The Antichrist: Or, On the Proper Use of “Christianity”


The very word “Christianity” is a misunderstanding: in truth, there was only one Christian, and he died on the cross. The “evangel” died on the cross. (612)

The one God and the one Son of God—both products of ressentiment. (616)

As I was doing a round trip to a Taiwanese Island a day or two ago, I made Nietzsche’s The Antichrist my reading while on the trip.

I was struck by several things, but the most significant, for me, was how deeply Nietzsche appeared to be putting forward a Christology — which is certainly fascinating when contrasted with the name of the book. There is, with this, an extraordinarily beautiful and fascinating anti-theological analysis that goes with this Christology, ventured on the basis of how the name of “God” has become the grounds for the reversal of all content the name might hold. I want to explore the latter a little first, before exploring the Christology and its implications.

On the (anti-)theology, Nietzsche writes,

The Christian conception of God—God as god of the sick, God as spider, God as spirit—is one of the most corrupt conceptions of the divine ever attained on earth… God as the declaration of war against life, against nature, against the will to live! God—the formula for every slander against “this world,” for every lie about the “beyond”! God—the deification of nothingness, the will to nothingness pronounced holy! (585-586)

God “became a spider, a metaphysician”, “pure spirit”, ‘the “Absolute”’, ‘the “thing-in-itself”’—and it’s vital that, I think, we recognise the truth of this. This is the history of Christianity and its understanding of “God.” Yet, simultaneously, it’s fascinating that Nietzsche isn’t saying this for the purposes of sheer negation, but for the purposes of affirmation and the redeployment of the concept of God for purposes other.

The Christian conception of God… may even represent the low-water mark in the descending development of divine types. God degenerated into the contradiction of life, instead of being its transfiguration and eternal Yes! (585)

This is what Nietzsche appears to venture in the Christology he offers up. For, to perhaps make Nietzsche’s bones stir, there’s a dialectical element in the heights Nietzsche is taking us to: a new expression of Christianity may be achieved in being antichristian. That one might truly appreciate the person of Jesus if one disavows the total edifice of Christianity and its actual history.

In this, I think it should be noted, Nietzsche should not be observed as trying to subtlety reinscribe the Christian—for him there has been only one, in fact, perhaps even no, Christian. I take this more as an attempt to put Christ to some use, Nietzschean use, Zarathustrian use! For one cannot be but startled by how totally positive the portrayal of Jesus is. Jesus the “free spirit”! Friend of Buddha and Laozi, one who lived without alienation, one who came to model a life — the picture is striking.

The picture is as striking as it is wrong, but its being correct is I think hardly the point. For Nietzsche is not in the business of proving Christianity or God — he is in the business of creating, creating Gods. Taking a leaf from his words on Jesus, I think the same words most correctly apply to Nietzsche himself,

For this anti-realist, that not a word is taken literally is precisely the presupposition of being able to speak at all. (605)

The point is precisely not to see Nietzsche as actually defending Jesus in some way, or God, or anything. Nietzsche is deeply sceptical of the gospels; he handles the New Testament with gloves. He speaks precisely because the words lack a correlation to anything traditionally understood as historical. In fact, he states that he wants to sound out the contours of a psychological type—the Redeemer. What he presents is an interpretation of a value to be created, a “Yes” to the real of existence. To substantiate this, we can read Nietzsche at once saying,

That we find no God—either in history or in nature or behind nature—is not what differentiates us, but that we experience what has been revered as God, not as “godlike” but as miserable, as absurd, as harmful, not merely as an error but as a crime against life. We deny God as God. (627)

Yet, also finding the above contrasted with the following sentiments,

It is not a “faith” that distinguishes the Christian: the Christian acts, he is distinguished by acting differently… [the Christian] knows that it is only in the practice of life that one feels “divine,” “blessed,” “evangelical,” “at all times a “child of God.” … Only the evangelical practice leads to God, indeed, it is “God”! (606-607)

The “kingdom of God” is nothing that one expects; it has no yesterday and no day after tomorrow, it will not come in “a thousand years”—it is an experience of the heart; it is everywhere, it is nowhere. (608)

For the point, in all of this, is be something new, something that has not been—or not been more than at least once, sort of. One can be “Christian” in redeploying Christianity, or Jesus, not as an end, but as a means to figuring and living life—life in the world. As Nietzsche says of a life that uses Christianity this way,

Such a life is still possible today, for certain people even necessary: genuine, original Christianity will be possible at all times.

Not a faith, but a doing; above all, a not doing of many things, another state of being. (613)

For it is also important to say, one need not actually do this—it can be done, has been done, and will be done a multitude of other ways (Buddhism, Laozi, Zarathustra are but some of the examples Nietzsche himself cites), but, “for certain people” it might prove “necessary”.

Were the one God and the one Son of God came to represent ressentiment in its fullest, one can, in becoming a god oneself, use them in such a way as to utilise them anew, differently, as the basis for declaring “Yes” to life. There are no Christians, there is only the being and doing of life in the world, of believing in the world; and one such way is to interpret for oneself Christ, interpret oneself as Christ, and so embody the type of the Redeemer.

The deep instinct for how one must live, in order to feel oneself “in heaven,” to feel “eternal,” while in all other behaviour one decidedly does not feel oneself “in heaven”—this alone is the psychological reality of “redemption.” A new way of life, not a new faith. (607)

All of this is to say—if I may speak plainly, and I will—one is to roundly not give a fuck as to the actual content of Christianity, it is to use it. Use it as and however one likes. It is this I feel Nietzsche is doing in putting forward his Christology. I found it, at the very least, to be interesting. I hope you may have too.