Nietszche Is Dead

Nietzsche, looking at his 18th century Europe, concludes that the belief in the old Christian God has become unbelievable. Its first shadow just began to cast itself over Europe. For those with strong and subtle eyes, the sun seems to have set and some profound and ancient truth has been turned into doubt. So they can finally stop and think away from Christian ideas. For those ingrained in the “darkness of their faith”, it is now evening. Our world is overcome by darkness. The multitude is yet to understand what it means for the ancient god to be dead. The whole European morality must now collapse because it has been built upon that faith. Then he asks a simple and yet very important question: why is it that no one seems to fear or worry about the initial consequences of this event? Well, he answered, it is because we are released from the burden that this belief has inflicted on us for centuries.
All those who always wanted to engage in unlimited thinking feel, when they hear the old god is dead, as if a new dawn has risen upon earth. Their hearts are overflowed with gratitude and expectation. At long last the horizon appears free to them, and their ships can venture out again to face any danger. Finally, all the daring of the lover of knowledge is now permitted again (Nietzsche, the Gay Science #343).
There are many ways Nietzsche’s daring idea can be addressed. We can spend an eternity responding to how God seems to be dead, or we can prove that He is the most alive of all things. In our society of today, God does simply sound for many a hypothesis. In our public schools, where our youth are in dire need of direction, we cannot offer God as the answer to our quests. Our government separates church from state. Therefore, it is ‘crazy’ for a politician to express his beliefs in the public arena and get elected. Many Christians think they are “too cool” to pray in public, or tell their friends about Jesus. If Nietzsche were alive today, he would say that God is deader that He was in the 18th century. When we observe these phenomena, many Christians of little faith could admit that God is dead.
However, God is dead for the wishful thinkers who wanted Him dead, but for those who believe he continues to make a quotidian difference in their lives. Young men and women around the world continue to hear the voice of voice telling to take their cross and follow Him. Ask them why they want to give all worldly things to consecrate themselves to God. Many families continue to pray together. Many families would not make a serious decision before consulting the living God. Would you be so kind to ask them what difference doing that makes in their lives. Christians are being killed in Nigeria and in many countries in the Middle East because they are Christians. Yet, they continue to go to Church knowing that they might be killed. Ask them how them alive God is. Many scientists continue to be puzzled by how a single cell develops to become multi cells. All respectable scientists admit that the universe could not have been so well arranged had there not been a hand behind it. How do I know it is God’s hands behind these scientific mysteries? Well, it is something or someone. Whoever it is I call him/it God. How do you call it/him?! Could He have set up everything on a roll and then die or go back to his bliss? Well, talk to those people dying with an incurable sickness in the hospital who prays to God. Ask him/her how he/she feels after he prayed. God is more alive than He was 200 years ago because our world needs Him more than it did then. If you fail to see the living God acting in everything there is, ask Him for the eye to see Him. Come back please and tell me what you discover.
Having posited that God is dead, Nietzsche was left with no foundation upon which he can build a morality. He came up with his own way of answering the big questions of life such as why we are here; where we are going. How we are supposed to live life so as to expect a good end. He maintains that in a universe where there is no God to direct the course of action in the universe, the finite experiences of human existence must necessarily repeat themselves, hence the term “Eternal Recurrence”
This is the logic that the theory of eternal recurrence follows: 1. if there is no god, there is no creation or beginning, and, therefore, time is infinite; 2. the number of things and arrangements of things is finite; therefore, 3. events must repeat themselves, infinitely – hence, eternal recurrence.
He is not kidding when he says that God is dead. He does attempt to replace God through this proposal. That is an alternative to our teleological view of the universe guided by God. He says, what if some day or night a demon were to steal you after your loneliest loneliness and say to you:”this life as you now live and have lived it, you will have to live it once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain, joy, thought, sigh and everything unutterably small or great in your life will have to return to you, all in the same succession and sequence.” Would you throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or would you simply say that well you are god, so I must obey your commands. He then asserts, “This thought can change us for the best or it can crush us as a grain of sand under a military boot” (Nietzsche, the Gay Science #341).
