If The Death of God meansanythingatall, it means the death of every literalized human-like construction presumed to exist in some universe next door. No human has experienced a universe next door. This is a myth, a human construction used to assist humans to talk about experiences they have had and still have of the ONE. But the myth itself cannot be taken with scientific literalism. We have not and cannot experience a literal universe next door with gods and goddesses, angels and devils, wings and tails, voices and hands, and all the other poetry that is so familiar within the religious heritages of the planet. This mode of religious reflection has indeed died, even for those who still cling to it. This horrific death of God is not just a wild belief held by subversives; it is a cultural happening, a fact of history that is denied by millions.
Nevertheless, the Death of God is not adequate symbolism for that Mysterious Power referenced in the best of contemporary theology. The All-Powerful Reality (source of Earth and sky) cannot be said to die. Such a God is the one verity that does NOT DIE. The stars all die. The Earth will one day be entirely consumed by an expanding red-giant sun in its process of also dying. Only the ONE does not die. And this ONE is too huge, too deep to be encompassed by the human mind. It is not a thing alongside other things. It is a NO-THING, an Absolute Mysteriousness to the human mind. Indeed, every experience of Mystery is an experience of this ONE. Even the word one as a word, as a concept, as an entity of the mind, crumbles before the ONE of experience we are referencing with this silly little word one.
We are not lacking in experience of the ONE, we are only lacking in an ultimate devotion to this ONE as our God. The word God, like sweetheart, is a devotional word for ultimate concern, final trust, core meaning of my life. The Mysterious Enigmatic ONE is being experienced ineveryevent ofourlives. This experience is the one experience that endures when all else passes.
More helpful than the Death-of-God symbolism is an appropriate existential interpretation of the Muslim cry, There are no gods..(long pause)..save the ONE.
Christians and Jews who know their heritage could also bow five times a day to the above interpretation of the core of Muslim practice. That Muslims, Christians, and Jews have all perverted the encounter with the Awesome ONE into warring sets of human-made doctrines and moralities need not blind us to the truthful witness made within all three of these vast heritages.
Familiar biblical phrases pass us by because we are blind to the core experience being referenced:
How deep I find thy thoughts, O God, how inexhaustible their themes! Can I count them They outnumber the grains of sand, to finish the count my years must equal thine. Psalm 139:17,18
Before the mountains were brought forth, or earth and world were born in travail, from age to age everlasting, thou art God. Psalm 90:2
For all that can be known of God by human beings lies plain before their eyes: indeed God Herself has disclosed it to them. His invisible attributes, that is to say, Her everlasting power and governance have been visible, ever since the world began, to the eye of reason, in the things He has made. Romans 1:19,20
We can see more clearly the truth in these verses, when we disentangle our minds from the He or She symbolism and from all other anthropological imagery. Such personal language, used to express the God-relation, is a means of personal devotion, not a description of the ONE. The ONE is not describable. This is made plain in almost every verse of biblical text. Those who insist on describing the ONE as male or female must simply be reminded that the ONE cannot be described.
In spite of this shocking death to our literalized gods and misused god-language, the Death of God remains incomplete. The God of biblical lore is a Living God. This biblically referenced verity is ALIVE in every event of our lives. Standing immediately behind each neighbor that is neighboring us is the INFINITE NEIGHBOR. Shining through each event that happens to us is the INFINITE CHALLENGE of the ONE. There is no escape from the ONE.
Where shall I flee from thy presence
If I climb beyond the stars thou art there;
If I make my bed in the Earth among the dead,
again I find thee.
If I take my flight to the frontiers of the morning
or dwell at the limit of the western sea,
even there thy hand will meet me,
and thy right hand will hold me fast. Psalm 139:7-10
Can we actually believe that the authors of such poetry had no reference in experience from which they were penning such passionate words
Loyalty to this dreadfully mysterious ONE may seem an outlandish way to live too demanding, too intense for we superficial, distracted, addicted, anti-thoughtful, inappropriately reasonable, super-gifted primates. Nevertheless, the Loving-What-Is WAY is a viable option a possibility offered to us in our biblical heritage, in the good preaching of the New Testament breakthrough, and in the victorious living of millions of witnesses. This living presence in history we cannot doubt.
***For an expansion of the work of Gene Marshall visit www.RealisticLiving.org or acquire a copy of The Call of the Awe, Jacobs Dream, The Road from Empire to Eco-Democracy, or watch for the publication soon of The Enigma of Consciousness. Gene is also a regular participant in the Discussion Forum of www.storywarrior.net.