Jack Caputo likes to tell of how he finds the rhetoric of the ‘death of God’ misconceived—apparently we really need to speak of the ‘birth of God’. Sure, whatever, that’s nice. What interests me is that there comes with this the suggestion that the ‘death of God’ theologians have missed a trick, got it wrong. Who knows how, ’cause the ‘God’ being birthed is not, has no resemblance to, any previous god(s)—meaning God is dead and we should be interested in new forms of value and conceptual creation, beyond theistic or theistically-inspired linguistic horizons. The ‘death of God’ aims at closing a chapter in how we frame the most important aspects of our collective selves—how could we not desire this when thought of the history of Christianity springs to mind? (Of course, I’m being rhetorical, there’s been some nice bits.)
At any rate, here is Altizer saying, in 1963, pretty much, what Caputo is always saying Altizer should be saying:
If theology is truly to die, it must will the death of God, must will the death of Christendom, must freely choose the destiny before it, and must cease to be itself. Everything that theology has thus far become must now be negated; and negated not simply because it is dead, but rather because theology cannot be reborn unless it passes through, and freely wills, its own death.
Thomas Altizer, Radical Theology and the Death of God, 15
The argument being had is, pretty much, over the use and importance of the word ‘God’ in theology and philosophy of religion—I’m compelled by the notion of seeing that word negated, and negated thoroughly.
*Update: 40 years should actually be 50 years ago. Take that Caputo (as well as my ability to math on the fly)!