I must say that I have nothing against Nietzsche in trying to propose something capable of improving society as a whole. I welcome his proposal on this ground. Nevertheless, this is nothing different from what Christianity, against which Nietzsche has a tooth, is asking. Does the judgment day not give us the opportunity to think about our life just as Nietzsche’s problem asks us? He is saying in the paragraph above that knowing that we will have to live our life in the same way we are living it now might compel us to think about every choice we make in life. He believes that this knowledge might be the greatest weight that we might have to bear or it can bring the best out of us. Is that not akin to saying that we will give an account for everything we do on the judgment day? Of course, this is not easy to accept especially when we know we must answer for each and every action of ours.
Nietzsche hated Christianity because he believed that it refrains people t from being themselves. It hampers them from engaging in unlimited thinking. It gives them a framework within they may think and they cannot travel beyond that. That would be a very legitimate criticism has it been true. Why did Nietzsche, who broke that barrier set by Christianity, not propose anything that stands beyond and above Christianity? Why is atheism still unable to compete with Christianity in term of their cash value? Nietzsche and his idea are dead; Christianity is still going its way.

What Is Love?

Here is a topic that should yield some excitement while giving me some headache. I must confess that I am a tenderfoot when it comes to love. The greatest practical love I know is my parents’. They have been together 46 years. I have seen them going through so much together; their love for each other is never put into question. On a personal level, I don’t know much. My last girlfriend was years ago. I am not sure if the rules of dating still remain unchanged. What I can guarantee my readers though is that I have a lot of knowledge about love and I am a Christian. Therefore, I know what it means to love. I want to ground this post on the most interesting book of the Bible to bring out some conception of love found in that interestingly fascinating and fascinatingly interesting book.
If the ancient philosophers spoke about love, they never went beyond the idea that love takes four forms—Erotic love (sexual love), agape (charity/unconditional love), affection (fondness through emotion or attraction), and filial love (friendship).
Plato, in the Symposium, wanted to speak about love, however he turned it into the most ridiculous jokes that one can make about love. So historically, his account of the nature of love, philosophically speaking, remains the most thought-provoking account we have of love. Yet, he failed to discuss the different types of love we daily encounter. He failed to give a definition of love. If he discussed any kind of love, it is erotic love. He argues that each one of us is seeking the half of our original nature with whom to spend the rest of our life. This understanding of love is the most thoughtless thing that Plato had ever said in my opinion. Aristotle spent a good part of the Nicomachean Ethics discussing filial or friendship love. He essentially asserts that filial love is pursued because we are seeking to satisfy our own self-interest. We had to wait for C. S. Lewis in the 20th century before we see a thorough discussion of the most common types of love. We are all very family with his understanding of these kinds of love, so needless to redefine them here.
No one has tried to characterize or construe love in the manner the book of Song of Songs has. Certainly not these thinkers! That is why even though I have little experience of love, I can still explain love as I understand it in that book.
The very title of the book characterizes love as a [song]. So love is a song. Not a song that we can sing with our pretty sweet voices, but a song to which we can always listen. As peter Kreft says, “God is love, and music is the language of love. Therefore, music is the language of God”. Music is not simply something that awakens some feelings in us, it is the “saving light” as Gabriel Marcel put it. That love is best expressed through musical modes because music has the capacity to open the road to Truth. It gives us the sense of an unshakable testimony of a deeper reality where everything fragmentary and unfulfilled on the sensory level comes to fulfillment. Marcel found through music, the mode through which God speaks, something like a “blind intuition” or a “non-seeing sight” that elevates the mind to being itself. It brings everything to unity. It is the “sea” whose depths join the shores of philosophy and the islands of drama.
