By Jeff Olson
The death of God: Are you kidding me? What a ghastly thought! What a ridiculous thing to say or even write. Yes, I suppose it is but then again…is it? If, as some believe, God’s existence is dependent solely on man’s acknowledgment of such, then it just might be that God is dead or at least has one foot in the grave. However, if God’s existence is a fact of life and totally exempt from the subjective and vacillating whims and feelings of man, then there is a very strong likelihood that He is still around – especially in light of all the evidence there is to support such a claim.
Yes, I realize that I am being facetious (but not disrespectful) here but I am doing so for a very good reason. All the way from agnosticism to Christianity, most people believe in God or in a god and they have differing views on what role He serves in the cosmos, individual lives and most all in between. It is in this search where we will find both the source and the answer to our personal, family, societal, and cultural problems which plague us as a people and a nation.
Humorist and author Mark Twain once commented, “The report of my death was an exaggeration.”I can’t help but wonder if God has ever had such a thought, given man’s constant and mostly implicit denial of His existence – but yet normally He sees church buildings occupied every Sunday, pastors preaching on television, on the radio, and even on the Internet. And, just go into just about any book store and nearly always you will find God in literature of various kinds. And another thing: take a look at our currency. “In God We Trust” is still there. I could go on, but the point is well taken that God appears to still be with us today. Evidently He has not died so His death as was Twain’s has also been exaggerated. Well, if this be the case then why isn’t God exerting more positive influence on this world, making it a better place? What gives here, what might the answer be?
Friedrich Nietzsche, a German philosopher, was noted for challenging the foundations of Christianity and traditional morality. He stated that it is our preference that decides against Christianity, not arguments. He also told in a parable about a man who went into a marketplace crying, “I seek God.” Those who heard him laughed because they didn’t believe in God. Then he cried, “Where is God?” Then, answering his own question, he replied, “We have killed Him.”
The point Nietzsche was making was not that God does not exist but that we have decided He is no longer relevant. Yes, you and I may assert that God exists and even assert that we know about Him and even know Him, but it makes little difference in the world around us if we live, love, play, procreate, govern, and die as though He does not exist or does not matter.
While many (including myself) do not agree with Nietzsche’s personal philosophy, there is no denying that his words were prophetic. This can easily be seen in a decaying American culture which no longer acknowledges the moral absolutes and transcendent truth of biblical principles. We go about our daily lives often as if God is dead or perhaps just as bad giving him little to no acknowledgment or respect. Giving Him leadership, lordship or even an advisory role? That would be carrying religion a bit too far… However, that is actually what needs to occur if we love Him and want His blessings on our lives and influence in the world as we so often lament about. We will sing and petition God in “God Bless America” but with no thought or consideration about God’s requisites for that blessing (Proverbs 14:34). Could it be that we want God’s blessings but we really don’t want God? Well folks, it doesn’t work that way. While God can and does use both the unsaved and saved to work out His purpose, more often than not it is the faithfulness of His people which turns the tide in human history to cause people and nations to survive or to fall.
We were created by Him for Him; as channels through which His very character, as personified in the life of Christ, is to be manifested (Galatians 2:20). In this verse, the Apostle Paul tells us that Christ can live only in the life of one whose old nature has been crucified with Him, meaning that only in dying to one’s self and arising to new life in Christ will we experience life for God. Just as the full life of God is dependent upon the death of man to himself, so the death of God is dependent upon the life of man exclusively for himself.
In America, as in much of Western Civilization, God has traditionally been acknowledged as the source of natural law, the foundation for codified law and served to give society a moral compass and legitimization for government. Traditionally, there has always been a certain transcendentalism and respect surrounding God, but in today’s world this is disappearing. In all realms of our society and culture, the debasing of absolute truth and values continues. Distinctions between right and wrong, justice and injustice, have become blurred and meaningless. Philosopher Blaise Pascal had foreseen this centuries earlier when he argued that in a spiritual vacuum, men can pursue only two options: first, to imagine that they are gods themselves; or second, to seek satisfaction in their senses. That vacuum has arrived. The religion of secular humanism with its fundamental tenets of moral relativism and personal autonomy are fast becoming a cultural norm, even within some mainline evangelical and protestant churches.
Nietzsche’s chilling question still haunts us to this day: “What will we do as the earth is set loose from it’s sun”? Reducing it down to the personal level, and with an even more chilling question: What will we do as we are set loose from the son, God’s Son – Jesus Christ? Just as the sun is the center of our Solar System, so the Son (and His teachings) is the center of our moral system which has historically undergirded American self-government. Both systems have been designed and set in motion by God, and it is only through His sovereignty and control that they can continue.