Friday, June 10, 2011

Christian Nihilism

I have finally found a way to neatly define my frustration and dissatisfaction with Christianity. It came about as I considered how I feel about life. I think that it would be better if none of us existed. I see no purpose for our existence in this temporal world. If I think that way, I am a nihilist.
And yet, I "call" myself a Christian. Isn't a Christian nihilist an oxymoron? It's like saying one is a believing atheist. Nonetheless, I Googled "Christian nihilist" to see what I might find.
I discovered an argument made by Friedrich Nietzsche against Christianity:

"If one shifts the center of gravity of life out of life into the 'Beyond' – into nothingness – one has deprived life as such of its center of gravity. The great lie of personal immortality destroys all rationality, all naturalness of instinct – all that is salutary, all that is life-furthering, all that holds a guarantee of the future in the instincts henceforth excites mistrust. So to live that there is no longer any meaning in living: that now becomes the 'meaning' of life."

Christianity's preoccupation with the eternal is a form of nihilism. This temporal life is worthless and pointless except as it is used to further our connection with eternity. Paul said, if in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are most miserable (1 Cor 15:19). That statement is often taken to indicate that we have hope in Christ for this life as well. But I am not certain that's what Paul is saying, especially in light of the many places where Paul talks about the glory to come and our eternal hope.
No, I believe that what Paul was saying in that verse is this: if only in this life do we hope to be resurrected into glory with Christ, but nothing actually happens after death, then we are stupid--we are most miserable because we have staked everything on this.
There is no hope IN THIS LIFE for the Christian. The only hope, the only glory, the only center for the Christian, is eternity.
Christianity thus, as Nietzsche puts it, has "deprived life AS SUCH of its center of gravity." Christians are nihilists. Our temporal existence is meaningless apart from the destiny of our soul, which is held in Christian theology to be the true essence of a man.

The amazing observation out of all of this comes when you consider the antagonism of Christianity towards "godless" evolution and atheism. The thinking Christian will often be quick to reduce such positions to nihilism, without thinking about the nihilism inherent in his own faith.
It also becomes the answer to the common arguments against evolution that are based on the supposed improbability of evolution, or general evidences of intelligent design (the eye, Einstein's cosmological constant, etc.). The one who doesn't believe in God gives this world no purpose because of how he supposes it came to exist; the one who does believe in God gives this world no purpose because this world is condemned. At least the atheist can construct and work toward a better future. The Christian has resigned this world to plagues, Armageddon, and the fires of judgment and has no hope except in death.
If God's creation is so great you would think Christian theology would accord earthly life a higher importance.

1 comment:

The Runaway said...

I've come to similar conclusions myself, but not identical conclusions. The world is condemned, but we must also be the salt of the earth. It's easy to forget that not only did Christ improve the spiritual lives of the world, but he also physically blessed the people he came into contact with as well - he brought them physical joy and deliverance. That's also part of the charge, just not part of the Commission.

This is pretty well thought out, and I'm glad someone came to this conclusion years before I did!