Question

Fredrick Nietzsche seems to be on to something when he says God is dead. Jesus died. No breath, no heartbeat. So God is dead. And dead is dead. What say you?

Answer

Though discussed before him, the German philosopher Fredrick Nietzsche (1844-1900) introduced the thought that “God is dead” (German: Dieu est mort) in his book called The Gay Science (1882). But it was popularized in his later work called, Thus Spake Zarathustra: A Book for All or None. He stated:

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?

In his forensic statement, Nietzsche meant that the Enlightenment eliminated the possibility of the existence of God. The “Death of God” theology (theothanatology) was re-popularized in the late 1950s and 1960s before diminishing once again. [1]

Such an undertaker’s philosophy leads to many atheistic tentacles of error. For instance, it asserts that man doesn’t need God. He may simply, by his own free will, atone himself. It opens the door of relativism. It makes God out to be a liar in that there’s no need for a savior (i.e., Jesus) and makes death to be nothing more than a mere inconvenience. It provides no ultimate justice for sin and thus no eternal hope.

There are many other problems with such a pathology report concerning God, but the chief one is it denies the reality that God is still very much alive. The reports of his death have been overly exaggerated. Revelation 10:6 says he “lives forever and ever”. Romans 9:5 speaks of God as being eternally blessed. 2 Peter 1:11 tells us his kingdom is eternal. He is from “everlasting to everlasting” in Psalms 90:2. Ephesians 3:11 speaks of his eternal purpose and Romans 1:20 his eternal power. 1 Timothy 1:17 (NIV) calls him “the King eternal, immortal, invisible.” He is the “Everlasting God” in Genesis 21:33). Millions have personal relationships with God. God is alive!

God sustains all things, even the pen Nietzsche used to write that he is dead. The apostle Paul had a pen as well and with it wrote Romans 1:21-23:

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

In believing and penning that “God is dead” Nietzsche did not honor God and his word which clearly maintains that God is eternal. Nietzsche became futile in his thinking. He exchanged the image of the glorious eternal God for the mere image of some mortal man. He became vain in his imaginations and wrote as a fool would write. Do you really think some man with a pen, whose own being God created, could write Creator God out of existence? God lives and laughs at such mocking (Psa. 37:13).

Nietzsche’s coroner’s report is a lie. God can’t die. He has no grave. Yes, as a man Jesus died and lay in his grave for three days before he rose again. The risen Christ was seen by over 500 witnesses. But the day he died, God didn’t die. How can Christians hold to this belief? The truth is that Jesus Christ is two natures in one person: fully God and fully man. The Trinity was never broken, not for three days, not even for a second. After Jesus physically died, he spiritually continued to exist and sustain the universe (Heb. 1:3). Otherwise, everything including even our very own existence today, would have instantly ceased. Moreover, one person of the Trinity cannot cease to exist for even a millisecond without embracing mutability in God’s nature. God can’t change. See Malachi 3:6 and James 1:17.

At the moment of death, Jesus’ body was separated from his spirit, but his spirit did not cease to exist. The physical body dies, but the spirit lives on. In his resurrection, Jesus’ body and spirit were reunited. All humans will die, and when we die our physical beings cease, but our spiritual beings live on. One day our renewed physical beings will be reunited to our spirits and we’ll live forever.

God isn’t dead. Nietzsche isn’t dead either. Yes, since 1900 his body lies in a grave decaying, but his spirit lives on in eternal separation from God in hell. It awaits his new eternal body fit for the pains of eternal torment. God lives on and sustains all, even eternal heaven and hell.

God is alive.

Footnotes

[1] Some modern-day self-prescribed morticians who hold similar views are Gabriel Vahanian of Syracuse a French Protestant who wrote The Death of God (1961). Harvey Cox, a Baptist, wrote, The Secular City (1965). Another Baptist William Hamilton wrote The New Essence of Christianity. Paul M. Van Buren wrote The Secular Meaning of the Gospel, and Thomas J. J. Altizer wrote, The Gospel of Christian Atheism, both Episcopalian.

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).