On the Death of God

merlin_147541056_e77478af-f016-4cff-9a25-5dafc21d761a-articleLargefrom Thomas J. J. Altizer’s The Gospel of Christian Atheism

Can we join Zarathustra in his hymn of praise to joy? Can we, too, repudiate every reversal of the present, every flight from pain, every backward movement to eternity? But this is to ask the Christian if he dares to open himself to the Christ who is fully present, the Christ who has completed a movement from transcendence to immanence, and who is kenotically present in the fullness and the immediacy of the actual moment before us. If a contemporary epiphany of Christ has abolished all images of transcendence, and emptied the transcendent realm, then we can meet that epiphany only by totally embracing the world. Dare we bet that Christ is fully present in the actuality of the present moment? Then we must bet that God is dead, that a backward movement to eternity is a betrayal of Christ, and that a flight from the pain of existence is a refusal of the passion of Christ. The radical Christian calls us into the center of the world, into the heart of the profane, with the announcement that Christ is present here and he is present nowhere else. Once we confess that Christ is fully present in the moment before us, then we can truly love the world, and can embrace even its pain and darkness as an epiphany of the body of Christ. It is precisely by truly loving the world, by fully existing in the immediacy of the present moment, that we will know that Christ is love, and then we shall know that love is a Yes-saying to the totality of existence.

Christian love is an incarnate love, a self-giving to the fullness of the world, an immersion in the actuality of time and the flesh. Therefore our Yes-saying must give us totally to the moment before us, and if we accept its actuality as the “center” which is everywhere, then we can be delivered from every temptation of regressing to a backward movement which is a reversal and diminution of an actual and immediate present. By turning away from the totality of the present, we engage in a regressive movement dissolving the actuality of the immediate moment, thereby disengaging ourselves from the fullness and the finality of existence. In naming Christ as the full embodiment of love, the Christian confesses that Christ is the fullness of time and the world. Christ is the pure actuality of the total moment, a present and immediate moment drawing all energy forward into itself, and negating every backward movement to eternity. Every nostalgic yearning for innocence, all dependence upon a sovereign other, and every attachment to a transcendent beyond, stand here revealed as flights from the world, as assaults upon life and energy, and as reversals of the full embodiment of love. The Christian who chooses the ancient image of Christ as the Son of God, or who is bound to an epiphany of Christ in a long-distant past, must refuse the Christ who is actually present in our flesh. He wagers upon a purely religious image of Christ even at the price of forfeiting the actuality of our time and history. But the radical Christian wagers upon the Christ who is totally profane. He bets upon the Christ who is the totality of the moment before us, the Christ who draws us into the fullness of life and the world. Finally, radical faith calls us to give ourselves totally to the world, to affirm the fullness and the immediacy of the present moment as the life and the energy of Christ. Thus, ultimately the wager of the radical Christian is simply a wager upon the full and actual presence of the Christ who is a totally incarnate love.

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