Theology: Is God Is Dead Dead?

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Princeton's Paul Ramsey thinks that Altizer and his colleagues merely enlarged on the "defect of 19th century theology" and "turned from reflection on God—the proper object of theology—to the human religious consciousness." Such radical theology is "really thin stuff," he says, against "a serious workman" like Barth. Yet Jewish Theologian Richard Rubenstein of the University of Pittsburgh thinks that the Christian atheists' search for new theological roots was "only catching up with the other disciplines" in emphasizing a study of this world. Indeed, Theological Journalist William Robert Miller sees Altizer as something of a prophet, whose vision of God-in-Man will eventually require a synthesis of theology with such disciplines as psychology, history, and literary criticism.

A Time for Waiting. Many religious thinkers agree that the healthy shock effect of God-is-dead theology has freed men to go on to more creative thought. Notre Dame Theologian John S. Dunne, for instance, feels that mankind is passing through the stages that German Poet Rainer Maria Rilke described: "Once there was God, now there is no God, some day there will be a God." Dunne's view, which he elaborates in a new book called A Search for God in Time and Memory, is that the period of God's death is nearly over, and "the dominant concept is waiting for God."

That wait, says Death-of-God Theologian Gabriel Vahanian, need not disillusion those who still want to believe. "The more a society becomes technological, the more it worries about spiritual questions," he explains. "After the death of God, man will be no less religious than before." In Germany, where the death-of-God theory has inspired a whole new reappraisal of traditional theological concerns, Protestant Theologian Jürgen Moltmann agrees wholeheartedly. " 'God is dead' is written on one side of the stone," Moltmann declares. "But when you turn it over, it reads 'everything is religion.' "

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