The Stygian Blackness: Nihilistic Extinction

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Wednesday, December 28, 2016 0 comments

by David Odegard

Nihilism is the root canal of philosophies - all the pain and depression followed by the certainty of a dental bill. If you live in Europe or one of the Americas, you have been affected already by nihilism. So please hang tight, we’ll get through this together.

Nihilism comes from the Latin word nihil meaning nothing. I am led to believe that nihilism began to be expressly formulated in pre-revolutionary Russia, and it does resemble something that would crawl out of a frozen Siberian nightscape of vodka-fueled depression. At the core of nihilism is this idea that absolute truth cannot exist. This is simply impossible.

Lesslie Newbigin once said, “All knowing involves both faith and doubt.” This is true. Nihilism questions all truth claims; it accepts only doubt. Ultimate truth does not exist, according to nihilism. But this in itself is a truth claim that goes unquestioned by those who accept nihilistic ideas. “There is no absolute truth except the absolute truth that there is no absolute truth.” This is a logical absurdity, but pointing it out does not dispel society’s infatuation with it.

All knowledge begins with faith. I must accept something as true to begin. I can question that truth claim later with new evidence, but I must begin somewhere. If I doubt everything, I can never know anything. But, I can only question the validity of any truth claim on the basis of ideas that I have already accepted as true. For example, if I say, “I believe that all Americans are earthlings.” And someone else says, “I doubt that.” I then say, “Why?” Then that person must say, “Because A, B, and C are true.” If nothing can be true this conversation cannot exist, nor any conversation whatsoever for that matter. We have to accept something as true to even begin. Faith is first, doubt only secondary; it cannot be otherwise.

James Sire writes, “Strictly speaking, nihilism is a denial of any philosophy or worldview—a denial of the possibility of knowledge, a denial that anything is valuable. If it proceeds to the absolute denial of everything, it even denies the reality of existence itself. In other words, nihilism is the negation of everything—knowledge, ethics, beauty, reality.” This has led modern man to elevate doubt over faith.

Friedrich Nietzsche articulated nihilism in its most lasting form for Europe and America. According to Nietzsche, because all truth is ultimately without any real basis, it is wrong to say that something can be right or wrong. (“It is wrong to say something is wrong.” This is a perfect example of the absurdity of nihilism.) Nietzsche would say that since it is impossible to say that something is right or wrong, it only leaves the will, “will to power.” “The future would lie with the ubermensch, the superman, who had the courage to recognize that there are no such things as right and wrong but simply the exercise of his will—this had its spiritual results in the whole Nazi episode in Germany” (Newbigin).

The superman will have to write his own destiny. Nietzsche writes, “As man emerged out of the animal, so out of man the superman emerges.” Emblaze the gas-fires of Auschwitz! Transform them into a foundry of the future from which the ubermensch, the superman, can emerge and claim his place. Why did the “master race” have self-doubt? Where did he get these ideas of right and wrong in the first place that limited his will to power? The Nazis reasoned that it must have been the Jews and the moral law they preach: truth claims of ultimate right and wrong. The superman is held back by the Ten Commandments. The Nazis’ final solution was to wipe the master conscience clean from Semitic meddling and emerge in Aryan supremacy. Earth has not witnessed a bloodier episode than the World War which arose in response to the idea that “as man emerged out of the animal, so out of man the superman emerges.” Nihilism is false from start to finish, and bloody.

Woody Allen once said, “More than any time in our history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness; the other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.” Woody can only see that we either accept existentialism or nihilism, and he has painted himself into a windowless corner. But, God breaks through all of that stygian blackness! Behold, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned” (Isaiah 9:2). God offers another way: Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth, the Light!

The Apostle Paul shrugged away his sufferings in light of the revelation of God given through Jesus Christ. He said, “I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day” (2 Timothy 1:12). For Paul, ultimate truth was only found in knowing God Himself. Jesus Christ is the Truth, the revelation of God for our salvation.

The Apostle Peter did not take a three-year course in philosophy to decide whether to respond in faith to Jesus’s command to “Follow me.” He believed and put one foot in front of the other following the master, Jesus Christ, for the rest of his life. Augustine knew that belief was the beginning of knowledge. His statement, nisi credideritis non intelligetis (“I believe in order to understand”), remains the truest form to apprehend knowledge. The Apostle John is the gospel of belief. In it he preaches that if you will not believe, you will not see.

The Gospel becomes a new starting point for all knowledge. If God, the triune God, has allowed the love and glory which has always existed within Himself to bubble over into creating this expansive glorious universe in which His attributes can be partially appreciated by mankind, if that is true, “then the only way to understand the universe is to respond in love and faith to the one whose universe it is” (Newbigin).

Perhaps you don’t like the flavor of a frozen Siberian nightscape of vodka-fueled nihilism and would prefer the tropical flavor nihilism’s watered-down little sister, Pluralism. But that is for next week. I invite questions, concerns, comments, blessings.

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