In the 1800’s there lived a man, a German, named Friedrich Nietzche who said, “God is dead.” His belief and his declaration created quite a stir among theologians around the world. It might come as a surprise to you that there were some theologians who might not have been so bold as to agree with Nietzche but nevertheless doubted that God was personal. Nietzche, for the most part remained an obscure professor of philosophy until after his death. I remember when I was in seminary in the early 1960’s that the thinking of Nietzche had made a splash on the world scene and the “God is Dead” theory was a hot topic in theological classes.
The fact that the “God is dead’ theory was discussed does not preclude that our professors were in agreement. Mine were not. Nor did I have any professors teaching that there was no personal God. My professors did, however, believe that as future ministers we would certainly encounter atheistic beliefs and all sorts of weird thoughts about God.
Perhaps there has never really been a time in history when there were not doubters. Doubting that God exists, doubting that God became flesh and dwelt among us as the Bible states, doubting that God has anything personal to do with mankind. Doubting that Jesus was the Son of God or that he died on a cross to save us from our sins.
Frances Schaeffer, writing in his classic book, “How Should We Then Live?” said, “If God is dead, then everything for which God gives an answer and meaning is dead.” History records that Nietzche lost his physical health to venereal disease. But he literally spent the last 11 years of his life insane and confined to a mental institution. His unbelief and failure to find answers to life’s deepest questions drove him crazy. What a tragedy.
Ironically, Nietzche spent his summers and did much of his work between 1881 to 1888, in the beautiful Village of Sils Maria in the Swiss Engadin on the lovely peninsula of Chaste’ surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery in the world according to Schaeffer. In such surroundings he was unmoved by the words of David in Psalm 24, “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof; the world and they that dwell in it.” And he most certainly overlooked Psalm 53:1, “The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God”
The end of a man like Nietzche is tragic indeed. If you were to go to his beloved summer village today, you would find inscribed on a plaque sealed to a great rock the cry of his hopelessness – a passage he wrote before insanity claimed his mind explaining the profound pain of his heart, a belief he wanted but never found. His message of the dark midnight that claimed his soul ended with the words, “all pleasure seeks eternity – a deep and profound eternity.” How sad!
The soul cries out for a personal God, a living, infinite-personal God. It is such a pity, such a tragedy that anyone looking at God’s creation, seeing his handiwork in the heavens and on earth could even deny the existence of God much less declare that God is dead. Ponder the words of John 1:14 and believe: “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”
In His Love, Charles