38 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on December 16, 2000
This book is unique in that it is written by a Christian who uses the arguments of Nietzsche, Freud, and Marx to critique some of the shortcomings Christianity has shown over the last 2000 years. Its important to know that the author (Westphal) is strongly committed to the truthfulness of Christianity, but he wants other believers to know that we can learn something by listening to the words of these men. While many may ignore such advice when considering the source, I believe Westphal makes a lot of valid points in this book. He likens the critiques of Nietzsche, Freud, and Marx to those of the Old Testament prophets and Jesus. However, Westphal is careful not to blindly accept every criticism which comes from these men. He listens to what they have to say and then acknowledges when they're on the mark. Christians today could learn much by doing likewise.
48 of 50 people found the following review helpful
on February 10, 2001
Back in 1992 I attended a lecture entitled "Nietzsche as Christian Philosopher." I was curious, and so went and heard a brilliant talk about the deep understanding Nietzsche had of the Christianity of his day, and why he found it necessary to reject it. The lecturer did not try to make Nietzsche into a Christian, of course, for Nietzsche was not one. Still, he pointed out that Nietzsche's critique grew out of his view, in part, of Christianity as a religion with a "slave mentality," one utterly lacking in a will-to-power. Apparently, Nietzsche had been reading Paul.
Westphal has also been reading Paul, and Augustine, and Luther, and Kierkegaard, in addition to the three founders of the "school of suspicion" as Ricoeur calls them: Frued, Marx, and Nietzsche. Westphal has brought back from his travels with these men a powerful and critical message for the church today; and when criticized, the church should pay close attention to the criticism. All three of these philosophers raise valid and very important concerns about not only the praxis of Christianity, but Christianity qua Christianity, as belief system and structure.
Nietzsche is indeed a Christian philosopher insofar as he shows us the will-to-power implicit in belief. He is correct that the Christ-idea of Christianity is antithetical to a will-to-power or a triumphalistic worldview, and that it would never and could never produce der Übermensch (that, in part, is why he hated it so). When Christianity weds itself to power, any power at all, it needs to read Nietzsche. It also needs to read Freud, badly, if it hopes to confront its wish-fulfillments in this-worldly "Kingdom of God"-speech, and its death-wishes in indulging apocalyptic orgies (note to Tim LaHaye: read more Freud). Christianity should also read Freud if it wants to really get an insight into Paul's "what I want to do, I do not, and what I do not want to do, I do," as well as a lot of Luther. Finally, a good re-reading of Marx (Marx has never really been given a good try, not since Lenin got him first and ruined him) might just show us why, after all, we not only cannot simply render unto Caesar, but why we constantly confuse Caesar and God. Great book by an important thinker.
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on October 22, 2004
Merold Westphal is an excellent philosopher, and this book shows that. He does a terrific job to show that Singmund Freud's, Karl Marx's and Friedrich Nietzsche's critique of religion are all a very biblical critique.
Westphal rightly notes the failures of any forms of Positivism to critique religion, and although Freud was a thorough-going positivist, his critique or religion did not rest on those assumptions. His critique of religion was that it was a wish-fulfillment. And in many ways, we Christians do make God into what we "wish" for Him to be. He had the most chapters on Freud, because his thinking is very complex and he had to go over all the facets of his thought.
The section on Karl Marx was very good, too. Marx (and Nietzsche for that matter) rested their critique of religion on ideologies. Marx relied heavily on Feuerbach's critique of religion for his crituqe, although he said Feuerbach didn't go far enough. Marx critisized religion because of the so-called German state being "Christian". The state was being oppresive. What Christians need to realize is that the Gospel does have political consequences and that God does care for the poor, and Marx definitely shows this. He compared Marx to the prophet Amos.
The section on Nietzsche is very good, also. Nietzsche was a terrific Philosopher, even though I definitely do not agree with him on everything. He has many good things to say. He bascially said that we use religion to get revenge on others. That is often the case, too. He said that we used religion to use our own "will to power". He compared Nietzsche's critique to Jesus' critique of the pharisees.
This was a terrific book on describing how these men's critique of religion is much like the biblical critique of religion, and is a very powerful look at human nature.
13 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on July 26, 2011
This book seeks to educate readers about what Freud, Marx, Nietzsche and Westphal have to say about the role of religion in sociological, political, economic, and psychological contexts. In terms of Christian apologetics and polemics, this book is an invaluable tool to understanding why atheists attack Christianity. No one will deny that Westphal is correct in saying that our jobs as Christian apologists should be to listen to criticisms against Christianity. However, there may be difficulty in coming to a consensus that we should support what atheists say.
Westphal, perhaps like other intellectuals I have known, may be content to relax in the shade of the "capitalist" tree while simultaneously laying an axe to the root of that which benefits him. Never mind that he has no other sapling with which to replace the one he destroys. While Westphal decries the inhumanity of capitalism, he offers no alternative. He seems to not notice that capitalism, as we find it in America, has enjoyed periods of full employment and has contributed greatly to upward mobility from poverty to wealth. Neither does Westphal consider that capitalism has enabled many Christians to earn wealth in order to give wealth, and that on a global scale. Socialism and communism, on the other hand, have proven to be surefire ways to universal poverty and misery. As of this writing, the socialism of American Democrats and President Obama have created and maintained a high unemployment level in America. Not only this, but more Americans are receiving entitlements than are actually working to provide the money for entitlement spending. So, I ask Westphal, who are the oppressed now? So much for the evils of capitalism. Perhaps the adage that Socialism spreads misery equally is correct. Westphal should spend some time researching the good capitalism has achieved.
In reading this book, one must be careful and do so with a critical eye. Question everything. What Westphal advocates politically and socially can have negative repercussions and has had negative repercussions. Although Jesus came to the poor and oppressed, it is a totally different thing to say he espoused political revolution to overthrow the system that maintained the wealthy.
Westphal's views here, though insightful, are not the only views. There are others that need to be considered. There may be, in fact, a reason that we exist in two worlds, one secular and one spiritual. No doubt we exist as Christians in both, but to claim we can achieve a utopian synthesis of the two on earth may be a bit of a reach; and if this is what Christ came to do, then this may not be clear to all.