Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), the German atheist existentialist philosopher, once told the parable of a mad man who declared the death of God,
Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the marketplace, and cried incessantly: "I am looking for God! I am looking for God!" As many of those who did not believe in God were standing together there, he excited considerable laughter. “Why, did he get lost?” said one. “Did he lose his way like a child?” said another. “Or is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone on a voyage? Or emigrated?” Thus they yelled and laughed. The madman sprang into their midst and pierced them with his glances.
"Whither is God?" he cried. "I shall tell you. We have killed him - you and I. All of us are his murderers. But how have we done this? How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What did we do when we unchained the earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving now? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there any up or down left? Are we not straying as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night and more night coming on all the time? Must not lanterns be lit in the morning? Do we not hear anything yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we not smell anything yet of God's decomposition? Gods, too, decompose. God is dead. And we have killed him. How shall we, murderers of all murderers, console ourselves? That which was the holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet possessed 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 need to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must not we ourselves become gods simply to seem worthy of it? There has never been a greater deed; and whosoever shall be born after us - for the sake of this deed he shall be part of a higher history than all history hitherto."
Here the madman fell silent and looked again at his listeners; and they too were silent and stared at him in astonishment. At last he threw his lantern to the ground, and it broke and went out….” It has been related further that on that same day the madman entered divers churches and there sang his “requiem aeternam deo.” Led out and called to account, he is said to have retorted each time: "What are these churches now if they are not the tombs and sepulchres of God?"
This parable is not merely the musings of a nihilistic rebel who revels in the death of the Almighty. Rather it is a sober prophetic vision of what a culture becomes when it kills the Sacred. Nietzsche, in all his irreverent honesty, shows us that when God is dead in our culture, everything changes. Reality is unhinged and every excess is binged. When God is dead, all life, meaning, morality, knowing, being, and doing are redefined and reassigned.
Our culture is living out loud Nietzsche’s parable every day. It has decided to ignite a renaissance of the primordial energies that destroyed Eden. Those energies are just a rehashing and re-conjuring of every “ism” known to Man. Humanism has freed us from Divinity by focusing our efforts on immortalizing human nature and progress. Naturalism has freed us from Faith by making us realize the only reality is what we can see. Deconstructionism has freed us from Truth by fashioning all narratives as truths and Truth as but a narrative. Relativism has freed us from Morality by helping us understand that right and wrong are determined from within. Consumerism has freed us from Restraint by allowing us to indulge in the excess of all our deepest cravings.
Through these energies the shackles of backward concepts like sin, shame, and the sacred are broken and we move towards greater freedom, equality, prosperity, and happiness. At least that is what we believe, right? To date about 60% of us agree that “identifying moral truth is up to each individual [and that] there are no moral absolutes that apply to everyone, all the time.” And tragically 46% of us “evangelical Christians” agree with that same conclusion. Surprised? Not really. We are seeing the fruit of our labors, or rather the lack thereof. For decades our culture at large has rationalized, relativized, and stigmatized GOD to the level of a mirage or taste. It has drunk deep of the pop-philosophy of common mantras that shape us from crib to grave: “God wants you to be happy,” “Don’t let anyone tell you what to be or do,” and “Find your authentic self.” We are inundated with these phrases through the music we listen to, to the movies we watch, to the clothes and food we buy, to the schooling we receive, to the advice we get around the dinner table. In the words of ex Justice Anthony Kennedy, who represents an essential interpreter of the very jurisprudence that ungirds our civilization, “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” Nietzsche could not have said it any better. Neither could Lucifer.
The Church in all of this is, sadly, no better (and I speak in broad terms here). Because the world is an ever changing tapestry of choices and beliefs it seems necessary for the Pillar of the Truth to adapt or die. Methodology, doxology, and theology needs redefining and refining. You see we must help the Almighty adapt to our more enlightened and progressive post-modern ways. We must make God relevant again. Like an adolescent leading along their parents into the technologies and customs of the 21st Century, the Church is shepherding God. It has grown up, seen the world, and realized its Cosmic Parent is too outmoded and insufficient to achieve His ends on His own merits. And so, we drink deeply of the methods of our culture’s madness. We turn obedience to preference, virtue to values, and Truth to experience and wrap it all up into a nicely packaged set of self-helps sermons and seeker friendly business models. All for “the Cause” of commission of course. The result is millions of us doing our routine weekly rituals of coming collectively together into thousands of churches across this nation in order to worship a God that accepts everything we accept, believes everything we believe, and behaves in every way we behave.
What is so tragic about this project of cosmic iconoclasm is the delusionary and perverse effects it has on us as a people. Nietzsche, in all his madness and godlessness, understood profoundly that without any objective transcendent astrological center to life – What did we do when we unchained the earth from its sun? – all is doomed to meaninglessness. There is no up. There is no down. Why? Because there is no horizon, which is the leveler to the landscape of existence. When there is no horizon there is only confusion and madness left. Mere creatures cannot create horizons they can only be guided by them.
