Death of God Part IV


God is not dead for Bonhoeffer. So why include him in this series? I believe that although God the Father is not dead, a certain God is dead for Bonhoeffer. The God that he dubs deus ex machina is dead. The God of the Gaps is dead for Bonhoeffer. He believes the God of the Gaps is the God that serves to plug in the holes of our theories about the world. For instance, many Christians today endorse evolution, but ultimately reserve God’s place at the beginning of time, essentially to begin the fireworks for the Big Bang. As science develops more and more God becomes an unnecessary hypothesis for explaining the unknown. Even if you stick with God to explain things, science has pushed him further and further out of the world, so that his power dwindles considerably. I sometimes wonder how people can still be Deists. Hasn’t science made that position untenable? Even if you want to restrict God’s role to beginning the Big Bang, why is this God? Could it not be named chance or randomness? If God is merely functional, than why bother believing?

The God of power is also dead for Bonhoeffer. Man looks to God for power, but God responds in weakness:

Here are some quotes, “The God who lets us live in the world without the working hypothesis of God is the God before whom we stand continually. Before God and with God we live without God. God lets himself be pushed out of the world on to the cross. He is weak and powerless in the world, and that is precisely the way, the only way, in which he is with us and helps us. Matt. 8.17 makes it quite clear that Christ helps us, not by virtue of his omnipotence, but by virtue of his weakness and suffering”.

“Man’s religiosity makes him look in distress to the power of God in the world: God is the deus ex machina. The Bible directs man to God’s powerlessness and suffering: only the suffering God can help”

Before Bonhoeffer, Chesterton said this in Orthodoxy, “Christianity is the only religion on earth that has felt that omnipotence has made God incomplete. Christianity alone has felt that God, to be wholly God, must have been a rebel as well as a king”.

Zizek argues that this understanding of the suffering God is the only way for theology to explain the problem of suffering. We cannot maintain the idea of a beneficent/powerful God given the horrible tragedies of the world. We must either forfeit the powerful God or the beneficent God. Deism or some sort of process theology. Bonhoeffer says no. God’s power is not man’s power. God’s power is the cross, a confrontation with all power/violence. While this argument tends to remain fixated on the cross, it is a helpful perspective. Later, I’ll turn to Moltmann’s theology of the cross to flesh this out. So, in conclusion, the God that is dead is the God that man appropriates for power, but the weak God of suffering is the God who refuses to be co-opted for personal gains. Rather, it stands as an affront to anyone’s conception of God that is sovereign over humanity.


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