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Nietzsche and Jesus via Willard (with brief reference to Mitchell)

A habit I have benefited lots from is stocking up my iPod with stuff that I might be able to learn from in those moments where I'm physically occupied but mentally at liberty (cleaning and exercising being obvious such opportunities). Hopefully some of it filters through! (A habit which I have not benefited from is falling asleep listening to BBC 4's 'Unbelievable Truth'...I don't half worry about what that has 'taught' me! :-/ )

This talk by Dallas Willard on 'Nietzsche vs. Jesus' made for a very interesting gym session a couple of weeks ago. The premise of his talk is that 'the burden of human life is to find an adequate basis for human action in knowledge' and explores what those two thinkers* have to say about that knowledge.

According to Willard, Nietzsche was calling out the hypocrisy that was rife in academic/social/cultural institutions, which professed Christian ideology but in practice were driven by ambition, cliques, and power groups. Thus he concluded that 'the will to power' was what really mattered, rather than, in particular, truth. He rejected Christianity as a power play on the part of weak people to dominate the strong by lauding weakness as superior (we might think of the 'Beatitudes' or 1 Cor 1:26-31).  Modernism developed this rejection of truth (as a mere guise under which people exercised their will to power) and individual desire alone became a legitimate basis for action.

The heart of the issue between Nietzsche and Jesus, according to Willard, is 'truth, and its relationship to human freedom, well-being, and fulfillment'. He explores the idea that we are imprisoned by Nietzschean freedom; the truth claims of Jesus show us what it means to acknowledge and inhabit a reality that originates outside ourselves and that it is the submission of our will to reality through truth that brings genuine freedom.

As John 8:31-32 puts it: 'So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." '

So, anyway, I am no philosopher, and perhaps I have miscommunicated Willard (so if you have opportunity you should listen yourself), and perhaps Willard has misunderstood Nietzsche and/or Jesus, and even if neither distortion has occurred, the claims of Nietzsche and Jesus still need to be examined and evaluated...and that there is so much thinking and learning to be done is one reason why I am thinking that Masterchef probably doesn't merit 3+ hours a week of my time...

* Willard likes to stress that, though he considers Jesus to be far more than a great thinker, he is certainly not less than one.


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