“Amor Fati” is a Latin phrase that means love of fate, wherein loss and suffering are to be accepted and considered as good or necessary facts of life. None of us are immune to pain. The Amor Fati of the Nietzschean consideration advises a love of one’s fate even in pain albeit without God.
On the contrary, God does not assure Christians of a painless life. Instead the Bible teaches us to live in Christ to gain the peace that transcends all understanding, which enables us to live successfully through pain.
The objective of this article is not to extensively dissect the Amor Fati of the Nietzschean consideration. Basic concepts of Amor Fati will be emphasized to motivate an adequate Christian response. Furthermore, a basic flaw in the atheistic consideration of Amor Fati will be identified.
Nietzsche’s Amor Fati
Amor Fati was glorified by the atheist German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, who considered “love of fate” as essentially important for life. Nietzsche referred to Amor Fati as:1
“…formula for greatness in human being” (Ecce Homo, 258)
“…his inmost nature” (Ecce Homo, 325)
“…the highest state a philosopher can attain” (Will to Power, 1041)
In its existential outworking, those subscribing to Amor Fati would believe that everything happens for a purpose. They are to love that which has happened to them. This essentially translates to accepting, interpreting and activating fate as a positive purpose for life. Nietzsche expressed this as, “My formula for greatness in a human being is amor fati. That one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backwards, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it…but love it.”
Nietzsche linked Amor Fati to the concept of eternal recurrence, “Basically, this means that you live your life according to the principle that if you were to have to repeat the same actions as in the past, you would do them the same way. In other words, be at one with your fate and give your actions the weight of eternity. Stop wishing for something else to happen, for a different fate. That is to live a false life.”2
Christian Response to Amor Fati
How should Christians, subscribing to Historic Christianity, encounter and engage with fate?
Our fate is not fatalistic. The Bible does not teach that our life is an outcome of a predetermined course of events. Although God is sovereign, HE has offered us freedom to make choices that control our fate.
For instance, we could choose to either accept or reject God. If we accept God, we go to heaven. If we reject the Lord Jesus Christ, we go to hell. Our eternal destiny is based on the choices we make now.
Our temporal destiny, in large part, is also based on our choices. Cigarette smoking is injurious to health. We either choose not to smoke cigarettes to live a healthy life or choose to smoke so that we are vulnerable to illnesses associated with smoking.
Life is a series of choices. Our choices determine our destiny.
Most significantly, we love God. We cannot disassociate God from our life. We see life’s events from the perspective that God is the author and sustainer of our life. This need not necessarily postulate that God has foreordained every aspect of our life.3
Christians look to God always – be it in moments of joy or pain. We are to depend on God always; seek HIM and pray continually. Therefore, we are not called to navigate life without God, rather we are to gain God’s peace and HIS sustaining and healing power to navigate through life’ darkest moments.
Amor Fati contradicts Christian belief. So Christians cannot subscribe to Amor Fati. Christians are to love God. We are not mandated to love our fate.
The sovereign God also controls our fate (cf. Tower of Babel, Jonah in the fish etc.). So the individual Christian would rather be aligned with God’s will than to rebel against God. Aligning with God’s will is only possible when we love God and seek HIM always.
Basic Flaw in Amor Fati
The basic flaw in Amor Fati is that one cannot truly love his fate. In order to understand this, let’s consider an existential dilemma. How should a father, who subscribes to Nietzsche’s Amor Fati, respond when he discovers that his infant son has an illness that will kill him early?
A man had Amor Fati tattooed in his forearm so to be constantly reminded to love his fate. Here’s how this man responded when he discovered his infant son’s terminal illness, “When it counts is when you find out your infant son might have an illness that will debilitate him and ultimately kill him before he sees his twentieth birthday…It is then when you have to look at your forearm, be reminded that you have a choice in how to perceive this event, and look in the mirror through tears and consider something: Maybe, just maybe, if he wasn’t sick I would have taken him for granted. Now I won’t. Now I’ll make every second count. I can choose to be grateful for twenty years fully-lived with my son versus sixty years mostly wasted.”4
Sounds good, isn’t it? Not exactly!
How do we live while suffering from a terminal illness or while experiencing the untimely death of a loved one? Would not Amor Fati (love of fate) help us in this situation?
We cannot truly love a painful situation – a terminal illness or an unexpected loss of our loved one. A true love of any situation would involve a desire for that situation. None of us desire terminal illness or to lose our loved one early. Hence, we cannot truly love our fate that involves horrendous pain.
True love of one’s fate should essentially motivate a life within that fate. If one loves his fate, he should love to live that fate. This is similar to loving our house. If we truly love our house, we would love to remain in that house. We would not immediately seek to relocate to a better house.
Fate that involves suffering cannot merit a similar response. We cannot truly love to remain in pain. Instead, we truly love to immediately liberate ourselves from that very painful circumstance of our life. Therefore, the love that Amor Fati demands cannot be true love.
But some may argue that they love their debilitated life (e.g. disability). This cannot be true love as well! Suppose a medical intervention is discovered to heal that disability, would we not rush to gain healing? So we truly love a life without disability. We cannot truly love a disabled life.
Nietzsche’s Amor Fati promotes action, not stagnancy within that fate. This action does not preclude an action to change that fate. While Nietzsche prescribes love of one’s fate, that very love does not translate to enduring one’s fate. The man who subscribes to Amor Fati states that Amor Fati does “…not to teach you to be a cow standing in the rain, simply enduring and hoping to survive your fate…”5
While applying Nietzsche’s Amor Fati to life’s painful predicaments, the constant endeavor is to change life’s situations. Upon encountering a terminal illness, the immediate response is to seek appropriate medical care to heal the illness. This is an endeavor to change one’s fate.
Similarly, upon losing one’s job, the immediate motivation is to search for another job. Those attracted to eat unhealthy food will fight their appetite for unhealthy food and strive to live healthy. They do not love their fate of sickness or joblessness or eating unhealthy food.
Therefore, those applying Nietzsche’s Amor Fati to their painful predicament exhibit a stark exhibition of a lack of love towards their painful predicament. They desire to change their fate by either eating healthy or searching for jobs or searching for a suitable medical intervention for healing.
Man constantly strives to make things better in life; to change his fate. Thus he cannot love his fate that involves pain, for he exhibits love for an improved position in life. Therefore, Amor Fati is not a tenable proposition for life.
3 Please refer to Dr. William Lane Craig’s argument to assert the fallaciousness of theological fatalism at http://www.reasonablefaith.org/defenders-2-podcast/transcript/s3-14
Websites cited were last accessed on 18th May 2017.
This article was first posted at http://rajkumarrichard.blogspot.in/2017/05/amor-fati-christian-response.html