About Jesus    Steve Sweetman

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Did God Die?


It may not make sense to the traditional thinking of who God is, but on April 8, 1966, Time Magazine's cover story was entitled, "Is God Dead?"   If you're old enough to remember, you may recall the commotion this article stirred up among Christians back then.  After 44 years, the article is worth reading again in light of present trends.  You can read it at this link.



I'd like to comment on every paragraph in the article, but I won't.  I'll just make comments on a couple of quotes, and then end with a few statements.


Here's one quote from the article.  "Some Christians, of course, have long held that Nietzsche was not just a voice crying in the wilderness. Even before Nietzsche, Soren Kierkegaard warned that "the day when Christianity and the world become friends, Christianity is done away with."  During World War II, the anti-Nazi Lutheran martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote prophetically to a friend from his Berlin prison cell: "We are proceeding toward a time of no religion at all."


One phrase stands out to me.  "When Christianity and the world become friends, Christianity is done away with."  How true, and how prophetic.  Forty-four years later, many parts of the church have purposely become friends with the world. We do this by laying aside Biblical truth to make the non-believer more comfortable in our churches.  This accommodation has taken place many times in the past, always with devastating results to the church.  The prime example is what some call the "paganization of the church" in the fourth century.  You'd think friendship with the world would make the church more influential in world affairs, but it never has, and it never will.     


The apostle John tells us not to love the world.  (1 John 2:15)  The apostle Paul says that Jesus gave His life in order to rescue us from the world. (Galatians 1:4)  The Bible teaches that we need to be rescued from the world, not aligned with the world.  In becoming friends with the world systems, Christians lose their identity.  We become something we were never meant to be.  The article speaks of Bonhoeffer as being a martyr.  Throughout history men who gave their lives for Biblical truth did more for the cause of Christ than those who became friends with the world.      


Bonhoeffer said, "we are proceeding towards a time of no religion."  I think I understand what he means.  Atheism was on the rise in his day, and still is.  That being said, I don't see the death of religion.  However, I do see a new amalgamated liberal religious world that looks nothing like the religion of  the Bible that Bonhoeffer sacrificed himself for.  In this respect, Bonhoeffer's Biblical perspective of religion is dead in many parts of the church at large.


If you think my criticism of the church is too negative and unproductive, you miss one major aspect of the gospel, and that is repentance.  Throughout the Bible the prophets of God have spoken negatively about the failures of God's people.  These failures must be addressed so we can repent and turn to God in true Biblical faith.       

Here's another quote.  "The new quest for God, which respects no church boundaries, should also contribute to ecumenism. These changes make many of the old disputes seem pointless, or at least secondary," says Jesuit theologian Avery Dulles. "The churches, moreover, will also have to accept the empiricism of the modern outlook and become more secular themselves, recognizing that God is not the property of the church, and is acting in history as he wills, in encounters for which man is forever unprepared."


Wow, that statement has come true in many parts of Christendom.  The quote states that "the church must … become more secular."  Any casual look at our modern church will show that to be true.  This quote also suggests "the old disputes seem pointless…"  This is exactly what the post-modern Emergent church believes.  Disputes caused by defending Biblical doctrine are pointless.  The quote also says,  "God is not the property of the church."  That's true.  The church doesn't own God.  God owns the church, but that's not what this phrase is suggesting.  It's saying Christianity doesn't have exclusive rights to God.  Other religions have just as much right to God as Christianity.  That's why president Obama recently stated that Muslims, Jews, Christians, and other religions worship the same God.       


Here's another quote. "To some, this suggests that the church might well need to take a position of reverent agnosticism regarding some doctrines that it had previously proclaimed with excessive conviction."


Again, how true this statement has become.  Even in the Evangelical church, heart-felt conviction of Biblical truth is disappearing.  These heart-felt convictions that once made us strong are now seen to be disruptive dogmatism, an unnecessary distraction from our attempt at unity.       


Okay, I'll stop there.  So,"is God really dead?"  Back in the 1960's many people thought He was dead, or at least hoped He was.  Of course God can't die or else He wouldn't be God.  The real question is; "Is God dead in the minds of humanity?" 


I've mentioned George Orwell's book entitled "1984" before.  He spoke of "newspeak".  This is the process by which a few influential people redefine words and terms in order to import a new social/political consciousness into our minds.  "Newspeak" has entered the world of religion in the attempt to redefine who God is.  This is what Romans 1:28 speaks of when Paul says that "they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God…"   This is the prevailing thinking in the world today, 44 years after the Time Magazine article.  


God and religion aren't dead.  They've just been redefined.  Religious issues are in the forefront of the news every day.  Islam's influence in western society tops the list.  Both liberal and conservative Christian issues come in a close second.  "Religion is all over the news," as one CNN anchor person put it.    


I think the rise of these religious issues are all part of God's plan.  The last great world leader will be both a political leader and a religious leader. (2 Thessalonians 2:4)  Along with making peace with the nations, he'll make peace with the religions of the world, something we don't have right now.  The ultimate redefining of who God is will be seen when the anti-christ ordains himself to be God.     


Time Magazine asked if God was dead.  He isn't dead.  We can try all we want to redefine Him, but to the real Christian, He remains the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Just remember, God apart from Jesus is not God.  


Post Script - A good book to read along these lines is "The Great Evangelical Disaster", written by Francis Schaeffer, copy written 1984, published by Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers.


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