- Kontroversen um Nietzsche: Untersuchungen zur theologischen Rezeption
In the introduction to the first volume of his Apokalypse der Deutschen Seele (1937–39), Hans Urs von Balthasar coins the phrase "Dionysos and the Crucified," consciously replacing Nietzsche's "versus" from Ecce Homo with "and." According to Balthasar, there is no difference between the world of Dionysos and the Christian world—the Dionysian reduced to its foundations shares common ground with Christianity. Thus, Balthasar's line of argumentation follows a fairly common theological reaction to Nietzsche's critique of religion. He simply appropriates the content of the critique for the purposes of the theological interpretation.
When Balthasar's studies were reprinted in 1998, Peter Köster objected to this attempt to re-Christianize Nietzsche. Calling upon the likes of Franz Overbeck, Köster claims that Christian theologians like Balthasar have not been able to cope with Nietzsche's uncompromising atheism, an atheism that denies the possibility of returning to Christianity. Rather than trying to appropriate Nietzsche's thought for their own purposes, Köster thinks that theologians should simply confront the radical challenge that his thought presents. Köster's critique of the Apokalypse der deutschen Seele has now been republished in a collection of his articles that bear witness to his lifelong encounter with the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. His critical review of Balthasar's work exemplifies Köster's approach to Nietzsche, one that he describes as persistently posing fundamental questions to the philosopher from a theological point of view. The eight articles from 1972 to 2000 found in Kontroversen um Nietzsche: Untersuchungen zur theologischen Rezeption reflect Köster's attempt to persuade theologians to accept, on the one hand, the "anti-Christian" antagonism found in Nietzsche's work and, on the other, to appreciate the deeply spiritual-practical confrontation.
The title of the volume is well chosen. It emphasizes the way in which Köster's persistent questioning of Nietzsche's philosophy puts him at the center of a number of crucial debates in both the theological and the philosophical reception of Nietzsche's work. In raising doubts about all-too-comfortable and seductive interpretations, he seeks to clarify the assumptions of the interpreters he examines and, in so doing, he sharpens their respective points of view. Moreover, by critically engaging with the work of opponents such as Martin Heidegger, Eugen Biser, and Wolfgang Müller-Lauter, Köster affords himself the opportunity to develop and unpack his own rendering of Nietzsche's thought.
One of the cornerstones of Köster's interpretation is his insistence that Nietzsche's work constitutes a unified whole. Thus, he rejects those interpretations that posited an inner, even constitutive contradiction in Nietzsche's philosophy. This, however, was not a very popular position to take at the beginning of the 1970s. When he published his article, "Die Renaissance des Tragischen," in 1972, the work of interpreters such as Karl Jaspers, who placed contradiction at the center of Nietzsche's thought, and of Martin Heidegger still dominated Nietzschean scholarship. To present [End Page 71] his case in the aforementioned article, Köster contrasts his own reading of Nietzsche with Heidegger's position, highlighting the continuities in Nietzsche's philosophy from his early writings to his 1888 works. As is well known, Heidegger based his interpretation of Nietzsche's philosophy primarily on the Nachlaß fragments from the late 1880s and, as a result, demoted Nietzsche's published works to mere Vordergrund, which naturally led to the virtual exclusion of The Birth of Tragedy from Heidegger's reading. Köster, however, adamantly rejects this view, and he tries to show that the decisive questions of Nietzsche's philosophy, ones that remained consistent throughout his productive career, had already been formulated in his first work. More specifically, he maintained that the philosophical issues found in both the early and the late Nietzsche could be expressed in one word, "Dionysos." In contrast to Köster, Heidegger argued that there were significant differences between the...