Consider the growing madness of our age: In our world today, we speak that “wrong” is subjective and “right” is oppressive. We assert that the only boundaries there can be is to say there are no boundaries. We preach that the only sin is saying there is sin, and the only Truth is to say there is no truth. We legislate laws yet legal scholars inform us that everything is permitted before the law. We condemn corporate greed as immoral yet are taught that there really is no such thing as objective morals. We censure racists for seeing minorities as animals yet are instructed in biology classes that we are in fact nothing more than animals. We promote fact-checking to ensure our political integrity yet teach in philosophy programs that facts are just subjective narratives. We hold political rallies campaigning for gender equality yet write psychology treatises contending that gender is a societal illusion. We host panels on the toxicity of objectifying women yet have feminist op-eds arguing that prostitution is a legitimate means of empowering women. We are in fact rebels without a cause. We rebel against our own rebellions. Such post-modern madness, such horizonless efforts, are summed up in the poignant words of G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936) over a century ago,
"The new rebel is a sceptic and will not entirely trust anything... [T]he fact that he doubts everything really gets in his way when he wants to denounce anything. For all denunciation applies a moral doctrine of some kind; and the modern revolutionist doubts not only the institution he denounces but the doctrine by which he denounces it... In short, the modern revolutionist, being an infinite sceptic, is always engaged in undermining his own mines. In his book on politics he attacks men for trampling on morality; in his book on ethics he attacks morality for trampling on men. Therefore, the modern man in revolt has become practically useless for all purposes of revolt. By rebelling against everything he has lost his right to rebel against anything."
This whole experiment we have going on of present is an old-new project of Bablesch proportions. We are building towers to the heavens to not merely defy God but to declare to the Cosmos that we are the new improved Almighty. Shirley MacLaine would be proud. Nimrod's chest buttons are bulging.
But our culture is living a lie. Many of us are living a lie. We have fallen under the spell of the regression of our progression. Under this allurement we believe that all of these “isms” hold the keys to our freedom, fairness, and happiness, while in actuality they hold enslavement, impropriety, and wretchedness. The truth is that for all our talk of “progress” we really are just as, arguably more so, enslaved than any era of Mankind. While we may be more efficient, more scientific, more industrious, and more self-determining than any generation of our species, we have excelled in slowly killing our Humanity. The data doesn’t lie. Today we have less meaningful relationships than any of our forefathers; we have less of a sense of purpose and meaning than any previous generation; we are more depressed and less happy than at any other period; and we have a growing deficit of empathy towards those with whom we disagree. So much for being less bigoted and more enlightened than our forbearers eh?
The FACT is we are becoming more diluted in our ability to perceive our own chains. This is the regression of progression. We unhinge ourselves from virtue, tradition, morality, faith, and the Giver of All Life and Light, God Himself, in order to recreate the world in our image, only to find that such a vision leaves us wanting and waning. We are living in the greatest form of enslavement ever concocted in the minds of devils because it is the kind we cannot see and will not see and are proud of not seeing. We are going back to Egypt, not away from it. We are skipping towards Gomorrah, not turning from it. We are blueprinting Babel, not scrapping it. We are choosing evil to achieve life rather than love to achieve the Good. We are our primordial father and mother once again listening to the words of the worlds first deconstructionist, Satan, who said, “Did God say?”
The shadow of Nietzsche’s parable of the Madman has and does loom large over our world. In one way this existentialist German nihilist was right, God had been killed by our hands. It was He who scaled Golgotha that died a death of a thousand lifetimes. Paid it all. Triumphed overall. Defines and redefines all. Gives meaning, hope, identity, and peace to all. If we ever hope to achieve true peace, happiness, wholeness, identity, and meaning, it is only going to come through this One that bruised the head of the serpentine purveyor of the first “isms.” It is only through the life, the work, the teaching, and the restoration of the Luminous Nazarene that our culture, our churches, our families, and ourselves find their orientation, their horizon. For it is He who said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (John 8:12).
 Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science (1882, 1887) para. 125; Walter Kaufmann ed. (New York: Vintage, 1974), pg. 181-82https://www.georgebarna.com/research/282014/americans-see-many-sources-of-truth%E2%80%94and-reject-moral-absolutes
 G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy in The Three Apologies (Mockingbird Press, 2018), pg. 155-156
https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/affectionado/201308/what-lack-affection-can-do-you; https://www.multivu.com/players/English/8294451-cigna-us-loneliness-survey/; http://www.getlifeboat.com/report/
 https://www.fastcompany.com/90322825/world-happiness-report-teens-are-online-more-less-happy; https://theconversation.com/what-might-explain-the-unhappiness-epidemic-90212;https://www.publichealth.columbia.edu/public-health-now/news/depression-rise-us-especially-among-young-teens; https://www.bcbs.com/the-health-of-america/reports/major-depression-the-impact-overall-health
https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1088868310377395; https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/oct/04/increasing-number-of-britons-think-empathy-is-on-the-wane; https://www.researchgate.net/publication/45508353_Changes_in_Dispositional_Empathy_in_American_College_Students_Over_Time_A_Meta-Analysis
Michael H. Erskine is a high school Social Studies Teacher, has an M.A. in History & School Administration, serves as a Bible teacher in the local church, and is happily married to his beautiful wife Amanda.