Trueman: Nietzsche Was Prescient

While many on the right default to accusations of cultural Marxism when confronted with such iconoclasm, I would argue that this latest trend is reminiscent of nothing so much as Friedrich Nietzsche’s haunting statement in Twilight of the Idols: “I fear we are not getting rid of God because we still believe in grammar.” This sounds odd but in the context of his argument, it makes sense. What Nietzsche is saying here is that language tricks us into thinking that it expresses reality but it does not do so; rather, it constructs concepts that it presents as real and seductively traps us into thinking of the world in particular ways.

If ever there was a philosophical position that placed the individual and his (or her or zir) will at the center of the universe, then this is it. Such radical nominalism may be nonsense but, like sex, it sells, appealing as it does to our intuitive sense of freedom and desire for autonomy. And rather like current attitudes toward sex, it makes the world’s purpose making us feel good about ourselves. To accomplish this, it asserts that God, and all that he created, from male and female to notions of right and wrong, are simply linguistic constructs, mere con tricks that capture the imagination of the unthinking herd.

Nietzsche was prescient. The current battles for the future shape of Western society are being waged most fiercely in the area of language. That would not be so worrying if the fight was about conforming language to reality. For example, to object to a demeaning racial epithet would seem not merely philosophically legitimate but morally imperative, a way of preventing the constructed category of race from being used to demonize another human being. Human nature is real; we all share it; and that places moral responsibilities upon us. But when we decry pronouns that assume the reality of bodily sex, we are coming close to denying the universal truth that all humans are embodied beings. Indeed, we are tearing away the very foundation upon which a common humanity and a common humanitarian ethic can be built. Read more»

Carl R. Trueman | “Clinging to God and Grammar” | September 23, 2021


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  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

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  1. There is an old cliche’ that “the pen is mightier than the sword.” Most evangelicals seem think of that in terms of Ephesians 6:17b where the last item that Paul ascribes to a hypothetical soldier fully outfitted for battle is the sword, which he refers to as the word of God.

    But this business of “words” works in an evil secular way, also, where twisting and tweaking the meanings to suit the context or inventing new words to fill a cauldron of poisonous venom yields an ominous purpose. And, as Trueman says, we’re caught up in that very thing in the present day and age.

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