When Biography Shapes Theology

Gregory Thornbury | November 7, 2012


Several years ago, I was in Bath, England, with some friends to visit the ancient city and investigate a few Jane Austen haunts. While strolling around, I found my way into St. Michael's Church, in which there was a contemporary art exhibition of some local artists. One piece in particular caught my attention. It was a shark engulfing a man down to his ankles. Although I can't remember the artist's name, the title definitely stuck with me: "Biography Shapes Theology."

The more I read the history of philosophy and theology, the more I become convinced that biography has a disproportionate—but all too often unacknowledged—effect on an individual's worldview. Case in point: Friedrich Nietzsche. He was born in Röcken, Germany, in 1844 into a pious Lutheran family, and his father was the community's pastor.

"[My father] was the perfect picture of a country parson, gifted in spirit and heart, adorned with all the virtues of a Christian," Nietzsche later recalled. The young Friedrich adored his father, Carl Ludwig, but then tragedy struck. In 1849, Carl died from an excruciating brain disease. The young boy struggled to understand why his faithful father had to leave the world in such great pain. Nietzsche's…


To read the rest of this article, visit http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/en/article/when-biography-shapes-theology.