The central spiritual problem of this modern age is nihilism. In a well-crafted book, entitled Nihilism, Father Seraphim (Eugene Rose), an Eastern Orthodox monk, describes what it is and what its egregious consequences are. Nihilism (nihil, meaning nothing), in short, asserts that there is no such thing as absolute truth and denies the existence of God.
Seraphim writes that nihilism comes in four stages–Liberalism, Realism, Vitalism, and destructive Nihilism– all of which can exist at the same time. Destructive Nihilism represents a rebellion against God whether He exists or not and promotes such ideas as this life is all there is; human projects are the center of life in the world; utopia is built from our own efforts, and after death there is nothingness for every one. Other gods replace the true God, writes Seraphim, for human beings cannot tolerate lack of belief in some sort of god. These gods are idols, and those who worship them are idolators. The future will bring us the Superman that is also a replacement for the true God. Communism and Naziism, products of the last century, are consequences of nihilistic belief, the primary promoter of which was the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.
By its very nature nihilism, as Seraphim describes it, promotes fear, confusion, disorientation, meaninglessness, and hopelessness. On the other hand, Christianity inspires meaningfulness, joy, hope, faith, direction, and coherence. We Christians have chosen the latter, for God’s grace has apprehended us.
When you are witnessing, remember the context in which you are witnessing. American culture is a society of despair, confusion, and chaos. Christian faith is the best hope for every person. We critique the horror of nihilism among others with gentleness and respect, sometimes not so easy to do.
Michael G. Tavella
April 6, 2020