Dionysus Against The Crucified: Nietzsche “Contra” Christianity, Part Ii -- By: Stephen N. Williams

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 49:1 (NA 1998)
Article: Dionysus Against The Crucified: Nietzsche “Contra” Christianity, Part Ii
Author: Stephen N. Williams


Dionysus Against The Crucified:
Nietzsche “Contra” Christianity, Part Ii

Stephen N. Williams

This is the second part of a two-part study of Nietzsche and Christianity (TynB 48 [1997] 219-43). Nietzsche’s phrase ‘Dionysus against the Crucified’ is used as a kind of text for the articles. ‘Dionysus’ is the principle of life: raw, tragic, joyful, but real, subject to no extraneous principle. ‘The Crucified’ is the principle of death: anti-natural, symbolising consciousness of sin and foreboding authority of God, imposing a morbid principle on life. This second part is an analytic response to Nietzsche from a Christian point of view. While the course of Dionysus by-passes the reality of human suffering (since attending to it introduces compassion and wrecks joy), the strength of the crucified one lies in his embrace of what is darkest and deepest in reality.

I. A Matter Of Taste

Nietzsche certainly said many things that disincline us from taking him seriously. A glance at the chapter titles in Ecce Homo makes the point. But not even the kind of egomania exhibited there can exempt us from the task of pondering his contribution. Sentences of superficially bloated self-regard invite sober pause when one investigates both the principal contentions and the historical influence of Nietzsche’s work. In Ecce Homo we read:

I know my fate. One day there will be associated with my name the recollection of something frightful—of a crisis like no other before on earth, of the profoundest collision of conscience, of a decision evoked against everything that until then had been believed in, demanded, sanctified. I am not a man I am dynamite.1

Despite Nietzsche’s self-image, the infuriating rhetoric is not empty. He has inspired many to live and rejoice in a post-theistic world to rare effect. He has given many more a good conscience about getting rid of morality, revaluing our values, so that we are no longer slaves to God or to law, but redeemers of our past and creators of our future.2

It seems logical to respond to Nietzsche first by trying to disestablish his presupposition. That God is dead is the starting point, not the term, of his thought. Indeed, his authorship does indicate how he and others might get to the starting point. A number of things conspired to make Christian theism incredible to many in the nineteenth century, including the historical-critical shaking of scripture, the naturalistic scientific picture of the world, and the damage inflicted o...

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