"God Is Dead" Controversy
A popular debate over whether "God is dead" was occasioned by the so-called radical theology propounded in the 1960s by such theologians as William Hamilton, Gabriel Vahanian, and Paul van Buren.
Although the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche had asserted the "death of God" nearly a century earlier and a theological movement had already adopted the phrase to express the perceived incompatibility between a modern worldview and belief in a transcendent deity, the controversy did not fully erupt until 1965. For a decade before this, Altizer wrote, he "had been torn between an interior certainty of the death of God in modern history ... and a largely mute but nevertheless unshakable conviction of the truth of the Christian faith."
That others considered these two propositions to be irreconcilable became apparent when Time magazine published two articles on radical theology, the first appearing in October 1965.
For many observers the controversy and its resolution marked a turning point for Emory, from its previous position as an obscure, southern church school to its present status as a prestigious research university. Altizer left the school in 1968, and the "death of God" movement lost much of its steam by the end of the decade, but Emory continued to maintain a reputation, especially in the South, for theological liberalism.
Thomas J. J. Altizer, The Gospel of Christian Atheism (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1966).
Jackson L. Ice and John J. Carey, eds., The Death of God Debate (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1967).
Thomas W. Ogletree, The Death of God Controversy (Nashville, Tenn.: Abingdon Press, 1966).
Toward a New Christianity; Readings in the Death of God Theology, ed. Thomas J. J. Altizer (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World ).
Patrick Gray, Rhodes College, Memphis, Tennessee
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