Atheism in contemporary Theology
the Death of God DebateJackson Lee Ice and John J.
Carey, eds. |
(Westminster: Philadelphia 1967)
All statements about God are
to be interpreted as statements about men, and we must dispense with the
meaningless word "God." This assumption is unargued and functions as an axiom for
van Buren's thesis.
73, Harmon R. Holcomb, "Christology without God:
a critical review of The
secular meaning of the Gospel"
(from Foundations, january 1965)
The "death of God" image points to a "style" in contemporary theology and
philosophy that is usually anti-metaphysical, earnestly moral, and hopefully
104, F. Thomas Trotter, "Variations on the "Death of God" theme in recent
theology" from the Journal of Bible and religion, january 1965
The word "trick" sounds just right here. What else can be said of a "theology"
(for they continue to use the word) which: (1) appears to take literally the
linguistically nonsensical phrase "God is dead," (2) shares with the atheist an
unwillingness to take seriously anything outside of man and nature, and then (3)
has the effrontery to assert that it may be possible to give this outlook a
107, Daniel Callahan, "Radical theology or radical titillation?"
Hamilton, for instance, denies that his position can be equated with
classical atheism. In "The death of God theologies today," Hamilton writes that
there "is an element of expectation, even hope, that removes my position from
classical atheisms and that even removes it from a large amount of anguish and
For all three [Hamilton,
Altizer, van Buren] the word "God" corresponds to
nothing in their experience; it literally signifies a blank, but a blank which
nonetheless has an effective content.
Question 3: Would the radical theologians call themselves agnostics, or atheists,
or antitheists?"Atheist" would be the closest. Agnostic suggests maybe, and
"death of God" is not a maybe theology. Antitheism suggests an aggressiveness
about others' views that the radicals don't have. But if they are atheists, they
are atheists with a difference. Perhaps the difference can be put this way.
Traditional atheism believes that there is now no God and that there never has
been, beliefs in God of the past being deception, ignorance, fear. Radical
theology believes that there was once a time (Bible, sixteenth century, for
example) when having a god was appropriate, possible, even necessary. But now is
not such a time. There was once, and is not now. The present of the radical is
like that of the atheist, but the memories are different. The radical can say yes
to the Christian past; the atheist cannot.
214, William Hamilton, "Questions and answers on the radical theology"