In the middle 1960s the religious world was shaken with an old teaching in new garb. This teaching was called the death-of-God theology. Theological swamis from various liberal church groups began proclaiming, “God is dead.” Many blindly followed their confusing signals. Many who would not dare follow the death-of-God theology quoted from the theologians who contributed to it. For example. Paul Tillich, a liberal theologian of those days was at best a pantheist, almost an atheist. Others loved to quote the German theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, whose ideas at least helped create a climate favorable to the notion that God is dead.
Of course any enlightened observer could see that the supposed new revelations of the liberal theologians was nothing more than the old agnosticism (that God cannot be known if He does exist) or outright atheism. Of course some who parroted the God-is-dead theology tried to deny that they were saying that God does not exist at all. Rather, they would say that our old ideas about God are dead.
The God-is-dead movement was the logical conclusion of liberal theology as well as the logical end of the way many people were living. After all, many people in the ’60s (and now, for that matter) lived as though God did not exist. It is but a short step from living like an atheist to talking like an atheist to being an atheist. Many young people as well as older people live for the material things of life and to have a good time. They may profess to believe in the existence of God, but they seldom think about God, much less worship Him or honor Him with their lives.
The God-is-dead movement seemed to pass away by the early 1970s. At least we no longer hear many references to it. The deistic, agnostic, and even atheistic ideas continue to abound, however.
In the 1990s the emphasis was on reinterpreting the Bible rather than outright denying it. It is popular to twist and manipulate the Bible to approve of about every sin it condemns. Some time ago, the Bible was reinterpreted to approve of divorce and remarriage by most religious groups. The “new” interpretation twisting is being applied to homosexuality, the ordination of women, the use of “she” in referring to God, and whatever the current theological hobbyhorse happens to be. In the first decade of the twenty-first century, the emphasis in many religious circles is on the “positive.” Words such as “sin” and “Hell” are hardly heard anymore. The emphasis is on a religion that makes people feel good about themselves. The teachings are more man-centered than God-centered.
The end result is a pall of doubt cast over the Word of God and over God Himself. Will the generation that seeks to reinterpret what God has to say give rise to another generation that will throw it all away and not even profess Christianity? Time will tell.
The liberal Bible-denying, even God-denying, philosophies of this world certainly are dead, devoid of spiritual nourishment and hope. Their idea of a fickle, fluctuating God who tolerates sin is dead as well. It is dead in God’s sight.
But the true God of creation and His infallible Word, the Bible, are not dead. May we follow that way of truth. The psalmist reminds us: “From everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.” Likewise the unchanging, unchangeable Word of God is everlasting. “For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven” (Psalm 119:89).
Our God is very much alive today and in control of the world He created. He calls us to heed His call and obey His laws. He is waiting to give us true satisfaction in life. “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13, 14).
-by Roger Berry