Tuesday, November 1, 2011


The German Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche was fond of speaking of the "death of God." In the late 1960's and early 70's, there unfolded, in theological circles, what came to be known as "The Death of God Movement." Numerous scholars led the charge in this, to put it mildly, shocking expression related to the Almighty; most notably Thomas J. J. Altizer and William Hamilton. My theology professor, William Hendricks, thought such expression foolish. God, by very definition, would have no ending of existence, transcendence, or mystery. He called it "linguistic absurdity."

The interesting thing, however, was that Hendricks agreed with what these guys were trying to say. He just didn't like the way they were saying it, and he said so. I find myself after all these years agreeing with Professor Hendricks.

What was being attempted five decades ago was to say that the human has a strong propensity to create God in our own image. God created a three-tiered universe where God resided in heaven above, we try to work it all out on earth in between, and the setting where the godless ones fry is located beneath. This God thinks like us, hates the same people we hate, favors our nation (and maybe even one race over the other), wants power in the hands of the favored few, has a stringent list of doctrine that must be followed lest the bottem tier call our name, accomplishes divine purpose through violence, and is always watching us guilty ones!

Scholars would say that particular God died! I would say that God never existed. Instead of teaching that God's demise had come, I wish they had taught that we have images and beliefs about God, sometimes strong ones, that simply will not stand up to scrutiny any longer. And the understanding we have today may not hold up somewhere in the future. Our understanding of God is not God. If we press it, that understanding simply becomes idolatry; we worship our own image of God. Instead of burying God, perhaps we should do some serious re-thinking.

God is dead - a statement intended to shock and teach a valuable lesson. But it is linguistically absurd.

Rethinking our understanding of God.....always, throughout life, never pitching our tent on any one statement. Seems like that has possibility.

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