God is dead; a phrase first popularized by nihilistic, German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche in the late 1800’s. He believed that atheism was coming of age, and that Christianity’s influence would wane due to scientific advances. In his Parable of the Madman he presses his point. Notice the vivid descriptions that Nietzsche uses.
Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market place, and cried incessantly: “I seek God! I seek God!” — As many of those who did not believe in God were standing around just then, he provoked much laughter. Has he got lost? asked one. Did he lose his way like a child? asked another. Or is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone on a voyage? emigrated? — Thus they yelled and laughed.
The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his eyes. “Whither is God?” he cried; “I will tell you. We have killed him — you and I. All of us are his murderers. But how did we do this? How could we drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there still any up or down? Are we not straying, as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night continually closing in on us? Do we not need to light lanterns in the morning? Do we hear nothing as yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we smell nothing as yet of the divine decomposition? Gods, too, decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.
“How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it? There has never been a greater deed; and whoever is born after us — for the sake of this deed he will belong to a higher history than all history hitherto.”
Here the madman fell silent and looked again at his listeners; and they, too, were silent and stared at him in astonishment. At last he threw his lantern on the ground, and it broke into pieces and went out. “I have come too early,” he said then; “my time is not yet. This tremendous event is still on its way, still wandering; it has not yet reached the ears of men. Lightning and thunder require time; the light of the stars requires time; deeds, though done, still require time to be seen and heard. This deed is still more distant from them than most distant stars — and yet they have done it themselves.
It has been related further that on the same day the madman forced his way into several churches and there struck up his requiem aeternam deo. Led out and called to account, he is said always to have replied nothing but: “What after all are these churches now if they are not the tombs and sepulchers of God?”
Many continue to echo the sentiments of Nietzsche, “God is dead.” Yet, have we fully considered the ramifications of this statement? Nietzsche had a firm grasp of following this thought to its logical conclusions. The implications are frightening. He predicted that the 20th century would be the bloodiest in history, if people were to espouse the belief that there is no God.
If there is no God, there is no basis on which to construct an absolute standard of morality. One might appeal to herd mentality or the innate sense of right and wrong. It is true, that without God, man can still live a moral lifestyle, but without God, man lacks a point of reference or a place to anchor his morality. The standard for morality becomes self referential.
For instance, in some cultures there is no prescription against cannibalism or rape. Even between individuals what is endorsed morally varies greatly. Whose morality is correct? How do we determine whose morality is correct? One might not like, or even blatantly disagree with, the behaviors of others, but they cannot say it is morally wrong. Without God, morality becomes subjective, with each individual determining what is right or wrong in their own eyes.
Thankfully, God is not dead. He is very much alive, though many do their best to place Him under house arrest. Morality is rooted in the personality of God. We need not wonder how to live moral lifestyles. God has supplied all of the information needed to live morally and gives mankind a place to anchor their morality.
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” –John 14:6
Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.