God is dead. God remains dead.
These words that fueled a jarring theological movement have burned and etched a confusing and painful scar on the face of Christian theology; it brings with it connotations of flux and fear, shame and guilt, emptiness and hopelessness.
Yes, this is what we experience when we first stare at the cold and lifeless eyes of a dead God. No more warmth radiates from his body. We gaze at his emaciated body; the rigor mortis has bent his vibrant smile, his mouth caught in a moment of pure weakness, gasping for air, struggling for life. There are no words of wisdom; there is just silence. This is death. This is a dead God.
But wait! Isn’t this it?
Isn’t this the artery to the beating heart of the gospels? When there is death, there is also the hope of life!
Radical theologians do justice to the crucifixion and death of God, but they forget his resurrection! In the Gospels, when this happens, eyes begin to defog; clarity sits in. Numbness turns to warmth, paralysis to movement, flux to certainty, fear to joy, shame to hope, and death to life! We catch the vision only accessible to disciples, “god-possessed” men and women. There is hope. There is redemption. The disciples wept and worshiped in joy. Dostoyevsky wept and worshiped. Will we?
Thomas J.J. Altizer writes, “When faith is open to the most terrible darkness, it will be receptive to the most redemptive light. What can the Christian fear of darkness, when he knows that Christ has conquered darkness, that God will be all in all?”
Our newly envisioned eyes now turn back to the corpse of the crucified God.
The silence continues… emptiness and silence… emptiness and silence…
A whisper is spoken into the nothingness.
It carries an unexpected message:
“God is dead.”
Heads turn around and eyes strain.
Who is speaking?
God is dead?
Self-awareness slowly sinks in.
We are the ones that said it.
We have declared that that our God is dead.
We are not crazed madmen, though.
Our eyes shift back to the lifeless one. A smile breaks on our faces, a smile of hope. Our God is dead. Our God is dead! Our God is dead!!!
We don’t just accept that God is dead; we will it. We will it, because we know there is hope at the end.
Silence… emptiness… silence… emptiness…
Our voices descend to one last confident whisper:
Our God Is Dead.
This is the fourth and final installment in a four-part series written by Gabriel M. Riojas. Find the previous three essays here.
Gabriel M. Riojas is a second-year theology major at Pacific Union College. He plays the guitar and bass, and leads praise music. He also enjoys reading, writing, art and philosophy. He hopes to eventually earn his PhD in systematic theology.
Riojas wishes to extend a special thanks to Yung-Chun (Lorenzo) Kim, Alexander Carpenter, and Zane Yi for their insights, critiques, and support of the series.
 Note on title: I think it is important to note that Adventist theology is thematically intertwined with “death of God” theology. After all, they are a theology of death and we are a theology of hope. However this is a subject that will not be unpacked in this series.
 Note on image: Hans Holbein the Younger, The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb, 1521. In Dostoyevsky’s novel, The Idiot, Prince Myshkin says that the painting has the ability to force the viewer to lose their faith. Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Idiot (Oxford World’s Classics), trans. Alan Meyers & William Leatherbarrow (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), 136-147.
Fyodor Dostoyevsky & Malcolm Muggeridge (Forward), The Gospel in Dostoyevsky: Selections From His Works, (New York: Orbis Books, 2003), 1.
Thomas J.J. Altizer & William Hamilton, Radical Theology and The Death of God (New York: The Bobbs-Merrill Company Inc., 1966), 20-21.
A reference to Friedrich Nietzsche’s work, “The Parable of the Madman.“
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/5691