Nietzche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1883-85)
“When he was young, this God from the Orient, he was hard and vengeful and built himself a Hell for the delight of his favourites. But at last he became old and soft and mellow and pitying, more like a grandfather than a father, but most of all like a doddering old grandmother. Then he sat, shrivelled, in his stove-corner, fretting over his weak legs, world-weary, will-weary, and one day he suffocated on his all-too-great pity” (4.6).
Here, Nietzche’s prophet Zarathustra describes the “evolution” of the God of the Bible from the “hard and vengeful” God of the Old Testament to the “doddering old grandmother” shrivelled in his stove-corner.
Many hold this erroneous view of the God of the Bible. As the Jews’ idea of God evolved, so “God” evolved. Hell was at first a delight to this “God,” but now he is weak and impotent, like the powerless Jesus. The worst fault of this “God” is that he pities the human race. Pity is, above all, what Zarathustra hates. For the Overhuman, there is no place for pity. Courage to be and the will to power are the supreme values.
Nietzche failed to see that the God of the Old Testament is exactly the same as the God of the New Testament. Just as the God of the Old Testament was holy, righteous, just, loving, and merciful, so is the God of the New Testament. God is not impotent or anything close to a “doddering old grandmother.” He is ruling as the Great King over the human race as I now speak. He is waiting for the right time to intervene powerfully in history. Revelation describes the prophetic “day of Yahweh,” when the hard, vengeful, holy God will destroy those who have persisted in rebellion against him. Nietzche’s description of God is outright blasphemous and totally wrong.
God has disclosed himself to us in creation, the canon of Scripture, and Christ. He has revealed what he is like and his plan for history. He loves mankind and is merciful toward those who turn to him in repentance and faith. His grace saves us and gives us eternal life, which is far batter than Nietzche’s eternal recurrence.
As Christians, we are to counter arguments claiming God has evolved or that the God of the Old Testament differs from the God of the New Testament. There is one God, eternal, immutable, in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God is powerful and sovereign, not weak and impotent. He never changes. This is the God we believe in. This is the God we worship and esteem. This is the true God.
Sorry, Friedrich. Once again, you are dead wrong.
- Jeff Coleman
Nietzsche in the care of his sister in 1899. Hans Olde produced this image as part of a series, Der kranke Nietzsche, or the sick Nietzsche.