27. The Twilight of the Idols by Friedrich Nietzsche
I read Ecce Homo for my Well-Educated Mind list, and I could have never read Nietzsche again but for the Invitation to the Classics list (five more to go, and I am DONE with classics lists!).
Actually, I found this work more accessible than Ecco Homo, but it is Nietzsche, and he is an arrogant, surly philosopher. He "sees himself as a preeminent interpreter to articulate the new meaning of the self, nature, society, and God" (Invitation to the Classics, p.300). I do not care for his ideas, but his works, especially this one, are like a bitter pill that needs to be swallowed if we are to understand this nineteenth-century philosopher's influence on twentieth-century thought. In this work, he attempts to destroy and expose the "idols" of Western thought and culture. He takes aim at everyone, especially Christianity. "Christianity, which despised the body, has been the greatest misfortune of humanity so far" (p.41).
Considering Nietzsche's beliefs about God and truth, we can easily wonder why a Christian would bother to read him. Quite simply, Twilight of the Idols is important for the Christian reader because of the powerful -- however partial -- nature of the truth that it does tell. It poses various questions: (1) If Nietzsche is in the business of breaking idols, does he not have at least something in common with the Judeo-Christian tradition?
(2) In biblical history and the history of the Christian church, has it not been repeatedly necessary for prophetic voices to rise up to break the idols that falsely claim the allegiance of believers? For instance, in Twilight of the Idols Nietzsche criticizes the English Victorian novelist George Eliot for believing that once she gets "rid of the God," she can still "cling all the more firmly to Christian morality." A Christian critic of culture might well sympathize with Nietzsche's attack on the modern idolatry of the self. It is Nietzsche who says in this passage on Eliot that "Christianity is a system, a consistently thought out and complete view of things. If one breaks out of it . . . the belief in God, one thereby breaks the whole thing to pieces." Nietzsche argues that there are no moral sources within the self. "Christian morality is a command; . . . it possesses truth only if God is truth." (Invitation to the Classics, p. 302)