I have been studying Nietzsche, and I find his ideas thought-provoking. Doing a wider search of the literature on the subject of nihilism, I note that very nearly all of the content that espouses nihilism is irreligious, and all of the religious sources attempt to refute nihilism.

There must be some dissenters in this regard -- it's a big world, and there are many forms of nihilism. Ecclesiastes, for instance, sure sounds nihilist.

“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”

Usually, I hear this explained away (e.g. -- "Yes, meaningless without God!"), and that may be the correct response, but surely there must be someone with an interpretation of Ecclesiastes that takes Solomon's words at face value.

Are there any well-known Christian nihilists whose literature I can examine? Where can I find discussions on this topic that do not take an anti-nihilist view?

Just to clarify, I am not asking someone to explain whether or why Christianity and nihilism are (in)compatible. I'm trying to get a sense of what's out there on pro-nihilism Christianity.

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    The preacher's words in Ecclesiastes do not espouse a nihilistic philosophy. On the contrary, they are the conclusion of a man who had learned the hard way that to depart from the fear of God and to compromise in obeying His clear commands is not only futile, but harmful, especially in light of eternity, where God will bring every act to judgment. (see 12:13,14). This is not to say all God's gifts to us (e.g., work, food, health, riches, pleasure, friendship) are bad, but then neither are they ends in themselves. When they become ends in themselves, you are left with only futility (nihilism). Sep 28, 2013 at 3:40
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    The author also recants at the end.
    – user3961
    Feb 7, 2014 at 19:30

4 Answers 4


Yes, there is school of theological nihilism influenced by Nietzsche, known as the "Death of God" movement. Probably the most famous individual associated with it is Paul Tillich. This work explores the idea that the traditional concept of God has "died", and the extent to which faith (or reason, or ethics, etc.) can still exist in such a world. We can argue about whether this sort of thing is nihilist, or existentialist, or both, or not really either; but in any case it comes out of that general area of thought.

It should be distinguished from the older and more "respectable" pursuit of apophatic theology. This is an approach to God founded on describing God in "negative" terms (he is not evil, he is not limited, etc.). Typically, this theology is mystical rather than rational, and Eastern rather than Western. A standard idea in apophatic theology is that God does not exist, meaning that the mode of his "existence" transcends the way in which ordinary everyday stuff is said to "exist". Contemplation of paradoxes associated with the divine is also part of apophatic practice - without necessarily trying to solve them in the manner of rationalist theology. Apophatic theology has influenced nihilistic theology but they are not identical.

Another relevant writer is Kierkegaard for his exploration of paradox and despair in a Christian context. He is not a nihilist but there is a good deal of later work which responds to him. I would suggest Fear and Trembling as a good starting point (because out of the two books I've read by him, it was the one I liked the best). In it, he works through the story of the Binding of Isaac with an emphasis on the supposed moral of the story, Abraham's greatness through faith; this is contrasted with the anxiety and subjectivity of Abraham's personal experience, in the context of an apparently immoral command to murder his son.

  • Thanks, +1. Kierkegaard is now in my reading queue. I'm waiting to see if others on C.SE have additional thoughts. I'm not sure how long to wait before I accept this as the answer. Sep 26, 2013 at 19:16
  • @Logicalfallacy if you're soliciting recommendations, consider Nietzsche and Jung: The Whole Self in the Union of Opposites by Lucy Huskinson. Jung was raised Catholic, though he abandoned the faith as an adult. I came to an interest in Jung after his discussion of the inclusion of Christian mythology in Alchemical thought and vice-versa.
    – Andrew
    Jan 9, 2016 at 1:58
  • Tillich was not a nihilist nor was he part of the 'Death of God' school of thought, though you're right that his work would likely interest those investigating these other fields.
    – Schuh
    Feb 11, 2016 at 0:08

Check out Gianni Vattimo's work. He's a modern Italian philosopher who identifies as both a nihilist and a Catholic. His main interests are Heidegger, Nietzsche and Rene Girard.

To him, the death of God represents the end of metaphysics (which he deduced is a form of violence), as revealed by the death of Christ. After Christ's death, we are freed from the law (metaphysics) and are free to focus on communities which work toward common goals (a process synonymous with the Holy spirit). The New Testamant destruction of the law is considered the ultimate nihilistic act.

Mine is a drastic paraphrasing but he's very interesting.

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    Welcome to Christianity.SE. For a quick overview of what this site is about, please take the Site Tour. Thanks for offering an answer. Looks like an interesting lead! Jan 9, 2016 at 0:50

Your question is not an easy one to answer in that nihilism takes many shapes and forms, and therefore it is hard to pin down how nihilism relates to any particular part of the Bible.

For instance the commonly known divisions of nihilism fall into the following categories Metaphysical nihilism, Epistemological nihilism, Mereological nihilism, Existential nihilism, Moral nihilism & Political nihilism

Most Christians that I know would subscribe to Metaphysical nihilism, prior to Genesis 1:1 in that there were no concrete (material) objects.

To embrace Epistemological nihilism would be to dispute that there was a tree of the KNOWLEDGE of good and evil in the garden of Eden.

Mereological nihilism would be denying creation.

Existential nihilism which you seem to be referring you question citing Solomon is tantamount to ascribing Creation to be a meaningless effort.

Moral nihilism would dictate that the 10 commandments are only a fabrication with no intrinsic meaning.

And if Law which is denied as part of Political nihilism has no meaning and really does not exist then God never gave the Law to Moses on the mount. (check out Leo Strauss)

You might also care to read Martin Heidegger's interpretation of Nietzsche.

For my part other than the idea that before creation nothing material existed, none of these other ideas could be accepted by Christians, I most assuredly cannot!

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    We are both new to this site, but I'll say, "Welcome!" anyway. Thanks for your thoughts, but as I said, I'm not looking for a critique of nihilism. You listed the types of nihilism from the Wikipedia page that I linked to, and suggested that I read about Heidegger. A question: is Heidegger a Christian nihilist, or just a nihilist? Sep 27, 2013 at 16:57
  • My point was in the fact that the two are incompatible, and to my thinking it is impossible to be both a Christian and a nihilist. But then that's just my view. As I read the scriptures that would come under the heading of being double minded.
    – BYE
    Sep 27, 2013 at 20:22

Negative theology, for example as it was expounded by Pseudo-Dionysius Areopagita and several medieval Christian mystics such as St. John of the Cross or Meister Eckhart is explicitly nihilist in its content. This theology explains God as a form of Emptiness, as something completely unkowable to the intellect. Therefore negative theology can be interpreted as "nihilist" or "proto-nihilist".

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    Um, no. The Via Negativa - or Apophatic Theology is not nihilist. It merely suggests that there is more to be learned about God by defining what he is not rather than what he is. Feb 7, 2014 at 20:43

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