If love is anything awesome, it is “Dialogue”. Have you been in love? When one is bitten by that toxic virus, the most delicious food, the most succulent drink no longer taste good to him. All that person needs is to enjoy the company of his/her beloved where there is an unending dialogue. it is no wonder that successful marriages are those founded on communication. It is a dialogue that takes its very stamp from God. their communication reflects God’s love, mystery, and harmony that exist between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
One characterization rarely given to love is that it involves suffering. Exception is made here to Christianity whose very basis is suffering love, but outside of that, most people believe that love should bring sunny weather only. It does not. Love opens us up; it makes us vulnerable and exposes our sensitive self in the midday sun. Think of Romeo and Juliet, they die because they love each other. Had they accepted what fate proposed, they would both have been fine. Imagine Jesus; who could ever kill God had he not opened himself up in love to save mankind. Imagine yourself. The only reason why your beloved hurts you is because you are in love. You become vulnerable and weak before him/her because you are in love. The only way to avoid suffering is to not fall in love, which would mean to choose loneliness. Is there any greater suffering than loneliness? The good thing is that love is greater than suffering. It can transform, conquer and redeem it. “Not even deep water can quench love for it is as stern as death” (Song 8:6-7). Suffering in love is like a little stream of water struggling to go up a hill, and then a huge powerful wave of water comes and pushes it upward. Where there is love all marks of suffering are effaced because the power of love engulfs all past bitter experiences.
Love is fearless. This conception of love stands above recent sayings. In Song of Songs, the bride is hiding in the cleft of the rock (Song 2:14), fearful of meeting the beloved. That’s so cute. It is widely accepted today that “there is nothing to fear but fear itself”. Well, I don’t see eye to eye with this statement. We have a lot to fear—diseases, evil, hell, death etc. We fear these things to a point where we are ready to do whatever is necessary to avoid them. We fear that we love someone and open ourselves to him/her and be rejected.
Above all else, we fear God, the perfect goodness. No matter how holy we think we are, if we are told we are going to meet God face to face as our judge, would we be totally comfortable in our skin? See, we are afraid!
Now there is nothing wrong in being afraid. What would love overcome if fear did not exist? Would love not fall on unprepared soil? Fear is necessary to keep our love awake in awe and watchfulness. It is fear that keeps our soul alert so it may produce the right kind of love—love that grows in a fertile and pure heart. When this kind of fear falls into the ground of love and dies, it yields much fruit. This love is not erotic; it is agape. It is the kind of love that St Paul spoke about. It is patient and kind. It does not envy, boast, or proud. It does not dishonor others; it is not self-seeking; it is not easily angered; it keeps no record of wrongs. It does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres. It just never fails. Above all, it is the greatest (1 Cor 13, 4-13).
Love casts out fear and there is no fear in love (1 Jn 4:18), only outside of it. God is love and He is the most trustworthy love. It is the only love that does not disappoint and gives without expecting absolutely anything back. It is the only love from which when we are connected is all possibility of fear expelled. So can we truly love anyone other than God then? Should we trust anyone who says that he/she loves us? Well, that’s when faith comes in. I believe they love me and their actions testify for them. Should we doubt that our parents love us? I know they love me. My siblings love me. I know some of my friends really love me. They know I love them because I say it and my actions signify it. Because we love and love is fearless, we don’t doubt.

On the Virtues

Human beings need the best possible help to be as flourishing as possible. All the means that can be gathered to help them strive toward their excellence must be welcomed and promoted. Aristotle and St Thomas Aquinas understood that almost better than everyone else. As a result, they developed an anthropological system centered on the human person enabling them to grow in excellence in order to reach their ultimate goal, God. In this post, I will portray their understanding of virtue, namely the moral or cardinal virtues and the intellectual virtues, and show that for them these virtues are indispensable in the cultivation of a flourishing life.
