Barth on Nietzsche and the Crucified


According to Barth, Nietzsche never gave a damn about God’s existence; it was by instinct Nietzsche declared that God is dead. He would never bother offering arguments. At the end of the day, the most important thing to Nietzsche was ethics. He absolutely detested Christian morality. While Nietzsche favors the “lonely, noble, strong, proud, natural, healthy, wise, outstanding, splendid man, the superman, a type which is the very reverse, and so far has managed to do this successfully with its (Christianity’s) blatant claim that the only true man is the man who is little, poor and sick, the man who is weak and not strong who does not evoke admiration but sympathy, who is not solitary but gregarious – the mass-man. It goes so far as to speak of a Crucified God, and therefore to identify God Himself with this human type, and consequently to demand of all men not merely sympathy with others but that they themselves should be those who excited sympathy and not admiration” (CD III/2, 239).

Barth believes Nietzsche envisioned the true threat of Christianity, which “confronts him with the figure of suffering man. It demands that he should see this man, that he should accept his presence, that he should not be man without him but with him, that he must drink with him at the same source. Christianity places before the superman the Crucified, Jesus, as the Neighbour, and in the person of Jesus a whole host of others who are wholly and utterly ignoble and despised in the eyes of the world…the hungry and thirsty and naked and sick and captive, a whole ocean of meanness and painfulness. Nor does it merely place the Crucified and His host before his eyes. It does not merely will that he see Him and them. It wills that he should recognise in them his neighbours and himself” (CD III/2, 241).

Finally Barth writes, “[w]ith his discovery of the Crucified and His host he discovered the Gospel itself in a form which was missed even by the majority of its champions, let alone its opponents, in the 19th century. And by having to attack it in this form, he has done us the good office of bringing before us the fact that we have to keep to this form as unconditionally as he rejected” (CD III/2, 242).


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