God is Dead… God Said So…


The following is an online discussion from a class I took last spring: Images of God. We read an article written by a philosopher who originated the phrase: God is Dead; which was made famous by a cover of Time magazine in the mid 1960’s. The article we read described an incident in his boyhood where three young friends of his were in an accident and the only one surviving the accident was one who didn’t believe in God. This incident greatly impacted his faith. In fact, although he continued to read the bible, and live in a manner consistent with its teaching, and the teachings of Jesus; he was never able to get past the unfairness of the death of his friends. Thus, his statement that God is Dead.

The task we had as students, was to speak to the man and give a short response to his thesis.

by Larry Williams – Tuesday, 10 January 2012, 04:40 PM

I guess I could come up with reasons as to why your friends who were Christians were killed or tragically hurt, yet the one who didn’t believe in God wasn’t. And I’m sure if you asked Christian apologists why, you might get one answer, evangelicals another answer, Catholics another answer, and so on… but honestly, I’m not sure reasons or answers are what are called for. Sitting with you as a child and holding you while you cried might be a much better focus for both you and for me. I have come to find that it really does no good for me to explain God. If God is who I think God is, then God is fully capable of answering for God’s own existence. I think God would prefer that actually. I believe God would suggest to me that my time was better served by loving the child who was traumatized by the unthinkable loss of close friends. I think Jesus, in particular, would much rather I be your friend than try to talk dry theology with you. Seems a waste of breath to me, especially in the face of tragedy.

I do think, however, that I would encourage you to ask questions, and to tell the dead God just how angry and perplexed you are and were. And… honestly… I suspect maybe the old God is dead. At least the one who was an angry, fifth grade, male, math teacher who still gave swats… What if that God was actually reborn as a beautiful, 30-something, female, art teacher? Would that work better for you? If so… allow that one to speak to you. Because honestly, if God is who I think God is, he/she would love to be heard and also to listen.

Reply:               

Re: God is dead… God said so…

by John Ray – Tuesday, 10 January 2012, 06:24 PM

Larry,

 

Good to “read” you bro. Are you in Florida? I like the idea of our “images” of God being allowed to die, but I think the author of the article is going beyond that, arguing for an actual, tangible death. But your response is spot on either way. The realization came from an emotional event for the author. Addressing the emotion seems a better way to address the issue. But how to we sit and hold the hand of the hurt child in a grown person?

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Re: God is dead… God said so…

by Larry Williams – Wednesday, 11 January 2012, 12:26 PM

JRay! Not in FL yet. Waiting on the financial aid check, then my son and I will hang in Memphis on Beale Street, and maybe hit Sun Studios, before continuing on to St. Pete.

How to hold the hand of the child in an adult body… I think it begins by listening. If God is dead… who can listen? We can. I also think refusing to answer questions meant for God is also important. I find that God seldom answers my deepest questions. Continuing to live in the disonance until it resolves seems to be answer enough. Listening conveys respect for the person, their experience, and their feelings.

I also think sharing our own story, especially when there are common events or themes, leads to relationship. People want to feel heard and that they aren’t alone in their deep sorrow. Before we can speak to their process and life beyond their experience of grief, let alone the meaning they find in the experience, we must journey with them through it. Also, I don’t think it is effective or necessary to explain God’s side of it. Rather, modeling our own journey, and the way we have each heard God’s voice and seen God’s action is sufficient. But it takes time and significant relationship building to earn that right.

 

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Re: God is dead… God said so…

by John Ray – Thursday, 12 January 2012, 10:22 AM

Larry,

 

Interesting to think that if a person thinks God is dead, who will hear them? We often talk about “speaking” for God, what about listening for Him?

 Reply

Re: God is dead… God said so…

by Darrel Harvey – Wednesday, 11 January 2012, 11:36 AM

Larry,

 

I like your suggestion to “tell the dead God just how angry and perplexed you are and were.” I remember how helpful it was to hear something similar from a friend a few years ago. I wrote and shouted at someone who would never read or hear the things I needed to say and that would ultimately help me heal. Also your comment about Jesus wanting to be his friend rather than talk theology…I wonder if he discovered that and maybe that’s why he’s so good with Him.

 

John made a great point and asked a question.

 

Reply              

Re: God is dead… God said so…

by William Zuelke – Wednesday, 11 January 2012, 05:39 PM

               

Dear Larry,

 

thanks for your great response, I appreciate it. Your position is well chosen, but I wonder what your obligation is (or will be) as a pastor, or theologian, or minister of the gospel to speak of God and how one integrates the experiences we have as humans often times very dark experiences, with what we say or assume about God. So as you hold the injured sorrowing one to comfort and care, how do you answer the question that seeks so deeply for an answer…where is God in all of this. or perhaps……WHO is God in all of this….

 

thanks for your post. this is a very gratifying experience

 

bill zuelke

 Reply

Re: God is dead… God said so…

by Larry Williams – Sunday, 15 January 2012, 07:02 PM

Bill…

Thanks for your response. I would suggest that for a person undergoing great pain, the intellectual reason for the pain is essentially irrelevant, up to a point. In the immediacy of the feelings associated with the event or series of events, the answers the one feeling pain are emotional answers or comfort rather than heavy theological exposition. Eventually, as the grief passes, the intellect is ready to engage the issue. Before that point, shock limits our ability to perceive: You can’t hear even the best answers.

Secondly, especially as it relates to God; anger associated with  our perception of the unfairness of the tragedy further limits our ability to identify answers which calms the inner dissonance of our former perception of God, and the God which seems to be revealed by the reality of what we wouldn’t want to happen. I wonder if it is possible that the subject of the article began to look for examples of the death of God in the culture of that time partially because he wished God to be dead. In other words, the author was so disillusioned with the God he thought he knew, that he killed the God of which he had been taught.

 Lastly, I find it significant that the author continued to read the bible, and live a life in harmony with it’s teaching. Due to this action, did he not find a resurrected God in some new form?

As it relates to our “obligation… as a pastor, or theologian, or minister of the gospel”, I think it is to remain engaged in ongoing conversation, relate our personal experience, and an open attitude to God and a reliance on the Holy Spirit to guide our thoughts and words in a way that allows the seeking of the person. In a way, we are the visible representation of God to that person, and when we hide behind intellectual, theological treatises (or reach for them too quickly), we deny the practical process of allowing God to speak in the language our friend can understand.

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