The first is the negation of nature into grace, wherein a man who is naturally powerful and well-endowed with natural gifts and favorable circumstances and fortune must abase himself and devote his life to loving service to fellow men, especially those who are lower than him. He feeds the hungry; he visits the sick and the prisoners; he instructs the ignorant; etc. He forsakes his natural self-sufficiency and learns to love and do good to those whom he does not need, whom he in his natural state would not heed or treat with haughty contempt. In the “kingdom of nature” he was great; in the kingdom of grace he is least; his lowliness in the latter is directly proportional to his greatness in the former.

Nietzsche is then right that Christianity is “the one great curse, the one great intrinsic depravity” as the “religion of pity” that apparently elevates the weak over the strong. It is healthy human nature not to hate; it is not human nature at all to love. To acquire charity, one dies and is “born again.” This is painful. It’s terrifying. But how much more painful and terrifying was it for God! No being is spared the great command of goodness to be broken and rebuilt by uniting with all lower rational things.

Loving God and angels is easy, because they are one’s benefactors; it’s loving “up.” But as Jesus says, “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?” (Mt 5:46) It’s loving “down,” loving those who are naturally unlovable that is hard. And loving one’s enemies is still harder. But grace demands both unequivocally.

But of course, far be it for Christianity to transvaluate all values so outrageously. Nietzsche saw only half the picture. For there is a second negation, from grace to glory. The weakness of the weak is not after all valued for its own sake. The lowliness and humility of the strong by their own choice and grace of God are valued instrumentally as a teaching tool of charity. In the end, a naturally powerful man who “perfectly submits to God his science or any other perfection” (ST, II-II, 82, 3, reply 3) and uses it lovingly for the benefit of his neighbor or humanity, is glorified in the hereafter. His eminence is fully restored and multiplied a million-fold. This I think is the proper interpretation of the Jesus’ “Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.” (Mt 13:12, etc.)

The path to exalted power and status in glory is through humble service in grace. But unlike a naturally self-sufficient great man, a glorified great man is united though love, knowledge, and power with the entire rational universe, which is the purpose of the whole exercise.

Categories: What Is God?


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