Can God Die?

A “God” who can die harbors already, even when he is not dying, such a weakness that from the outset he falls short of the idea that we cannot not form of a “God.” And is it not the least of courtesies that he should satisfy a propaedeutic concept, even if it is only our own? A “God” who decides to die dies from the beginning, since he undoubtedly needs a beginning –which means that the “death of God” sets forth a contradiction: that which dies does not have any right to claim, even when it is alive, to be “God.” – Jean-Luc Marion, The Idol and Distance

The atheist responds, “That which is of human origin can always pass away.”

Indeed, for Marion misses the atheist’s point entirely in proclaiming the death of God. No amount of circular reasoning can prevent the inevitable realization that God is no longer as influential in everyday Western life. It is a fact that most Christians only feel guilty on the Sabbath. During the week, all but the most enthusiastic  fail to feel God’s presence as an omniscient  Judge, subtly looking over our shoulders and shaping our behavior out of either fear or reverence (which usually go hand in hand). We no longer feel as guilty indulging in the pleasures of secular existence. Sex before marriage? Sleeping in on Sundays? Yes, please! (It’s okay, we’ll just ask for forgiveness even harder; shouldn’t matter theologically speaking.)

With that said, can God die? Why not? More importantly, has God died? Without a doubt. When our cars break down, we go to the mechanic, not the priest. When the crops fail, we plead with the scientist, not God. When we get sick, we rely on God working “through” the doctors, but rarely expect miracles (Why does God not heal the amputee?) . When we want to know how things work, we consult engineers, not mystics. God has retreated from society in all but the most superficial of ways and it is in this sense that the blood of His death remains on our hands. Theologians can claim that God is utterly beyond the social customs of humanity, but this only buries God deeper into the obscurity of abstraction. God as that which is circularly defined to be incapable of not existing is not the God of old, lavished with prayer, devotion, and worship. The phenomenon of groveling before His presence has all but vanished in our society. We are now autonomous and proud, and rightly so. The God who retreats from finite temporality lives only in a theologian’s imagination.

It seems then that God can die and has died. He can die in the same way that ideas and customs can die. In the same way that habits can be broken, God is mortal.As Paul said, “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” When we stop worshiping except on Christmas or Easter, when we live finite lives in a finite world, the reality of God’s mortality sinks in. The zealot Christians who still hear God’s voice can no longer persuade anyone else to listen for when we cock our heads to hear His voice, all we hear is silence. God no longer speaks to us; his voice reduced to a faint whisper, we can no longer distinguish it from our own consciousness. “God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.”


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Filed under Atheism, Theology

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