Ever since seminary, I’ve really enjoyed philosophy. Philosophers, like it or not, really shape not only the intellectual elite but the general populous as well. Philosophy eventually drips down to the level of pop culture. It can become dangerous because philosophy doesn’t look so esoteric anymore. It simply looks like what normal people think.
But philosophy, even that which comes from seriously anti-Christian philosophers, can still help point us to Jesus. Even folks like Neitzsche, who coined the phrase “God is dead,” can be quite helpful in our sanctification. Men and women are made in the image of God and therefore can say true things about the world, regardless of how hostile they are to Jesus.
Let me explain. Nietzsche’s commentary on humanity was that everyone simply exerts their “will to power” over others. Morality, especially that coming from the church, was simply the church trying to get you to conform to their pattern of life. Morality is simply another form of power play (not to be confused with hockey “power play” where one team has more players on the ice; I still don’t get that).
Before we throw the baby (or rather the anti-Christian philosopher) out with the bath water, let’s consider the fact that he may be right in some way.
It comes down to the heart issue. What is the motivation for wanting our kids to behave at school? What is the motivation for a pastor wanting someone in his congregation to come back to worship after he’s been absent for awhile? Why would you counsel a teen to stop dating his/her unbelieving boyfriend/girlfriend or not date at all?
Could our motivation be “Neitzschean?” Of course! We can care about what others think of our kids, pastors can see people as “nickels and noses,” and we can have as an end goal that others simply look like us.
That’s what Paul warned the Judaizers were doing in the letter to the Galatians; they simply wanted followers and folks to look like them! Paul was well aware of this “will to power” well before young Frederic was!
So what’s the solution? How do we escape pure skepticism and pessimism, thinking everyone has a legitimate gripe in saying, “You just want to mold me to look like you!” We need to examine our hearts and decide what our goal really is for our children, our congregation, and our teenagers. Is it for them to look like ME, or is it to look like Jesus?
Is it for your good (will it make things easier and make you look better) or is it for their good (that they will choose life-Psalm 1, instead of walking in the path death-Deut 30:19) If Jesus is our ultimate aim, then we can honestly say, as Paul says, “Follow me as I follow the example of Christ” (I Cor 11). We can confidently explain to others, while examining our own hearts, that there is a difference in our will to power and Jesus‘ rightful will to power over all.