Slowly but surely my last two posts on Nietzsche’s The Antichrist have been spiraling inwards to the heart of the matter: if we’re talking about Nietzche’s Antichrist, who is his Christ?
Over against Behemoth’s The Satanist, which ended up creating an all-too-typical devil who simply celebrates domination, resentment, and oppression, there are other devils abroad in the realm, some of whom dance to a noticeably different beat. Sweden’s Ghost gives us one of these in their 2015 album Meliora.
Just when we think we’ve got him nailed down, Nietzsche has a tendency to surprise us. Take his thoughts on the gods. Though we might expect him to tell us otherwise, he declares that not all of them are bad. There are good goods, gods that do what they’re supposed to do, that enable their devotees to live well with the joys and sorrows of life. Why doesn’t the Christian God do this? What’s different about this divinity? The Antichrist offers an unnerving answer.
We saw in The Satanist, Behemoth’s 2014 album, that the Devil was the one who had been wounded, cast down, and whose rule and authority had been stripped away. The premier episode of Black Mirror’s most recent season offers a lens through which to better understand what’s at stake here. It’s a story as old as creation itself, that of masculinity gone awry.
If you’d asked my high school self if I’d ever end up being a fan of Frederich Nietzsche, my first response would’ve been, “Who?”, followed by my fearfully running away to bury my head in some apologetics book. Over the years, though, I’ve come to love Nietzsche, his work, and his passion.
Behemoth’s The Satanist is a disturbing, and at times revolting, record, but it’s also musically and theologically riveting. It also happens to be one of the top ten metal albums released. Ever.
So, what can we learn from it?
Metal music is all about the devil, isn’t it? What are we to do with that? Run shrieking to the hills in horror? Denounce it from our pulpits? Actually listen to it?
What if it might actually serve as a source of fruitful theological stimulation and inspiration?
If life with God is not, ultimately, about virtue, what does that leave us with? Golgotha and Easter offer one possible way forward, one without the securities of easy or pat answers, but, ultimately, one we can learn to live with, amidst the ambiguities of life on the ground.
There seems to be a lot of talk about virtue these days. Stacks of books have been written extolling it's benefits, claiming that a recovery of virtue is just what is needed to get our church and culture back on track. But is virtue and talk of virtue a good thing? Is it even a Christian thing?
Often, we're told that apophatic thinking and the liberating God are mutually exclusive. But what if there were another way forward, a way that recognizes that the God who outstrips us at every step along the way is also the One who overthrows the oppressors? Well, we'd be playing an entirely different ballgame, wouldn't we?
Does our life with God depend on our own abilities? Our own faith? Or something else? Perhaps, all of this misses the point. Perhaps, we've lost track of the thread that ties everything together. What if our security in God doesn't depend on us at all? What if it's been about God all along?
Gregory of Nyssa’s The Life of Moses is one of the most profound works of apophatic theology we have. Within the fairly simple context of an exposition of Moses’s life, Gregory traces out the contours of what it means to live a life oriented towards and perpetually moving into God. Enter: the darkness of God.
Reading Fear and Trembling, I couldn’t shake it, what this work had done to me. So, I kept reading and rereading, trying to work out what was going on, trying to distill it down to its core, trying to find a principle that would let me handle it safely...
Theology stopped working: it no longer did what I wanted it to do. As life toppled over, what was there to turn to when my coping mechanism gave out?
What do you do when your method for coping with life stops working? What do you do when your illusions are stripped away and everything comes tumbling down?