Sunday, July 17, 2005

the death of God

I watched an episode of the new FX television series 30 days the other day. It was about a down-home country boy from West Virginia who moved into a Muslim neighborhood in order to live the Muslim life for 30 days. At one point in the show the guy was speaking to the head of one of the mosques in his area about Jesus. The Imam explained that Islam simply could not believe in a theology where God dies. For Islam, God cannot and would not ever die.

This got me thinking. As Christians, do we believe and preach the death of God? We certainly affirm the trinity. God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit are all three in one. We also affirm the divinity of Jesus Christ. Indeed, all of this kind of language and these beliefs are mysterious. Plenty of heresies have tried to splice God into three modes rather than persons and have tried to divide Jesus into two people. All of this would probably be considered outside of Christian "orthodoxy."

But if we do believe that Jesus was God and that Jesus died on the cross, then we believe that God died. So it seems that Christians and Nietzsche-like nihilistic philosophies have something in common, that is, the death of God. It seems this way, at least, until we begin to look beneath the surface.

The death of God can either change our view of God or our view of death. For many who do not believe in a "life-everlasting," death is the end of existence. So for God to die is for him to cease to exist. And with God dead, we are freed from any sense of oppressive universal judgment and after-life. This view is what happens when we allow our understanding of death to change our understanding of God. But what happens when we do the opposite?

What does it look like for the death of God to change our view of death? If God remains God, even in death, then that says some profound things about death. It says that death is a part of life not the end of it. It says that God can enter into every part of creation including the parts resulting from the Fall. It says that God is even God over and through death. And it seems to hint at the idea that death is not "ceasing to exist" but merely a transition from one kind of existence to another.

We Christians label that new existence with words like "resurrection" and phrases like "New Heaven" and "New Earth." And that new kind of existence begins in this life. Words like "redemption" and "salvation" are used to describe the beginning of this new existence that will be fully realized after our death.

So do I believe in the death of God? Absolutely. And death has never been the same since.

7 Comments:

At 4:17 PM, Blogger brendar said...

You perplex me, Chappy. I have often struggled with the idea of Jesus dieing. It goes something like this: If death is the wage for sin and Christ paid that price then what is the nature of this death?
1.) Christ only died "physically" and his soul was always in communion with God the Father and God the Holy Ghost.
Or
2.) Christ Died a "physical" death and a "spiritual" death in which he completely died as in even his relationship to the other two parts of the Trinity was severed and destroyed.

If the former is the case than there is no need for a messiah. We all pay the price for sin by dieing a physical death.

If the latter is true then Jesus Christ ceased to be God in all ways until he was resurrected by God.

I am no theologian and it is hard for me to sort this out in my mind. I like what you say about, "God is even God over and through death. And it seems to hint at the idea that death is not "ceasing to exist" but merely a transition from one kind of existence to another." I guess that the answer to my question is that Jesus ceased to exist in one way and then began to exist in another, larger way.

 
At 2:28 PM, Blogger tali said...

i suppose it hinges on the answer to this question:
is death an end to existence or a change in status?

suppose death was a state of being which must be endured by the immortal soul once freed of the mortal flesh. suppose it's not a synonym for "stopping" or "ending," but a movement into continuous decay? (that'd hurt)

we have this idea that a thing can be destroyed, but i really don't think that's true. it can be rendered down to it's component parts, like a burned log becomes smoke and ash, but never completely removed from existence.

death is a reflection of entropy, right? what do you suppose we mean when we talk about christ "overcoming death" ?

 
At 10:52 AM, Blogger Myles said...

congrats, mark!

 
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At 8:36 AM, Blogger Lydia said...

Mark,

You should retitle this, "a Death of a Blog". Toooodles!

 
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