For both Aristotle and Aquinas, human beings are teleological beings. They live and move and act for the sake of a telos (goal/end/purpose). They believes that every person act in search of an ultimate end. Aquinas, agreeing with Saint Augustine, says that it is universally accepted that everybody desires happiness. Happiness is the ultimate end of every human being though they disagree on the means that must be employed to reach that ultimate end. Aquinas takes the ultimate end to mean the desire to be complete. It means happiness, which is the goal and fulfillment of every human life and nature. The ultimate end means the happy life, which is the life of activity expressing reason well. It is the ultimate expression of our rational powers, which consists in our cognition of God, our ultimate end, and our appropriate reaction to that ultimate end. Since we are being created by God, our ultimate end is ultimate union with God. Our ultimate end, which is happiness, consists in contemplating the vision of the divine essence. That is possible through developing the virtues. Virtues are very good means to reach our ultimate end, which is God though many refuse to admit it.
Aristotle, in the Nicomachean Ethics, defines the supreme good – the summum bonum– as an activity of the rational soul in accordance with virtue. In fact, virtue for all Greeks is equivalent to excellence. A man has virtue as a professor, for instance, if he explains things in a manner enabling his/her students to understand well. A virtuous person is someone who performs the distinctive activity of being human well, meaning he/she lets himself be developed into the best kind of human being he/she can possible be.
The moral or cardinal virtues are prudence, justice, courage, and temperance. The intellectual virtues are science, art, prudence, understanding, and wisdom. Aristotle defines moral virtue as a disposition to behave in the right manner and as a mean between extremes of deficiency and excess, which are seen as vices. The moral virtues are learned primarily through habit/repetition and practice rather than through reasoning and instruction. Aquinas does not have any inconveniences against this view. However, he considers them insufficient to live a moral and genuine life. They are good enough to live a civic life, but lack the depths to help us live the spiritual life. Therefore, we need the theological virtues or the infused virtues—faith, hope and charity. In order to live the life of contemplation or the beatific life to which we are called, the moral virtues, which are acquired through habits, are necessary. They enable us to be decent citizens, but the infused virtues give us what we need to live as children of God. They allow us to live the life of grace expressing the moral virtues well.
Prudence is the kind of intelligence that helps us reason properly about practical matters so we can choose what is good for us and determine the proper mean to achieve them. It permeates all the other virtues. Without it, we would not be able to maintain the perfect mean between the virtues. Justice aims to perfect our will in order to seek what is genuinely good for us and our neighbors. It is seeking to attribute to each person his/her due. Fortitude is the willingness to pursue truths in the face of dangers and obstacles, or the ability to act rightly despite popular opposition, shame, scandal, or discouragement. Temperance is the ability to self-control ourselves in action. It is the curbing of our desires and attractions to do the good things of this world that are pleasurable to our senses. For Aristotle, there is no virtue outside of actions. To be prudent, just, courageous, or tempered, one must act that way. Otherwise, it is all empty talk. Furthermore, one must act virtuously in order to be happy. A virtuous person who does not exercise virtue is like an athlete who sits on the sideline and watches. Aristotle has a proactive conception of the good life: happiness waits only for those who go out and seize it. So clearly, happiness is not a state of mind. It is a way of being.
Acting morally requires not only that we have all the moral virtues but also that we have the intellectual virtue of prudence, or practical reason. The intellectual virtues are like spices in the food of the moral virtues. Without them, a person would not act wisely. Prudence, which I already defined it above, is the capacity to choose the right course of action in situations. Science is knowledge about the weather, biology, history etc. Understanding is the ability to properly comprehend something as it is to be comprehended. Wisdom is the ability to know when to apply our understanding of things rightly, and art is technical skill.
Aquinas never dwells on what Aristotle defines. Remaining faithful to his Christian understanding of human nature in relation to God, he maintains that the virtues obtain their original exemplar in the being of God. As St Augustine says, “the soul must follow something so that virtue can be born in it”; that something is God for Aquinas. That’s the reason the theological virtues are so important. They enable us to be partakers of the divine nature and elevate us to the promise of being sons and daughters of Christ for Aquinas.