of Augustine.

Thesis 3: Nietzche cannot be angry when a pastor says," I am right, for it is written." Because saying so is not pride as is eminant, but a reaction to the platitudinous. It is saying," I am right not of myself but of something else that is time-honored and respected. Do not listen to me, listen to me only insomuch as I am listening to what has been written." It is also a statement that is only legitimately made in an arena of individuals who equally respect the authority of what is written. If Nietzche is angry, then he has not realized that the pastor wasn't speaking to him.

Thesis 4: Nietzche cannot be angry with supercessionistic philosophy or its implications, because if the Old Testament is a forerunner of Messiah, a herald, then it is Messiahs book, not the Jews. That the Jews fail to recognize Christ as Messiah is another point entirely; that Christians recognize Christ as Messiah makes it a rule that the Old Testament would be Christs book.

God is Dead

We have killed God, so the Christians say, we have nailed Him to the cross and shamed Him. We have put His own curse on Him and spilled His blood. We have triumphed over Him, we have slain the King of the Jews, so Ponteus Pilato had it written. There is no mourning aound the cross, only triumph and lots and slander and merrimaking. God is Dead; and we have killed him. Watch Him breathe His last and descend to the depths of the Earth. This is mans hour, and we have done the most glorious thing, the most impossible thing, to be remembered forever.Of course, as we revel and shout for joy in the triumph of man, the coronation of man, we ponder at the empty tomb. Christ is absent, but where? Is He still in Hell where we placed him, or as the lunatics and fools whom we murder say, has He ascended to the Heavens?

“And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.” (Zechariah the prophet)

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Our most high and glorious call

Fellow youth,

We are called to destroy our youth in Christ. We are called to hurt, pain, poverty, discomfort and misery. We are called to bitter darkness and misery and torment, to burning fire and scorching wind, to parched lips and an empty stomach. We are called to have our eyes gouged out, our hands and feet cut off, our body sawn in two. To burn at the stake, be quartered cut and disemboweled. We are called to die spiritually every day, and on top of suffering a faulty will and the daily burden of sinful temptation, the pain of meaninglessness and the cost of discipleship. We are called to be rejected, despised, forsaken complexed and rebuked. We are called to lift a burden we cannot carry and labor for 10,000 impossibilities all at once. We must do everything and yet do nothing, and suffer for doing nothing and do nothing to do everything. We are called to be nothings, vapors in the wind, less than slaves, filthy, stinking rotten pieces of feces. We are called to eat dirt and shame and bitterness and have all our plans foiled. We are called to suffer,

and that most highly and gloriously, because our Lord Jesus Christ came here to save us by killing us.

The gospels and Paul

The beloved Irenaeus of Lyon once said that 'since the 'pillar and ground' of the Church is the Gospel and the spirit of life, it is fitting that she should have four pillars, breathing incorruption on every side, and vivifying human afresh.'

In the mores and practice of todays Evangelical church, could it not rightly be observed that these 'four pillars' have been removed, placed in the back corner of the temple and only noticed by the glint and shadow of the thirteen or so epistles written by the apostle Paul?

Test yourself. As I write these words a grounded reacton rises up within my own being, a loaded question," Dare you say that the Gospels are greater than the epistles?" Which proves my own point; we dare to stand by the epistles if the two are to be balanced, held in light together and examined.

I am, of course, making no such statement. I affirm that the same Spirit who breathes and breathed life into the gospels does the same impartially to the epistles of Paul. The Word of God is the Word of God without division. But if such is the case, and it indeed is, why are we dishonoring our own theology of scripture by materially rejecting the gospels in favor of Pauls writing? In most any sermon I have attended in my life, the exposition (sorry, the lack of exposition) was always geared towards the apostolic writings. Theologians and Christian authors, to favor themselves among the orthodox use terms like 'Pauline' or 'Paulist' to fit their practice and belief, thus negating everything Paul stood against and chastised in the first book of Corinthians chapter one. Is Christ divided?

Who came to deliver the message, Christ or Paul? Who is a servant of the other? And is any servant greater than his master? If you took time to read the gospels, you might know the answer to that question. Paul was the chief expositer and administer of the grace of God... but Christ IS the grace of God. What a shame and dishonor to Pauls own calling that we take on his own name rather than the name of Jesus Christ.

Part of the reason for this title is a reaction to followers of Christ who see differently than evangelicals and fundamentalists. Mennonites, for example, who stress above all else the cost of discipleship based on the foundational text of the Sermon on the Mount, are typically scorned as heterodox when the observer would juxtapose himself as a Paulist. It is reported that Scofield (chief forerunner of fundamentalism) negated most everything that Christ said as no longer applicable to this day and age. Whether or not this is true, his dispensationalist followers conveniently placed the words of Christ under the covenant of law, thus stripping them of any bearing or authority over us, who are under Pauline grace. (some of course, have reacted to this blasphemy such as our beloved brother in the faith John Macarthur).

If grace and truth did indeed come from Christ, as John asserts in his prolegomena, and the law from Moses, wouldn't that be sufficient to obliterate that faulty idea altogether?

I humbly (and oddly, with pride) suggest that we balance out this centuries old problem by returning to the Christology of our Mennonite forefathers in dealing with scripture, by once again preaching the Sermon on the Mount, and the hard sayings of Christ in church. This would no doubt bless the heart of Paul, who counted all as rubbish for the sake of His master and the call set before him.