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Thread: Kierkegaard vs. Nietzsche:. Discerning the Nature of True Christian Faith

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    Kierkegaard vs. Nietzsche:. Discerning the Nature of True Christian Faith

    Seeing Blood Axis after a long time reminded me of this article :p

    vs.

    http://209.85.165.104/search?q=cache...s&ct=clnk&cd=3

    Kierkegaard vs. Nietzsche:. Discerning the Nature of True Christian Faith.
    Ellie Bostwick.


    I. Introduction.

    Soren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche were practically contemporaries, both writing in the second half of the nineteenth century. While their vantage points are fundamentally different, their approaches to philosophy and many of their insights are surprisingly aligned. Both wrote as rebellious spirits during their time; they were unwilling to accept the norms of society, and were disillusioned with contemporary Christendom. They both noticed the human spirit diminishing in the modern world and related this to the comfortable religion of the west, which they felt had triggered this “spiritless form of life.” They both identified a shallowness they perceived in Christianity; and both sought “something greater and truer.” Ultimately, their quests resulted in quite divergent conclusions; while Kierkegaard believed a radical, authentic Christian faith was the only true means for a fulfilling life, Nietzsche held that Christianity was life-negating and should be abolished altogether. Kierkegaard kept faith in Christianity, trusting that there was something much richer and truer than evident in modern Christendom, namely, a doctrine of passion, inwardness, paradox, creativity, and courage; something he intended to recover. For Kierkegaard, the task was to dispose of the multiple misconceptions of Christianity, and restore the truth of Christianity. Nietzsche, on the other hand, never made it past his own surface-level misgivings to seethe radical faith that Kierkegaard believed in so firmly. In his persistent polemics against Christianity, he fails to see beyond the empty, modernized Christianity, which Kierkegaard too saw in the contemporary misrepresentations of Christianity.

    In this essay, I will focus on Kierkegaard’s pseudonymous author, Johannes Climacus, who offers an interested-outsider perspective of Christianity as presented in Philosophical Fragments and Concluding Unscientific Postscript, before taking up Kierkegaard’s own views of how to live out Christian faith as portrayed in Works of Love. I will follow this discussion with a Nietzschean critique of Christianity as life-negating, based primarily on passages from Beyond Good and Evil and Genealogy of Morals. Then, in dialectical form, I will propose a possible response from Kierkegaard to Nietzsche’s critique, and conclude the essay by evaluating whether Kierkegaard issuccessful in defending his beliefs against Nietzsche. Based on Kierkegaard’s ability to withstand Nietzsche’s critique, I will argue finally that Kierkegaard successfully defends authentic Christianity......

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    V.Conclusion

    In conclusion, I think Kierkegaard and his pseudonymous authors are successful in their defense of Christianity. It is perhaps quite convenient that Kierkegaard “prophetically”considered a character like Nietzsche in developing his philosophy. Nietzsche rests his claim that Christianity is life-negating on the superficialities of the ascetic ideal, which is clearly not a comprehensive assessment of Christianity from Kierkgaard’s perspective.

    Moreover, May, a Nietzschean scholar, even questions whether the ascetic ideal is“necessarily life-denying.”69 He gives three considerations for why the ascetic idealmight instead be “life-enhancing:”
    First, the Judaeo-Christian conceit that man participates in, and so must try to perfect his ‘imitation’, or expression, of the divine essence and, moreover, is God’s viceroy of nature, may be highly empowering beliefs, inducing men and women to feats of imagination and effort for which they might otherwise lack the courage—or even the conception.70
    Like Kierkegaard, May recognizes the sustenance that Christianity provides its believers,by endowing them with an ultimate goal for which to strive, in communion with the ultimate being. This divine aspiration could only be seen as life-enhancing, as one is inclined to be godly. Additionally May suggests, “The idea that life ‘on earth’ is merely a means to approaching the divine can also be interpreted to make life-enhancement, in just Nietzsche’s sense, a duty to God, a way of honouring and knowing his creation.”71Hence, Christianity instills value and purpose in life, giving Christians something to strive for as they try to live a godly life. While Nietzsche suggests that Christianity manifests itself only in a slave-like existence, May argues that Christianity instead gives meaning to life and value to living life to the fullest. Finally, May offers an “empirical” consideration, writing,
    As a matter of historical fact, the very European civilization that Nietzsche considers to be dedicated to the ascetic ideal and so to a ‘will to nothingness’ has been culturally one of the richest in world history—a simple fact with which his account of the calamity and ubiquity of the ascetic idea appears inconsistent.72
    May offers this pragmatic proof to finalize his argument that the ascetic ideal is not necessarily life-denying. He expands on this, writing, “Nietzsche’s avoidance of these basic points is reflected in his assertion that a great life-enhancer, like Raphael, even if he professes Christianity, cannot really be a Christian…Thus he claims that ‘Raphael said Yes, Raphael did Yes; consequently Raphael was no Christian.’”73

    Clearly, Nietzsche could simply not allow Christianity the honor of responsibility for the richness of being, which he felt people like Raphael possessed. He could not reconcile the ascetic ideal with life-enhancement; he could not reconcile the absolute paradox. In failing to do so, he also failed to give Christianity a fair trial. He fell into a Kierkegaardian form of despair in which he willed to be his own god, which countered any aspirations to know the truth of another god, perhaps the Christian God. He was never able to see the life-enhancing qualities of Christianity that Kierkegaard so embraced. For Kierkegaard, Christianity involves much more than Nietzsche includes in his critiques, in fact, Kierkegaard would kindly agree with most of Nietzsche’s criticisms,but would further specify them as criticisms of what Kierkegaard thinks to be the misrepresentations of Christianity. Moreover, for Kierkegaard, Christianity involves all the excitement and passion that Nietzsche sees it as lacking. Kierkegaard would see Nietzsche as essentially giving up on the only thing that could have provided all that he was looking for in his quest for the “life-affirming.” It seems the two were looking forquite similar things in their existential quests, but while Kierkegaard was able to unveil the realities of Christian faith in all its passion and strength, Nietzsche never seeped deep enough into the faith to find this for himself. Nietzsche consistently sneered at the counterfeit versions of Christianity that he witnessed in his day, but was unable to uncover the true essence of faith to experience the passion that Kierkegaard found there. It is remarkable that two such comparable philosophers on such similar quests could end up with two such divergent outcomes. Perhaps, Nietzsche surrendered too quickly to despair, pronouncing the death of God and seeking to be his own god, without looking around him long enough to see the staggering presence of God that Kierkegaard so steadfastly professed.

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